Planning Meals as Amazing as Your Getaway

Summer is finally here! If you’re eager to hit the trails, build a bonfire, and/or stake a tent, we get it. Nothing makes it feel more like summer than a good camping trip. From car camping to backcountry backpacking, the co-op can make your meal around the bonfire or camp stove an experience worth remembering (and repeating).

Car camping will afford you many gourmet luxuries that backpacking will force you to leave behind: the ability to keep food chilled in a cooler for days, the option to bring more food than you could possibly eat, a variety of cooking implements (think cast iron skillets, spatulas, grills, etc), and of course, no need to worry about how much every single thing weighs (looking at you bottle of wine). From fresh ingredients in foil packets to a campsite-provided charcoal grill, an abundance of delicious recipes are out there for all you car campers to discover with just a quick “campfire recipes” Google search.

Backpackers have much more to take into account when planning meals for the trail. To keep the weight of your pack minimal, choose foods with low or no water content. On that same lightweight note, keep cooking implements to just the necessary items: a camp stove and fuel, a couple lightweight pans, and a bowl or plate, cup, and utensils. After a day of climbing mountains with weight on your back, you’re going to want foods that are quick-cooking because you’ll be famished (so skip the brown rice). Meals that can be made by just adding water are ideal. If you can rehydrate your meal without needing to boil water for more than a couple of minutes, you’ll also save fuel (which in turn will save you weight in your pack). And remember: the foods need to be nutrient and calorie dense because you’ll be burning a lot of calories everyday, but you won’t have refrigeration, and items need to be low volume because you also don’t have tons of room in your pack.

If all of that sounds too tough to tackle on your own, and you’re ready to reach for the MREs (meals ready to eat) or the expensive (and sadly disappointing) dehydrated meals sold in outdoor stores, do yourself an enormous favor and keep reading. Planning your own meals will save you money and drastically improve the quality and flavor of your food. The bulk department at your co-op is a great place to start. Not only can you get exactly as much as you need, you can also bring and fill your own containers. You can even fill your small, lightweight containers for backpacking – just weigh them before you fill them and write down the tare weight along with the bulk PLU number on the bin or jar. Explore all the bulk herbs and spices to find flavor profiles you like, and buy as little or as much as you need. If you don’t find everything you want in the bulk department, look around the store to discover other items to work into your meal plan.

Remember to keep weight/water content and cook time to a minimum while looking for ingredients. Otherwise, think about planning meals like you normally would: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, carbs, proteins, fats, fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices. Thinking about these categories, let’s look at some options available at the co-op:

Breakfast: quick oats, oatmeal packets, oatmeal pouches, hot cereals, granola, dried fruit, freeze-dried fruit, fruit leather, fruit pastries, energy bars, granola bars, cereal bars, applesauce pouches, nut butters, nuts, seeds, instant coffee, tea
Lunch/Dinner: ramen, hummus (just add water mix available), refried beans (just add water mix available), crackers, salami, nut butters, energy bars, granola bars, tuna, heat and serve meals (like Tasty Bite), homemade meal pouches (see links below for recipe ideas), dehydrated soups
Snacks/Indulgences: nuts, seeds, dried fruit, trail mix, snack mix, granola, chocolate covered nuts, sesame sticks, yogurt covered pretzels, granola bars, energy bars, fruit and nut bars, applesauce pouches, fruit snacks, coconut chips, nut butter packets, chocolate bars, crackers, hot chocolate, wine (we have it in a lightweight Tetra Pak if you can handle the liquid weight!)
Carbs/Starches/Base: oats, pastas (the thinner the better for quick cooking), bean pastas (gluten free + protein), couscous, quinoa, rice, polenta, ramen, rice noodles, soba noodles, instant mashed potatoes
Proteins: nuts, seeds, nut butters, tuna, fish pouches (from The Fish People), salami, peanut butter powder, TVP (textured vegetable protein), red lentils, jerkies (these can be eaten as is or rehydrated in a meal to add protein), meat bars
Fats: cooking oil (can be added to meals for extra calories, so something flavorful like olive oil is a good choice), cheese powders, hard cheeses (like parmesan will survive for a couple of days without refrigeration if the weather is mild), powdered milks
Fruits: dried fruit, freeze-dried fruit
Veggies: sun dried tomatoes, dehydrated onion, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated peppers, tomato flakes, dehydrated mushrooms, kale chips, tomato paste
Herbs/Spices/Flavor-Enhancers: nutritional yeast, bulk herbs, bulk spices, broth powders, cheese powder, vegan cheeze powders (like Parma), hard cheeses, seasoning packets, vegan Bac’un bits, tamari

Now that you have a list of locally available ingredients, go tap the creativity of the internet! Check out these websites for recipe ideas and tailor them to your tastes and dietary preferences:

http://www.theyummylife.com/Backpacking_Food
https://www.wonderlandguides.com/backcountry-cooking/backpacking-food-ideas
https://thesummitregister.com/homemade-backpacking-meals-just-add-water/
http://www.wildbackpacker.com/backpacking-food/recipes/backpacking-dinner-recipes/

Once you decide on your meal plan, come on in to the co-op. We would love to help you find the ingredients you need to plan meals as amazing as your next getaway. We also have some other essential items you can pick up if you need them: Dr. Bronner’s versatile biodegradable castile soaps, just-add-water Essential Wipes, a variety of eco-friendly hand sanitizers, and our new lightweight, bamboo To-Go Ware utensil sets!

To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensils