Monday, July 14

Backpacking food on the cheap

Like many of you I've tried many of the lightweight backpacking food options over the years.

Whilst the specialist foods are pretty good these days (a far cry from the Vesta meals of the 70s) I tend not to use them myself. Mainly due to cost and the diffculty in sourcing them locally. And for some reason they tend to weigh more than I'd expect whilst the portions can be a little on the small size for a full evening meal. Plus there's the packaging to dispose of afterwards.

Dehydrating my own stuff has crossed my mind but the thought of all that cooking and processing preparation never seems that attractive.

My own preference is to use whatever I find on the supermarket shelves during the weekly shopping trip. That way I can restock during a trip using the same approach with whatever I might find in the local shops of the area.

Not quite living off the land perhaps. But once the mindset is sorted it's a simple approach, readily adaptable to circumstance, and keeps costs down.

I've found my appetite is highly variable when wildcamping, depending on the weather & the level of physical effort I put in during the day. So I tend towards a few alternative appetite tempters.

Experience has taught me that potato mash (flavoured) always seems edible whatever my state of mind and body. It mixes well with cheese or flaked fish for added variety. A preference to noodles (bland) or pasta (chewy)

Last year I tried pots of Tesco mashed potato (around 40p per portion) Not only was it fairly tasty there was a bonus in using the packaging (the pot) as a mixing bowl/plate/dish for the remainder of trip. It's not often that rubbish can be usefully recycled so beneficially and immediately. And at the end of the trip the pot would be thrown in the nearest litter bin.

Unfortunately on recent Tesco forages this has become a victim of yet another of their brand revisions. The Mash pots have disappeared, to be replaced by Pasta. These are ok but I still have a hankering for the spud option, which remains stubbornly unavailable.

I set to wondering just what it was about the mash mix that was so difficult to recreate myself. Armed with such thoughts I hit the local Adsa to pick up some basic ingredients and have a go at my own bulk production.

And yes. You've guessed it. Sat on the shelf, smiling down at me, was Asda's version of the Mash Pot (39p) On the plus side it was on a 3 for 2 offer. On the down side there was only 1 pot. Bugger.
(Asda's own - 57g)
I picked up a more expensive alternative for comparison.
(Mash with onion - 100g)
But the real reason I was there was to find ingredients for my own version to move away from any future reliance on supermarket specialities, so after a few minutes of browsing I paid less than a fiver and left.

Back home and into the bowl went 150 g of Smash, mixed with 20g of dried onion and a healthy dose of Garlic & Herb Mash flavouring. A quick mixing of ingredients produced 3 portions of JH Mash at around 65-70g per bag. A bigger portion than usual, and to my own recipe.

Total cost - around 40p.
Total preparation time - less than 2 minutes, box to bag for everything.
Shelf life - probably a year stored in a suitably dry/cool place.

And plenty of basic ingredients remain for another day.
(JH Mash 65g)
A real 'ready now' meal with low cost and preparation.

Next step is the field test. But already I'm considering the amount of alternative flavourings. Let's see how it tastes compared to the alternatives I'm taking along this weekend.

But the real test? On my return can I still face the thought of mashed potato? Unlike the Noodle experiment a couple of years ago. Four days worth of different flavoured noodles. Very lightweight. But not the most appealing prospect to look forward to on Day 3; And as for Day 4...... well that was best forgotten.

Not one of my most successful ideas. Ahem.

Lets hope this one works out better.

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Cheers John

You have just reminded me to get all my food sorted - plus get the gas, find the sleeping bag, tent, etc etc.

What day is it?

Oooh dear...
Food for thought, John. Will try your Hee custom-mix asap and report back.
all feedback welcome!
Have you looked at freezer bag cooking? It and the associated book are a good repository of light weight and usually tasty recipes. Many of them are a mixture of some form of "mash" and flavouring. There's a recipe for "brownies" (chewy chocolate cookie bars) that seriously rocks (it uses graham cracker crumbs (digestive biscuit crumbs) chocolate bits, sugar and powdered milk).
cheers for the tip
I use dried spud and the only flavouring I've used is smoked cheese. You can pick up dinky portions that keep surprisingly well (during the non summer months)just needs unwrapping, and chopping into the mash once made up.
Quick cook pasta with cup-a-soup (cream of asparagus by choice) for sauce, with a few bits of chorizo added for taste.

Also for pasta, I like those little long thin tubes of pesto sauce I picked up in Tesco. Bit oily though.
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