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Sunday, February 3, 2013

SUCK IT UP - HOMEMADE BACKPACKING MEALS

I don't know about you, but winter seems to be a great time to catch up on projects that can be done in the house to prepare yourself for when the weather starts getting a little more outdoor friendly.  A fun project for me, is to create my own vacuum sealed backpacking meals.  Not only are they easy to make, but they are much better for you, and cheaper than your store bought freeze-dried backpacking meals.  If you've ever loaded up on freeze-dried meals for an outing, the cost can add up quickly. 

Because it is always time versus money, I always try to make the time to save money.  If you shop around a little bit, you'd be surprised with what you can come up with and throw together for a couple of bucks per meal.
 
The trick is to think outside of the box.  In addition to your local grocery store, you'd be surprised at the different variety of stores that carry food of some sort.  Manufacturers are also getting creative with their packaging when it comes to single servings. 
Here are a few stores that I have found for getting some variety, saving money, and creating unique one of a kind meals:
  • Dollar Store
  • Big Lots
  • Bi-Mart (northwest locations only)
  • Walgreen's
  • Rite-Aid
The main tool of course is going to be your vacuum seal appliance.  You can pick up a decent one of these for around $50-70.  I have a Seal-A-Meal and it works perfect for this.  If you also have a food dehydrator, you have the ability to dry your own fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats.  Your meal making options will become almost limitless.  Check the internet for unique and creative ideas.  There are TONS of videos on youtube.com about food dehydration and preparing meals such as these.




Having a bulk section like this really opens up opportunity for creative meal making.

For sake of demonstration,
here are a few things that I picked up that often frequent my vacuum sealed meals.


Not too many can stomach these. 
 I think they are delicious.

I just found these recently.  They are a perfect individual size to go with crackers or dried fruit.


These are an excellent source of protein with no messy fluid inside. 
Just toss it in the pot with your dried vegetables and cooked pasta or rice.

Delicious.  Add to package with dried nuts and fruit.





A few things from the bulk bins. 
(From left to right:  dried mango, banana chips, dried cherries, strawberry granola)
Very tasty and no mystery chemical ingredients.


If you have means to a food dehydrator, you can easily make these yourself.




Delicious and quick to cook.  Add your own spices for your liking.


Great addition to many types of meals. 
Snacks such as trail mix or add them to your oatmeal.


Way cool new stuff.  This is powdered peanut butter.  It is delicious!  Because they have removed the heavy oils, there is almost no fat and as an added bonus, it is very light weight. 
A great addition to your oatmeal!


Workstation ready to go


If you have never used a vacuum sealer, they are very easy to use.  The bags come on rolls and you cut them to your desired length.  The first seal makes the 'bottom' of your bag.  The second step draws all of the air out and creates the second seal which completes your package.


Choose the meal items you want to mix and match in your package.
Here I have selected hazelnut butter, crackers, and banana chips. 
I have separated these particular items in smaller Ziplock bags to keep the smells from mixing.


After making your first seal to create the bottom, arrange the contents neatly in the bottom of the bag leaving enough room at the top to make your second seal. 

When dealing with more messy contents such as powders, make sure the area at the top is free of debris to ensure a clean seal.  A slightly moist paper towel works well.


Your completed package.  Air tight and compact.

Take caution when sealing sharp, hard foods as this may result in a punctured bag. 
Lining the bag with a paper towel before you add the sharp contents works well
and doubles as a napkin later.

This is a mixture of dried red peppers, spices, pasta, and tuna.


 
With a permanent marker, I like to date the package when it was created
and mark the number of servings if it's for more than one person.

For a more complete package, you can also add a drink mix (such as Crystal Light, a tea bag, or one serving coffee packet), plasticware, a napkin, a one use wet wipe, and a stick of gum.

  

A meal as well as dessert

  

A delicious breakfast mixture of dried mangos and cherries, strawberry granola, pistachios, powdered milk, and banana chips.


With about an hour's worth of work, you can crank out quite a few meals.

I try to remove as much of the excess packaging as possible on the original food product as well as trimming the excess on top of the sealed package.  Be careful not to cut too close to your seal.





As long as you have a heat source, water, and a cooking pot, these little meals are also great as emergency rations for your vehicle, boat, 4-wheeler, snowmobile, or rv. 

Bundle up snack packages and put them in your backpack or purse for watching the kids' sports or an unexpected long day of running errands.

If you know that you might not be eating the entire package or want to ration, seal in a Ziplock bag with your contents to save it for later.  Or, seal in a rubber band to roll up and wrap the original vacuum bag.

As you can see, there are endless combinations as to what you can put together.  Even if you don't have a vacuum sealer, start by creating your meals using Ziplock bags.  You can still squeeze quite a bit of air out of the package.  The whole idea is to be creative, be prepared, and save some money in the process. 
Have fun with it!


"The man who goes afoot, prepared to camp anywhere and in any weather, is the most independent fellow on earth."
HORACE KEPHART, Camping and Woodcraft, 1917



21 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for the info. I've been wanting to get into this sort of thing. I have an inexpensive dehydrator (about $50 off amazon), but I need one of these "seal a meals."

    Questions:
    (1) Do you know if the plastic for sealing your meals comes in different thicknesses? Trying to go as ultralight as possible.
    (2) How long is shelf life with these? Do you put them in the freezer to extend shelf left?

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  2. Hello David!

    Thank you so much for your inquiry!

    1. As far as differences in plastic thickness, I have never looked to see if the thicknesses varied. I have always just bought the bags specified for the vacuum sealers...especially when they are on sale or at discount retailers. They tend to be a little expensive.

    2. As for shelf life, I have honestly never tried since I rotate 'stock' on a regular basis, usually within a year. I would imagine it would be pretty substantial since the air has been removed. I have also never tried freezing them either. Good idea!


    I did do some research since your questions were intriguing. I was able to find a couple of great websites that contain some really good information that might be helpful to you. I too learned quite a bit more about it myself.

    -- http://readynutrition.com/resources/vacuum-sealing-for-long-term-food-storage_13022013/

    -- http://www.backpackingchef.com/vacuum-sealing-food.html


    Thanks so much for your interest. Best of luck on your endeavors!

    Marnie
    T.R.E.A.D. Outdoors

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  3. What about the bags the store bought meals come in.. like the Mountain House bags you just add water to.. I have tried using ziplocs for this purpose but they aren't thick enough and holes often arise. Any thoughts on that?

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    1. Hi Tammy...
      I would imagine the store bought dehydrated meal bag types would be great! Good idea.

      As far as the Ziploc bags go, I personally have never tried cooking in them, only for food storage. I would imagine that the freezer bags would be your best bet as they are a much heavier material. If you try them, let me know how it works out.

      The vacuum bags mentioned in the post above I know can be used in boiling water. I have boiled several frozen meals this way. If you were to add boiling water to your homemade meal, I would highly recommend using some sort of a cozy as they get extremely hot. Here is a link on how to make a homemade bag cozy. Clever!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjPXVm-auPA

      Thanks for your inquiry.
      Marnie

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  4. Replies
    1. Thank you! Feel free to post your ideas on here that you come up with! Have fun and enjoy!

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  5. I love homemade food and I am using Foodsaver V3860 to preserve meals. It is so amazing that it can help me to save money. thank for your share. it really helpful.

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    1. Hello Sue!
      Thank you so much for your feedback! I love the homemade stuff too! Good for you! The possibilities are almost endless. Feel free to share some of your creations as well. Bon Appetit!
      Marnie

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  6. one of my favorite things to vacuum seal is frozen 1 lb meatloafs. Perfect weeknight meal for two.

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    1. That sounds fantastic! I will certainly have to give that a try. Thank you for the great idea!

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  7. Hi, Marnie!
    Would you mind telling me how you use your quinoa and rice mix? I'm looking to make easy healthy back-packing meals for our family of 5. I liked your pasta, spice, dried peppers and tuna pack idea. Do you think I could substitute the quinoa rice mix? Or would cooking it on the go require to much fuel? Should the mixture be precooked? Thoughts?

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    1. Hi Jennifer!
      Thank you for your inquiry. The TruRoots sprouted rice and quinoa is something that I found at Costco. A three pound bag is around $9-10.

      I think you could easily substitute the rice/quinoa mix for the pasta. With a family of five (depending on their ages/strength), you could divide up the food between all of you.

      Depending on how weight conscious you are, you could approach it a few different ways.
      1. Taking the rice mixture straight from the bag and cooking it in camp will weigh less but will take more fuel. It takes about 20-25 minutes to cook. You can practice in your backyard with the cook stove you would use at camp to test he fuel usage.
      2. Cook it at home before you go. It will weigh more with the water that it absorbed during cooking but it will take less fuel to heat it.
      3. If you have a dehydrator, you could cook the mixture and then dehydrate it yourself at home and then treat it as a dehydrated meal at camp and add whatever goodies you like, such as dried asparagus, carrots, broccoli, etc. and maybe some nuts such as sunflower seeds for a nutty crunch.

      As for my usage, I just bring the rice mixture right out of the bag and just add what sounds good at the time. Ground turkey (cooked at home), a variety of veggies, usually some nuts of some sort and/or avocado for fat content, and sometimes yellow raisins are a nice sweet addition as well.
      I don't mind packing some extra weight. With that, I will usually bring some fresh veggies to add onsite. To me the extra weight is worth the extra nutrition...and flavor!

      Hope this helps. Feel free to contact me with any other questions. Also, if you come up with some great recipe ideas, I'd love to hear about it!
      Thank you
      Marnie

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  8. One block ought to manufacture concerning eight smaller blocks. Next place the blocks on a towel and fold the bean curd in it. Place one thing significant on the bean curd blocks in order that the juices and water content is removed somewhat. Click here http://survival-mastery.com/diy/food_prep/backpacking-food-ideas.html

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    1. Hello and thank you for your input. It's always great to hear new ideas!

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  9. Here are some of the benefits that I have found from giving my own homemade food. I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.

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    1. I appreciate the feedback and the info! Thank you!

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  10. I'm hungry now and you are showing me a lot of foods. and I just want your package of rice noodle.

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  11. Thank you for this post. Backpacking can be considered an art among hikers and campers. Most trekkers tend to pack almost always the same types of foods, either dehydrated or prepared (canned food, etc.) but it doesn’t have to be so boring and bleak every time you sit by the meal and chew on some dried jerky. See more http://survival-mastery.com/diy/food_prep/backpacking-food-ideas.html

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the feedback. It just takes a little imagination to keep the food choices fun. Happy hiking!

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