It is very easy to spend a bunch of money planning an adventure. Getting three square meals, fuel for the journey, and a few comfort items adds up quick. Dehydrated meals can run anywhere from 5-15 bucks a meal, add in a snack or two, a few drink mixes and you are up to 50 bucks a day. That can be a hard meal to swallow when you start extending trips out past a day or two. To save some cash, try to be proactive throughout the year to pick up deals on meals, stash away some freebies, learn DIY meals, and pick up a few extras on routine trips to the grocer. Below Ill share some of the ways I save some dough and field prepared meals that are simple and easy on the trail.
To start off and set the stage for budget planning, I want to go over a no brainer and a technique you are probably already doing. Start with stashing condiments, tea, and coffee. I am not advocating stealing, but simply asking your server or order taker for a few extra ketchups, mayos, and the like. The following are commonly found single serve packets that you can pick up throughout the year. I keep a bag in my Pantry and just toss in any extras I do not use with my takeout. After a few months you will have more than enough to get you through a week long hike or river trip.
Commonly found Single Serve Condiments:
- Salt and Pepper
- Soy Sauce
- Pickle Relish
- Limon Juice
- Red Pepper
- Salad Dressing
- BBQ Sauce
- And many other Spices, sauces, and dressing
Hotels tend to leave complimentary Coffee and Tea bags in your room for that morning kick start. Ask for a few before you check out, they always seem to accommodate me when I do. if you crunched for time and procrastinated Amazon and Pack it gourmet are great place to order individual items if your local take out is too stingy.
Now for the stuff that costs you part of that hard-earned pay check. To minimize the impact of the main courses of an outing you will need to be proactive. Too often I find myself trying to get creative and unique but 5 days into a 10-day trip home comforts often are the best thing you have in your pack. In addition, being overly creative tends to get expensive and not always the most appetizing on the trail. Stick with the basics. When I hit the Grocery store I will add 3 extras items to my basket that I set aside for my next trip. These are standard items that I can use in conjunction with my newly acquired condiments.
- Tuna Packets (I get the ones in the foil packets that come in different flavors)
- Chicken Breast in a can (usually found next to the tuna)
- Mash potato packets
- Raman noodles (non flavored and flavored)
- Lipton noodle meals
- Instant Rice
- Meal Bars
- Single serve mixed nuts
- Tomato Paste tubes
- Real Bacon Bits
- Shelf stable Cheeses
- Chicken, beef, or veggie Bouillon Cubes
Now that you have the staples downs you are ready to put some meals together.For breakfast, I tend to eat on the go or mix up some simple morning fuel and add a twist.
Buttery Bacon Grits
- Grits - 2 Packets of instant
- Two Butter packets
- Handful of Shelf Stable Bacon Bits or Bacon Jerky
Cook Grits as specified on packet. Stir in the butter and bacon.
- ½ cup vanilla flavored or plain granola
- 2-3 tbl of powdered milk
Add ¼- ½ cup water, mix and eat immediately
Unless I am at a base camp, lunches tend to turn out as more of hourly snacks that keep me fueled for the journey and I can eat on the move. Meal bars, trail mix, and tuna packets tend to dominate the course but some of my favorites are simple but effective fuel sources that don't tend to linger in the gut. These are staples for me on the trail when in motion
- Date rolls
- Peanut or Almond Butter (I get the Justin Single serve packets)
- Tuna salad
- Dried Sausage
- Pro Bars
- Beef Jerky
- Mixed nuts
- Energy gels
- Dried Fruit
- Trail mix
- Meal replacement powders
Dinner is my important meal, I try to pack the most nutrition I can before I go to sleep. After I set up camp Ill snack on some beef jerky, reup my electrolytes, and cook dinner. I am not going to lie this is where my dehydrated meals come into play. I have been using Heathers Choice as they seem to have the best health benefit, taste great, and calorie dense dehydrated food on the market in my opinion. (no we are not sponsored by Heather's Choice) But dehydrated meals get old fast if you don't have a large variety or find something that does not agree with you so I also try and bring comfort foods that I know I can always stomach. (I wrote a previous post in regards to some of the fresh cooked foods here) below are a few additional recipes that are quick, cheap, and taste great.
Tuna or Chicken Salad
- 2 Packages of Single serve tuna (I like hickory smoked tuna)
- 3 single serve mayo
- 1 single serve mustard
- I Single serve dill relish
- 2 salt a peppers
- Mix contents and serve. To add additional calories, serve in a tortilla or add bacon jerky to the mix.
Trail Side spaghetti
- 1/4 cup of macaroni noodles or Raman (Raman will cook much faster)
- 1 Tbl of Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp of salt and pepper (4 or 5 little packets from your local take out)
- Parmesan cheese and red pepper packets (think takeout pizza)
- Tube of tomato paste
- Cube of chicken bullion
- Dried sausage for the meat eater
Boil water. Add chicken bouillon and dissolve then add noodles. (turn off heat or lower flame so it doesn't over flow) - cook until noodles are tender. Once noodles are done pour off water until you are left with a 1/2 cup. Add in seasoning, salt & pepper, and a small bit of tomato paste stir until tomato paste is dissolved and mixed in evenly. Add cuts of dried sausage wait a few min then add red pepper and Parmesan and enjoy
But don't just stop here
Invest in a dehydrator, for the cost of a days’ worth of dehydrated meals, you can purchase one on Amazon. This allows you to make your own Beef Jerky, Dried Sausage, Dried Fruits and even take leftovers and turn them into backpacking meals. If you just put in a simple search to google you will find an abundant of recipes and how to videos that will keep you busy for months leading up to a big adventure. Don’t forget the Preparation can be just as much funs as the trip itself.
Mikes DYI Bulk Trail Mix
- Bulk Mixed Nuts
- Bag of Raw Almonds
- Bag of Raisins
- Bag Shaved Coconut
- Peanut M&Ms (heavy on the M&Ms, you’ll thank us later)
- DYI Dehydrated Fruit (Bananas, Apples, Cranberries etc.…)
- Yogurt Covered Raisins
Use a giant bowl and mix it all up. Proportion it to meet your caloric needs in individual sandwich bags or vacuum seal for shelfs stability and future use. Be careful when vacuum sealing dehydrated fruits they tend to clump and stick together. Using grated coconut helps remedy this. Once it’s all mixed in just separate into Ziplocs or vacuum bags and you’re ready to roll for many trips and days ahead.
So to keep the spend down and the quality up do these tips throughout the year to plan for your next backcountry trip. Load up on freebies - save all unused single serve condiments and throw them in a designated bag in the pantry.
- Grocery shopping - pick up one or two items each trip to the store that I save for camping trips, trail runs, and kayaking trips.
- Look for sells on Dehydrated meals and closeouts at your local sporting goods store
- Think outside the box and prepare your own dried or shelf stable meals a head of time.
- Invest in a dehydrator, this alone opens up a whole new way to planning meals with Health and wellness in the forefront
- Be creative with what you have on had and think about your normal everyday comfort foods.