It's bad enough to throw out food that has spoiled in your fridge. But if you've hauled that food for a week or two and have no plan B for a meal, it can be devastating.
There are some foods that last longer than others plus some handy processed options that are great for longer trips. Here's our staff's go-to foods that last for two weeks or more on our trips.
Fresh fruits and veggies are full of water. They are heavy, bruise easily, and don't last long before spoiling. After a few days though you really start to miss them!
- Snap peas and celery sticks will last a few days, but cucumbers can last a surprisingly long time. Don't refrigerate them first as this drastically shortens their lifespan.
- The humble onion is the star of long lasting food. Keep them dry by wrapping them in something breathable like newspaper. Nothing gets the mouth watering like an onion frying in butter!
- Cabbage lasts for weeks and is really versatile. Make a salad with ramen noodles, sesame seeds and an Asian style dressing if you're tired of coleslaw.
- Make your own sprouts in a Nalgene jar. This takes about 4-5 days. Take the lid off a 500ml wide mouth Nalgene bottle and cover the opening with J-cloth and an elastic; rinse the seeds twice daily, and keep warm if possible. (We've slept with our sprouts. Just sayin.) The little crunch these add to your lunch on Day 10 is amazing.
Dehydrated food is the way to go for light and long lasting. You can buy all kinds of dehydrated fruit, veggies, meats, dairy, entrees, etc. If you can dehydrate at home (in a food dehydrator or an oven) make sure you plan well in advance of your trip because it's time consuming.
- The protein king of dehydrated food: jerky. Commercial jerky is expensive, so if you are lucky enough to have a food dehydrator just get a low fat roast (like eye of round) and make your own with your choice of seasoning.
- Shredded chicken can be dehydrated (Jeff uses chicken thighs he pre-cooks in his Instant Pot). It rehydrates quickly and well, and can be added to all kinds of stuff like soups and casseroles.
- Hummus. One of the best nutrient-packed trip foods of all time. You can find hummus powder in some stores, or just dehydrate it yourself. Salsa works well too.
- Refried beans is another protein rich food that dehydrates easily and has a variety of menu applications.
- Nature's candy: fruit dehydrates well. Fresh pineapple cut into flat chunks is easy to do at home and we've had good success with bananas sliced long ways. Peaches also work well and are fantastic when rehydrated and cooked into a cobbler (recipe here).
- Buy a package of frozen mixed veggies and dump them on your dehydrating tray. Add these to soups and casseroles. You can do the same with pre-packaged coleslaw mix and make a cabbage salad on your trip.
We always bring along butter (not margarine) which doesn't need to be refrigerated even when you're at home. Oil, peanut butter, and honey and/or jam are in our food barrels too. Other staples:
- Cheese. Marble seems to last slightly better than orange or white cheddar for some reason. Hard cheeses like Asiago and Parmesan last very well, and you can bring along a grater or a good knife to slice them. Don't pre-grate as they won't last nearly as long. Any wax covered cheese will last for ages, such as Babybels, and you can even wax your own blocks with cheese wax (just Google this) and they will last for months.
- Hand in hand with cheese comes hard salami. The harder it is the longer it lasts.
- Powdered milk is handy. You can get skim or whole milk in powder form; we recommend a mix made of both as the whole milk is creamier but the skim powder helps eliminate lumpiness when you're mixing it with water. We are also not above bringing along coffee whitener (aka "white death") for the morning brew on occasion.
- Powdered coconut milk is fabulous - add some green curry paste and chicken bouillon, some of your dehydrated chicken and veggies, and serve over rice. Mmmmm.
- When it comes to breads, we've found the ones that last best are naan, soft tortillas, English muffins, and of course hard flat bread like WASA.
Some of the quickest cooking carbs that are really handy:
- ramen (or rice noodles)
- minute rice
- red lentils
And our favourite processed foods
- again, ramen noodles
- Sidekicks (add some dehydrated chicken)
- Stovetop stuffing (make a casserole with your dehydrated veggies)
- instant hashbrowns
- instant mashed potatoes (great with chili on top)
- soup mixes
- Pringles (the best travelling chip!)
Last few tips...
- Limit how much you open the lid of your food barrel/box as this - more than anything else - speeds up the spoilage of your food.
- Vacuum bagging your food helps it last.
- Bring bannock mix as an emergency backup meal. Goes with everything!
- Candy never goes bad.