Monday, November 19, 2012

Meals in a Bucket.... Small boat solution to distance cruising

As a young person I was an avid camper.. I belonged to Boy Scouts and backpacked and took long bicycle trips.  In those days freeze dried meals were extremely expensive and out of reach to us boys.  We developed some ingenuity in making lightweight backpacking meals.  here are one  of the low tech things we did....
  • weigh out a 1 cup serving of corn flakes..  smash it into crumbs and measure again .. this is 1 breakfast by weight.  Substitute Sugar Frosted Flakes which are sugar coated corn flakes and no need to add sugar.  Pack in a sandwich bag.  (I still do this aboard)  they can also be used as a coating for meat.
As the years passed, more and more things became easier to find in grocery stores and lower in price.  I will list common freeze dried meals you can find in local supermarkets in the next post with recipes.

LAST YEAR in CostCo  i noticed MEALS IN A BUCKET and since I have seen many companies offering them online and major stores.

 This is a typical bucket

You can also buy a bucket of just Entrees or just Breakfasts  Figure on about 1 month of meals in a bucket with adult size satisfying servings.  You can survive on 1 cup of SURVIVAL  food per day (mostly water) but life will not be pleasant.  These buckets average around $90+ depending on contents.

I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO PACK UP YOUR OWN and save a bundle!  

I make up my own buckets based on 2 hearty meals a day aboard (not Hobbit Size) and a midday lunch.  I add snacks and deserts too.. and manage to easily pack 2-3 weeks of meals in a bucket.  I find i am hungry all the time unless I consume about 1 lb of food (a pint is a pound the world around) at a meal.  My menu is typically a hot cereal for breakfast to which I have measured in dried fruit and nuts..  Evening is my Favorite meal and is a full Entree (meat, potato, side, bread and desert + beverage)  Lunch is frequently sandwiches of crackers and filling.  I get the saltines that are not individually stacked.  These are in large 4 cracker squares the size of a slice of bread. 2 of these large squares with filling (like tuna salad or pb&j)  is a cracker sandwich... and 2 cracker sandwiches and a hot beverage (I like Tea a lot) makes a nice lunch for me.

Doing my own packaging I am able to approximate the commercial bucket price with larger servings that suit me better.. and a selection of my favorite meals.  Last year I figured out my daily food cost was about $3.50/day more or less like this.

If you want to avoid the work of self packaging...  search online for 'meals in a bucket' to find hundreds of suppliers that sell them in various combinations.  if you want to know How I make my own packaged meals... keep reading.

BASIC PLAN  figure out what your 10 favorite meals are and duplicate that menu for as many weeks as you plan to be out and add at least a couple weeks safety margin.  I tend to carry 6 months of food.
I watched a couple videos on YouTube about survival meals which were based on Gifts in a Jar type recipes.  these are dry things you package in a mason jar and give away as gifts.  Here are the videos that inspired me...


Gifts In A Jar  website recipes

A search will bring up dozens of sites How To make Gifts in a jar and recipes for them.  For my purposes aboard... most of mine are packaged in freezer bags or Mylar bags and some are vacuum packaged... 

I will show in another post,  how I made my cheapo 12v vacuum packager for around $10

I assemble my meals like this.  I measure up my individual meals in small pint zip lock freezer bags  Then I assemble one day of those meals and snacks in a larger 1 gallon freezer bag.  Then those large day-packs are assembled into a plastic bucket which holds about 24 man size meals.  To the bucket are added my favorites like Brownie mix and other snack items.

Brownie do not fall like a cake in baking... need only 1/4 cup oil and 1 or 2 eggs to make the batter.  the finished brownies will keep well in a zip lock bag for a couple weeks but you will eat them sooner... trust me!.  I have baked them in a round pan in a dutch oven over an Optimus pressure burner before I bought a Coleman folding Camp Oven.  It is a great item!

OKAY... I now have a plan to assemble my meals.  Here are a few typical ones

BREAKFAST (to a zip lock bag measure in)

3/4 cup dry rolled oats
1/4 cup dried fruit  ( I use Raisins, Apricots, Cherries, Bananas or Cranberries)
1 heaping tablespoon nuts (I like walnuts)
1/8 teaspoon (big pinch) salt

To prepare... I dump the baggie into a short wide mouth thermos
Add 1 Cup boiling water and cap quickly to save the heat.
Give it a swirl shake and wait about 20 min 

Top with 2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar.. remember brown sugar is measured packed so this is only 2 tbs and I eat on a plate without milk and instead a small pat of butter or drizzle of corn/olive oil.
4oz Juice... consider powdered juices like TANG.. there are other brands
I add piece of Toast and hot coffee!   VOILA.. a breakfast

  • HINT  I Lightly toast up a few entire loaves of bread and let the slices dry well on the table before i repackage them.  That toast will keep for weeks without molding!  I got the ides at the local supermarket where BIMBO brand sells already toasted bread in a loaf.  If you find it too rock hard (I sometimes do) I steam it a minute or two in my steamer to soften it a bit before eating.

Lunch is frequently sandwiches of crackers and filling.  I get the saltines that are not individually stacked.  These are in large 4 cracker squares the size of a slice of bread. 2 of these large squares with filling (like tuna salad or pb&j)  is a cracker sandwich... and 2 cracker sandwiches and a hot beverage (I like Tea a lot) makes a nice lunch for me.

4 large wafers of 4 individual crackers
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Hot tea. 

SUPPER (Hay I am old fashioned and we used to call midday meal dinner!  LOL)

1 Canned, Packaged or Freeze Dried Entree
    (consider one of those Hormel Complete meals from my previous post as one choice)
1/2 can vegetable side
1 piece bread
1 desert (brownie square, pudding cup, fruit)
Hot Tea

I Find I prefer Hot drinks aboard because I am often chilled anyway and the drink is also a comfort item.

NEXT POST.. I will list my own 10 favorite meals and other additions I pack with my food list and the recipes to do it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ready to Heat and Eat Meals..

I am not talking about military MRE meals.. no these are available at your Famiily Dollar and many supermarkets.. I found them at $2.30ea at family dollar.

These resemble HUNGRY MAN TV dinners but the comparison stops there.  These store at room temperature and are 10 ounces of only Entree.  I measured a few and found a quarter pound of meat and the rest mashed potato, stuffing, scalloped potatoes or rice or pasta.  Add a side of your favorite vegetable and maybe a thing of bread or cracker and you have a 1 pound meal !

These are not heavy on chemical additives and preservatives.. they are no-nonsense meals.  

The contents are mostly vegetable based and not chemical based.  the ingredients from the back of the Salisbury Steak say:

  • Nutritional Information
  • Serving Size: 283g
    Servings per Container: varies
  • Amount Per Serving
    Calories: 280
  • Total Fat: 11g
    Saturated Fat: 5g
    Cholesterol: 40mg
    Sodium: 950mg
    Total Carbs: 30g
    Fiber: 2g
    Sugars: 1g
    Protein: 16g
  • Ingredients: Ingredients: Water, Rehydrated Potatoes, Salisbury Steak (Beef, Water, Beef Base [Salt, Dextrose, Natural Flavor {Yeast Extract, Dried Soy Sauce (Soybeans), Dextrose, Salt}, Onion Powder, Cornstarch, Natural Roasted Beef Flavor {Yeast Extract, Salt, Hydrolyzed Soy and Wheat Protein}, Caramel Color, Paprika, Natural Flavors, Garlic Powder, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate], Bread Crumbs [Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour {Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid}, Durum Flour, Leavening {Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate}, Yeast], Modified Cornstarch, Salt, Flavoring, Beef Flavor [Beef Extract, Natural Flavors, Salt, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Beef Fat], Spice), Contains 2% or less of Modified Cornstarch, Mushrooms, Beef Fat, Onions, Wheat Flour, Potassium Chloride, Hydrolyzed Soy, Corn, and Wheat Protein, Flavoring, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Spices, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate, Sugar, Cream of Tartar, Caramel Color, Corn Syrup Solids, Salt.
  • Allergens: Soy ingredients present,Wheat ingredients present

The Salisbury Steak meal has a real quarter pounder in there minus the bread.  Put it in a bun or between 2 slices of bread and add lettuce and tomato for a real burger at sea!  By the time you add a side and a desert and a bread you have about a 600 calorie meal.  This would vary with the meal.  THEY ARE GENEROUS WITH THE PROTEIN in these meals.. far better than a Swanson's TV dinner.

At least carry a few of the Turkey and stuffing dinners.. add a blob of your instant mashed potatoes and open a can of cranberries and celebrate an otherwise lonely holiday at  sea.

They may say Microwave meals, but the package has directions on the back to heat by steaming the pack after puncturing the lid.  That's perfect for life aboard and how i do it aboard without a Microwave.  I place it in a steamer pan over 1 burner for 5 minutes and am able to heat my half can of vegetable at the same time.

If you have a Family Dollar buy a few different ones and try them out before you go sailing and see if you like them as well as I do.

AND VARIETY ?  They have...  I have highlighted my Favorites

Powdered Products that are GREAT aboard!

I find living aboard a small boat (under 26 feet) a challenge and resembles a lot of the backpacking i did in younger years.  I have found some powdered products that save space are great and store compactly.

Powdered WHOLE Milk... not that pale blue water mixture of regular powdered milk.  This is like whole mild in the gallon from the supermarket when reconstituted at almost the same price.

I buy mine at WalMart in the grocery section.. look for it amone the MEXICAN FOODS not with the other powdered milk  You can order it from AMAZON    I buy the pimd size rather than the #10 3lb can.  It stays fresh and safe until I need it.

Powdered Whole Eggs..  not egg yolks or egg whites but you get your choice related to your diet.

I buy mine from HONEYVILLE but you can search and find powdered eggs on AMAZON also.  I buy from HONEYVILLE because i can combin with my order to them for freeze dried vegetables and other things.

Powdered Instant Mashed Potatoes... Besides making potatoes i add a couple spoons of this to raman noodles to thicken the soup and kick that up with some vegetables.  A tbsp of the above whole milk mane a cream soup.
Again I combine orders but a family size from the big supermarket is also good.

If you really want to save HONEYVILLE has this in 40 lb bags!

BISQUICK & Pancake Mix or Tortilla Flour...   This is flour with baking powder and some shortning already added so you can make biscuits or pancakes with only water.  I prefer pancake mix for that because it also has the powdered eggs already included unless I get a brand like this that is complete..

A store brand may also be good.  This is from Honeyville.

THEN I LEARNED HOW TO MAKE MY OWN and i saved a bundle.. I will tell you how I make BISQUICK like the name brand for pennies in another post!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Convert Homestrand 209 to Dual Kerosene (Paraffin) Pressure stove!

There is a lot of ongoing discussion about what galley stove is cheapest, safest, easiest and so on for cruising aboard.  James Baldwin on his boat ATOM thinks that kerosene (Paraffin) is the best all around fuel because it is available everywhere in the developing world outside marinas, is safe and not explosive and much hotter than anything except propane.

He has a project on his site to build a gimballed pressure stove based on the Optimus stove with a stainless steel welded basket.

Welding Plans are here

Beautiful job but I wanted something simpler, much cheaper and easier to make.  I came across this very cool idea!

If your boat perhaps came with a Homestrand Alcohol Pressure stove like my boat did you may be in luck!

Here is how I easily in about half an hour, safely and cheaply converted my stainless gimballed Homestrand stove to a dual burner pressure kerosene stove.  One could easily leave one burner alcohol and make one kerosene at no extra cost.  I wanted 2 kerosene burners.

My Homestrand Stove is Model 209 so this is how I did it to my stove.  Your Homestrand will be similar.  This process may work as well with other Alcohol pressure stoves like the Princess stove.

The whole trick to this is in using Optimus pressure stoves or the Butterfly (Optimus clone) pressure stove equivalent!

 These stoves look like this

You can get the all brass Asian Clone Butterfly stove here
they give a discount for buying 2 stoves and they have spare parts.

Step 1.  First you disassemble the burners from the Homestrand stove,  They are attached thru the under burner bowl by a single brass nut.  Another connects the burner fuel tube to the tank.. remove that too.  remove both burners if you want a dual burner kerosene stove like I did.

Step 2.  Set Aside the round top pot support and its three legs of the round brass pressure stoves.  This conversion will not ruin your Homestrand stove or these brass stoves and you can use them with these parts in the original fashion if this conversion does not work out for you.

Step 3.  Next unscrew the burner assembly from the Brass stove below the fuel primer cup.without losing the heatproof fiber washer.

Step 4.  Insert the burner down into the Homestrand burner bowl like the alcohol burner and attach to the tank below. Tighten firmly and align filler and pump toward the front.  The brass burner height is below the pot grate and offers no problem. You may find that you need to buy an additional heatproof fiber washer to go over the underside where it joins the tank.  Mine is working okay without it.  I have resources for Optimus and clone parts are available at that link above.

Step 5.  You may need to make access holes in the front of your galley counter to fill and pump the stoves.  Check that they have room to swing.  If your counter was cut for inserting a propane stove like mine was.. all I needed was to replace the counter top and leave that space open.  A Rubbermaid tub in the bottom holds my pots and pans nicely.

VOILA !  You can now have a gimballed 2 burner nice looking pressure kerosene stove!

Note:  The original alcohol tank will not obstruct the 2 brass stoves.  If you think you may want to convert back you can leave it.. or put all the Homestrand parts into a tight box and seal it up for future reversal of this process.

Another Note:  you can purchase just the burners, but I quickly learned  that the stove depends on heat from the burner to maintain pressure and vapor in the tank.  Enough heat gets down for it to work with Alcohol but not enough for the Kerosene in the Homestrand tank.  It does work with the integral Optimus type tank attached to the burner.