Food Jabber – Budget, Time, and Health Friendly Meal Prep

Food is fuel and while many can get away with Pop Tarts, Snickers and Top Ramen as their primary nutrition, it doesn’t work for me. Others have big wallets and live on Mountain House meals. The majority of hikers though find themselves somewhere in between. I’ve experimented a lot over the years and this is what I’ve found works for my current lifestyle.

Breakfast

At home, I eat low carb, high protein. I’ve never been able to tolerate sweets in the morning. If I don’t start my day with protein, I bonk. I’ve created my own cereal mix which can be eaten hot or cold. It has sufficient calories and protein to keep me climbing hills while also keeping my taste buds satisfied.

Pick your ingredients and customize to match your personal palate. You can easily increase the protein by adding nuts, milk or quinoa.

For this batch I started with a multigrain cereal (rye, barley, oats and wheat). Then added steel cut oats, regular oats, flax, chia and hemp seeds, bran, dried fruit, cinnamon, brown sugar and the secret ingredient, egg white protein powder which has 16 grams of protein per 1/4 cup, is tasteless and dissolves easily. Buying in the bulk food bins makes this even more economical. This large bowl made 45 servings (heaping 1/2 cup dry). I didn’t price out the ingredients so not really sure of cost per serving but I’m sure a fraction of prepackaged cereal.

Tip: use a wide-mouth funnel to fill bags to keep crumbs out of zip track. 

Another option I’ve discovered is crackers combined with a protein-rich spread. Each of these makes a 400 calorie meals with 10 grams of protein. 

As part of my second breakfast, I like to have cold coffee with chia seeds (60 calories per tablespoon and 3 grams of protein). SmartWater bottle + vanilla coffee + chia seeds = YUM! Tip: use a funnel to fill the pill bag. Cut the corner of the bag to pour into bottle (avoid spillage in wilderness especially near water supply). Tip: leave bottle on side while seeds are absorbing water, shake frequently, otherwise you’ll have an undrinkable glob at bottom of bottle.

Lunch and/or Dinner:

Although I much prefer homemade meals, they are time consuming to create and dehydrate, plus they tend to have a shorter shelf life and are sensitive to heat. Thus, I choose to take the easy, but less delicious route. My meals need to work with hot or cold water since I frequently hike stoveless. I don’t like packaged meat such as tuna, chicken, spam, etc. so I use soy (TVP) as my protein instead. I’ve not had success rehydrating regular pasta with cold water but have found bean-based products by Explore Cuisine work great and are a perfect substitute.

Base ingredients:

  • Instant rice
  • Instant potatoes
  • Rice sides
  • Bean noodles
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa

Primary sources of protein:

Flavorings:

  • Seasoning packets (i.e. taco, spaghetti, stew, pesto)
  • Bouillon
  • Powdered cheese
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Olive oil

Sample Meals:

  • Instant rice + TVP + refried beans + taco seasoning
  • Instant potatoes + TVP + powdered cheese + red pepper flakes
  • Edamame noodles + TVP + bouillon seasoning
  • Adzuki noodles + TVP + spaghetti sauce seasoning
  • Stuffing mix + couscous + TVP

Within a few hours, I packaged up nearly 70 meals. My portion size is about 1/2 cup dry.

Snacks:

I prefer savory to sweet. My base ingredients tend to be nut based, then I add various flavors to different bags so I don’t get the same mix daily. 

Bars are my least favorite snack, especially protein bars. I seem to carry them around more than I ever eat them . . . My motto is keep trying new things and have a nice assortment to choose from. The Trader Joe Sweet and Salty granola bar was my latest purchase. In the future I’ll buy my sweet items at resupply stops.

All packed up and ready to hit the trails. 

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3 thoughts on “Food Jabber – Budget, Time, and Health Friendly Meal Prep

  1. Thanks for the info. I’ll have to check up on powdered egg whites. I found powdered cheese and powdered butter at Wally-mart last season. The cheese was sort of an anonymous yellow-orange substance which tasted pretty good after a while. The butter was great.

    Mostly I use powdered milk for protein – cheap, available everywhere, easy to measure and mix in, stable.

    Will have to try the wide-mouth funnel. Not bright enough to think of that on my own.

    I pre-mix everything into freezer-weight bags, add hot water, moosh it up, and suck it out through one corner of the bag. No cleanup needed. Easier than using a spoon, which I broke in 2003.

    Powdered oatmeal…

    I found this ( http://naturesheartterrafertil.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/avena-instantanea-de-fresa-200g.jpg ) locally (Cuenca, Ecuador), had to try it. Extremely yummy, but has artificial strawberry flavor, artificial color, and lots of sugar.

    Right away I switched to 3 parts mix, 3 parts plain powdered oatmeal, and 3 parts powdered whole milk. Great warm, OK cold. Makes about a cup of liquid goo.

    Powdered oatmeal is a thing here. Good old Quaker is one brand of several. But apparently they don’t distribute it in the U.S. though there are other sources there. A quick search found two so far: “Muscle Feast”, and “myworldhut”.

    Now I’m playing with just powdered oatmeal, a touch of brown sugar, and powdered whole milk. Stir in melted butter and you can call it a meal. On the trail I’d use raisins instead of sugar, but they’re too expensive to bother with here, and I already have bag of sugar sitting around.

    Anyway, good stuff. Sticks with me, unlike traditionally cooked oatmeal.

    • Wish I could take credit for the funnel idea but saw it on another blog or Facebook.

      That’s funny about drinking your cereal. Definitely efficient. Some hikers are adding oatmeal to their mocha protein shakes.

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