This is the last post in my backcountry meal series. I’ve talked about hot dinners to make with a dehydrator, but I recognize not everyone has the time or money for dehydrating. Fortunately, there are lots of options for hot, lightweight meals that you can get directly from your local grocery store. You can also try freeze-dried meals from any outdoor store, but these run up to $15 a serving. My first dehydrator was only $75 (and is still available for ~$100) and worked great for 4 years, so I’ve never been able to justify the cost of freeze-dried meals. But we’re not here to talk about dehydrating today, so here’s some of my favourite cheap and easy meals:
Ramen is a classic for a reason. There are so many options on the market – personally I stick with the classic 99cent noodles packets, but there are lots of other yummy just-add-water options available at Superstore and Costco, just browse the International aisle and pick your favourite. For protein, I’ll add an egg, pepperoni sticks, dehydrated soy (available at most outdoor stores) or Korean BBQ pork (from Costco).
You could build an entire backpacking menu around Knorr Sidekicks. They’re ~$1.50 a packet from any supermarket and I find them to be the perfect size for backpacking. There are so many pasta and rice options that I alternate back and forth between. The trick is that a lot of them call for milk. You can easily substitute water and not worry about it, but if you still want to capture the creamy taste of a fettucine alfredo, then buy a bag of powdered milk and just bring as much as you need for the meal. That way you still only need to add water, but it’ll be much tastier! Same as above, add egg (or powdered egg), pepperoni, soy, or jerky for protein, plus I will often pick up some dehydrated veggies from Bulk Barn to add to the mix.
3. Thanksgiving in a bowl
This is another recipe that I got from Fresh of the Grid that mostly involves grocery store staples. Instant mashed potatoes, stovetop stuffing, and gravy sauce powder can all be easily purchased, the only challenge is the freeze dried chicken. I’ve never been able to find it anywhere in Canada, so I’d recommend substituting soy or jerky for your protein. Alternatively, you could bring a small can of chicken or spam if you don’t mind carrying it!
4. Soup and Salad
This one will vary depending where you’re from, but if you’ve ever been to a farmer’s market, odds are there’s been someone there selling soup and salad mixes. I’ve seen a ton of different brands and they’re so popular in Vancouver I regularly see them at grocery stores or specialty stores as well. The ideas is that all the dry ingredients and spices are all consolidated and you just need to cook them and maybe add a few other ingredients. Some of them are easier than others and just require water and maybe a few other dry ingredients like craisins or nuts. So just check the back before purchasing to see how adaptable to the backcountry it is. This are naturally more expensive than options 1-3, but at least they go back to the local economy (and are still cheaper than freeze dried). The only thing is they are often meant to serve up to 4 people and require some soaking for the beans, so just plan ahead when you get to camp and immediately start soaking the mix so that it has time to soften before you cook. Here are a few of the companies I’m aware of: SimplyDelish, Mitchell’s Soup Company, Soup Girl.