Are you contemplating cruising without a refrigerator? Maybe not full-time, but say for weekends or even a week-long vacation? Wondering about the real nuts-and-bolts of what sort of meals you can have?
Admittedly, we had refrigeration aboard Que Tal. But we’ve done lots of camping trips with nothing but a cooler for anywhere from a weekend to two months or longer. And frankly, most boats have a better-equipped galley than what I take camping.
And once again, we’re planning a tent camping trip. As I started to make my meal list, it struck me that it could be helpful to post it here to show what we do for meals. These aren’t really recipes, just a list of the meals and the ingredients that will go into them. And I intend to spend most of my days having fun, not doing a lot of cooking — so there’s nothing that takes a long time or a lot of prep, just good simple food.
The trip: 3 full days and 2 half-days camping in southern Missouri (the trip will begin with dinner the first day and end with lunch on Day 5)
My galley gear: 2-burner Coleman stove, skillet, saucepan, a very old Dutch oven and small pan that I use for “baking” on the stove, flame tamer, Thermos Nissan vacuum bottle and cone for making coffee, cooler for storing food, cooler for drinks, cutting board and good knife, can opener, serving/mixing bowl (nesting set), insulated mugs, water bottles, Corelle dishes, silverware, and basic cooking utensils.
Ice: I’ll use block ice in the food cooler (which is almost entirely produce) and it will easily last the entire trip. I’ll use a combination of block and cube ice in the drink cooler . . . and it’s possible that we won’t have cold drinks by the end of the trip unless we happen to find a place selling ice. That’s one reason we put drinks into a separate cooler — we get into that cooler far more often, and fill it every night with more (warm) drinks. So the ice doesn’t last nearly as long. We can live without cold drinks, but I really want my produce to stay cool!
Weather and activities: Weather is going to be hot — over 90 degrees and likely to be humid. We’ll be doing a lot of hiking and plan to canoe one day — our camp site is on a small river, so I’m sure we’ll do some swimming, too.
Breakfasts: Breakfasts will all be pretty much the same. Since it’s going to be hot, we’ll have cold cereal with soy milk (Dave’s allergic to cow’s milk and soy milk comes in small boxes that don’t have to be refrigerated), juice and coffee.
Ingredients: box of cereal we both like, 4 small boxes of soy milk, sugar, 8 small containers of juice (put two in the drink cooler every night so they’re cold for breakfast) and ground coffee. See my article on boxed milk if you’re not familiar with it.
Possible alternative: If it were going to be cool, I’d substitute “Boatmeal” for the cold cereal.
Lunches: We’ll be away from our camp site for lunch each day and we’ll be active, so we’ll be hungry. Since we’ll have our small dog with us, most of our hikes will be shorter ones with a return to the car in between different locations. We’ll be able to have our drink cooler with us in the canoe and in the car, and it’s large enough that we can put a few things in it for lunch.
Day 2 Lunch (Day 1 only has dinner): Couscous Salad, made from couscous, onion, cucumber, green pepper, tomato, oil, vinegar (I make it pretty much the same way I do Pasta or Rice Salad — couscous just cooks a lot faster). We’ll also have side dishes of individual cups of applesauce and a bag of carrots.
Day 3 Lunch: Ham salad wraps — a can of ham, diced onion, a sliced tomato and some mayo, all wrapped in tortillas. I use the squeeze bottles of mayo to avoid contamination. Tortillas are a good alternative to bread for “sandwiches” as they don’t get squashed and they’re far less likely to get moldy. We’ll also take some fruit — oranges are a great treat when it’s hot!
Day 4 Lunch: Vegetable Salad a la Que Tal — can of green beans, some extra pasta that I cooked for dinner the night before, small can of corn, onion, tomato, dried fruit, marinated artichoke hearts (use the oil from the jar instead of adding oil), dash of sugar and balsamic vinegar. If we’re really hungry, I’ll add a can of ham, broken into bite-sized bits.
Day 5 Lunch: This is the one day when we’re likely to be away from the car and cooler over lunch — the plan is to hike about an hour to a sandbar on the river, have lunch and play there, then hike back and head for home. I’ll take a small jar of peanut butter and box of Wheat Thins, a bag of nuts, one of dried fruit, one of carrots (also good with the peanut butter) and a little bag of olives. Extra bottles of water in the day pack, too!
Drinks: We always carry refillable water bottles on a strap where they are easy to get to, and extras in the day pack — if it’s hot, I frequently add Gatorade powder to at least one of the water bottles. We carry more water and a few cans of soda in the the drink cooler and refill the ones we take with us whenever we’re back at the drink cooler.
Snacks: We always carry Clif bars with us — they’re one of the few energy bars that don’t contain milk! We usually also take small packets of dried fruit and nuts and sometimes the individual packages of olives for those times when we crave salt. Since we’re not planning to hike more than 2 or 3 hours in any one day, we won’t take too many snacks.
Day 1 Dinner: Tacos and a tossed salad. I’ll use a can of roast beef and drain/rinse the gravy off and heat it up with my own spices (you could also use a packet of taco seasoning). Serve with tortillas, salsa, diced onion, and green pepper. If you’re not allergic to dairy, add some make-it-yourself non-refrigerated sour cream or some shredded cheese. I’ll make a tossed salad with lettuce, tomatoes, a small can of black olives, a few pieces of onion and my vinaigrette dressing.
Day 2 Dinner: Chicken, apricots & almonds over couscous — very easy meal after a busy day, but delicious! A can of chicken breast, dried apricots, whole almonds, chicken bouillon powder, a little flour, honey and cinnamon, plus the couscous. Since the couscous doesn’t actually have to cook — just put it in a bowl and pour boiling water over it, cover it and let it sit — I’ll use my second pan and burner to “pan-roast” (basically, saute) a bunch of vegetables — zucchini or summer squash, onion quarters, baby carrots and whatever else looks good at the farmer’s market before we leave.
I know Dave will be hungry, so he’ll probably talk me into making some of my Chocolate-Oatmeal No-Bake cookies . . . better be sure to have all the ingredients with me!
Day 3 Dinner: Pasta Supreme — I’ll saute a can of ham, onion chunks and a (drained) can of mushrooms with some garlic and Italian seasoning. Then add a small jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and a small (drained) can of sliced black olives. At the same time, I’ll cook some pasta (enough for tomorrow’s lunch, too) and toss it all together. We’ll finish off the remaining lettuce in another tossed salad similar to what we had the first night, although I won’t add olives since we’re having some in the pasta.
Day 4 Dinner: Chili, Corn Bread and Coleslaw — I’ll make the chili with one can each of (drained) roast beef, kidney beans and diced tomatoes, plus some diced onions and green peppers and a variety of spices. If we still have any of the salsa left from the tacos, I’ll add that, too. While it’s simmering, I’ll make the corn bread from a box mix, soy milk and an egg and then “bake” it in the Dutch oven in the same way I make other quick breads on the stove top. The coleslaw will be my Company Coleslaw, with cabbage, a can of pineapple tidbits, a handful of peanuts (have to keep some separate from the ones we have for hiking or there might not be any left!) and mayo.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if I got another request for cookies!
Even without refrigeration, we eat well. They’re not gourmet meals, but then, we don’t eat gourmet meals when we DO have refrigeration. A really good food cooler and some fresh produce goes a long ways in creating great meals without refrigeration.
Hmm . . . so you’ve noticed there are a lot of links to other articles I’ve written. It just hit me that this one article ties many of my previous ones together. Hope it helps tie things together for you!