The most common provisioning questions from boaters who are heading away from the dock for more than a few days tend to be:
- “What should I take?” and
- “How much X do I need?”
The reality is that neither I nor anyone else can tell you. (Dang, I know you wanted a simple answer!)
What I can say is that you’re unlikely to eat particularly differently on the boat than you do at home. If you like cereal for breakfast, that’s what you’re likely to want on the boat. If you like bacon and eggs a couple times a week, ditto. And so on. Consequently, you have to take the things you like, not what I might suggest. Admittedly, on the Provisioning page, I do provide links to articles I’ve written on a number of items that work well on a boat (often because the packaging works well), but you still have to decide if it’s something you want.
But that leaves the question of “how much?” If you’re going for just a few days, it’s fairly easy as you can plan your meals in advance. But for longer cruising, I simply stocked the pantry with my “guesstimate” of how much of various items I’d use before I hit the next provisioning stop.
To figure that out, I had to know how much of everything we used. At first, I just sat down and tried to figure it all out in my head. That was a total and complete failure! It was just overwhelming.
I then came up with a much more systematic way to do it, although it takes time. The first step was to go through my kitchen, refrigerator, freezer and pantry and list everything. I anticipated this being an all-day job or maybe even more than a day. Actually, it only took a few hours and I even cleaned out some cupboards as I was doing it.
Then I started listing things as I used them:
- For things that I used “all at once” (such as a can of green beans), I just wrote down how many and the date.
- For things that I used over time (say a 5-pound bag of flour), I marked the container with the date I opened it. Then when it was empty, I’d make a note on the list with how long it had lasted me.
Because I’m a “spreadsheet person” (a large part of a previous job involved designing spreadsheets for many operations in the company, so I tend to use them whenever I can to automate tasks), I developed a provisioning spreadsheet . . . and pretty soon expanded it to include inventorying what was already on hand so that I could easily tell how much more to buy of each item. You can read more about the spreadsheet here and download a copy for yourself (be sure to also download the instructions and edit it to include your foods instead of mine and how much you use in a week). Over time, as I could see what was left in inventory and what we ran out of, as well as our eating habits changed slightly over time, I tweaked my weekly average numbers.
Anyone got another good way of planning your provisions when it’s going to be a few weeks before the next provisioning stop? I’d love to hear how others do it!