29 days til start: Food Prep

When you start doing an activity, you realize what an enormous undertaking it is. I’ve been thinking about this trip for quite some time. In my mind, I told myself food prep would be challenging, but it’ll be fine. I’ve done this for all my trips, except that you can easily make a week’s worth of meals in a single day and only a handful of unique meals.

This means sourcing the ingredients and assembling them can be done quickly, and you’re also unlikely to run out of ingredients due to miscalculation.

It’s hard

32 years ago, in Boy Scouts, we made our own meals. I don’t remember most of the recipes, but I do know that we used TVP and Heartline for meat replacements and Lipton (now Knorr) sides because they only required boiling water. We also made biscuits and various other meals to satisfy the Cooking merit badge requirements.

Meals have drastically changed since then, after spending a few years going down the ultralight rabbit hole for gear and reducing my pack weight significantly. I realized that I should do this with my food, also. Everyone on the internet suggests Tuna packets, tortillas, and peanut butter. But they need to say that they are heavy, and honestly, who really wants to eat that day in and day out? That’s a non-starter for me, so I searched for meals that were high-calorie, low-weight, and tasted good.

Technology has changed; we have easily accessible freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients (not meals, but ingredients).

Enter Backcountry Foodie

Aaron, who owns Backcountry Foodie at the time, had 75 ultralight, high-calorie recipes for sale. She is a registered dietician and a long-distance hiker. When you want something for your niche, it’s best to get it from the experts who also do your activity, so it was a no-brainer. I quickly purchased it and subsequently became a subscriber.

Choosing meals

This was the hard part. I prefer to trail-test my meals, as they may taste different on the trail than at home. But I only had so many trips to take and so many meals to test, so I had little extra time to waste on non-starters.

While I was looking at all of the meals available, I was very picky.

  1. Must have common ingredients
  2. Must be above a certain caloric amount
  3. Must be low cost

Well, I didn’t get all 3, but I managed to get at least 2 out of the 3 per unique meal.

When reading online during this planning period, many people suggest buying as you go instead of preparing your food. This is true: You’ll never know what you want in four months. But humans are creatures of habit. If you have enough choices, you won’t get sick of them. The catch here is balancing how many times you eat the same thing.

The other key factor is that what tastes good on the trail differs from at home, which I’ve alluded to.

On the trail, I prefer savory snacks over sweet snacks. Unfortunately, the vast majority of high-calorie snacks are sweet, so I need to remember that while preparing my food. Therefore, I’ve limited how many snacks I’ll make, and I buy the rest as I go.

Aside from the benefits of making ultralight, calorie-dense meals for a long hike, there’s also the cost factor. I can make high-quality meals that are better for me than highly processed, instant foods, and they cost significantly less. It’s the same concept as eating at home. The frozen, pre-made meals are more expensive than if you bought the ingredients and made it yourself. So, preparing your own food for a long hike not only ensures you’re getting the best nutrition, but it’s also a budget-friendly option.

Note that the cost of food prep isn’t the final cost. You must also factor in shipping and pick-up fees to decide if it’s a better value than buying as you go. I’ll describe what I’m doing in a future blog post.

Final list of meals

I think I have enough variety—maybe too much, as I know, there are several meals listed that I like very much and some that are only so-so. I do have to give a shout-out to my mom, who, when I mentioned I don’t care for couscous, asked me quite plainly and simply, “Then why make it?” Duh. Why would I do that? I switched it to ramen-based, so I’m hoping it’ll be OK.

I may regret this, as I decided to always have this every day. Mostly because I’ve done it on past trips, and it was delicious. My buddy and I refer to it as “go juice.” It gets you down the trail quickly.

  1. Ginger Turmeric Milk; modified to include collagen, Cordyceps, Schiasndra berry


  1. Supplement in towns
  2. Mixed Fruit Breakfast Crumble
  3. Easy Peach Crisp
  4. Perfect Imperfect Cookie
  5. Granola with Milk & Berries
  6. Mexican Chip Dip
  7. Cuban Black Bean Dip
  8. Spiced Bean Dip


  1. Cashew Curry Couscous—I changed this from Couscous to Ramen because I found I don’t like Couscous that much.
  2. Cinnamon Roll Oats
  3. Cowboy Campin’ Cheese Grits
  4. Tomato Basil Polenta
  5. Pad Thai — This one is still debatable and may be removed.
  6. Creamy Lemon Pesto Pasta
  7. Backcountry Spaghetti
  8. Thai Peanut Ramen—Currently my favorite
  9. Alpine Pasta Alfredo
  10. Tex Mex Ramen
  11. Rice, Beans and Cheese
  12. Pesto Noodles
  13. Beef Taco Mac n Cheese

So that totals up to one breakfast, 8 snacks, and 13 dinners!

A peak into the process

Spreadsheets. I put all meals into a spreadsheet (Meals) to track which ones I liked. I included a column indicating how many times I would like to make each meal. From there, I put the ingredients on another sheet (Ingredients), including measurements and weights, and multiplied the weight by the number of times I wanted to make it.

Once the list was complete, I filtered by each ingredient, totaled the weight I needed, and put this on another sheet (shopping list). I could have gotten fancy and had a formula do this for me, but it wasn’t worth the hassle since the values wouldn’t change much, and I could easily update it manually.

When I went to purchase, I did a lot of Googling grams to oz, but it wasn’t a burden. You should factor in the ingredient’s ‘waste.’ This means that if you need 16 ounces and purchase 16 ounces, chances are high that you will need more of that ingredient by the time you’re done.