Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Preparing for the trip-food


Before leaving we spent a lot of time discussing the pros and cons of this trip. It needs to be profitable, but it also needs to be fun. We need to save money at every opportunity. So there are many, many things to consider.

Let's start with food. In a camper you have limited refrigerated and frozen food storage space. So you really need to plan exactly what works best for you and what you will truly eat. No room for experimentation. You also need to pack things that travel well.

Then there are the following to consider:
Weight: If packing up everything from home will truly be cheaper when you consider the extra weight to pull along with you. After all weight does affect gas mileage.

Storage: Do you have space for it and will you be forced to purchase ice to maintain it. That cost must be considered.

Price: If you live in a lower cost of living state and will be traveling to one where groceries cost more. Then stocking up would be a smart option. If the reverse is true the you might want to wait and buy as you go.

Convenience: Who wants to leave camp to go get a gallon of milk? If you want a cookie you want it NOW!

Availability: The type of milk I drink, lactose free, is not always readily available. My favorite brand is definitely not always available. So if you will only eat XYZ peanut butter from a certain health food store then by all means pack enough for a LONG trip. If on the other hand you'll eat any brand, then a small jar to start with will do you.

Perishing: It does no good to take 10 pounds of bananas with you if you'll eat only one pound before they find a new home in a dumpster. Same with milk, no one is going to drink blinky milk.

So we discussed all of this, ruled out big amounts of some foods, multiplied others we eat a lot because we had bulk quantities in food storage at home. Why buy more if you already have it?

I froze ice in water jugs ahead of time for the one small ice chest we would be hauling with us. Block ice keeps longer, plus the water was drinking water when it thawed. We also bagged ice from the refrigerator ice maker while home to avoid buying any. We knew we would be only using the ice chest for 2-3 days and could prepare enough at home that buying ice was not a budget concern.

I spent the two week time at home planning and cooking. Here's what was hiding in our tiny camper freezer when we left home: (recipes and instructions to follow as time goes on)

2 containers of Moo Gurgle the all purpose taco filler
1 package of home cut rib eye steaks
1 package of home cut boneless pork chops
1 package of home cut boneless pork ribs
1 package of home cut pork for stir fry
2 packages of chopped rotisserie chicken
1 package of sliced rotisserie chicken
2 packages of chopped ham
2 packages of smoked brisket, shredded
2 packages of pre-cooked multi-use meatballs
1 package of pre-cooked spaghetti meatballs
1 package of ham steak
1 large blue ice pack that came with my refrigerator
1 medium sized blue ice pack I purchased a long time ago
2 small blue ice packs from the $1 store
6 individual servings of fruit juice
6 cans of frozen juice
8 pre-made at home hamburger patties
2 pounds of raw ground beef
4 packages of homemade biscuit mix
1 package of homemade frozen bread dough balls.
1 package that contains a rotisserie chicken leg, thigh and 1 wing

In the refrigerator section there are:
3 gallons of 2% milk
3 half gallons of lactose free milk
1.5 pounds of butter
2. pounds of dairy free margarine
1 dozen eggs
varius condiments
1 container of chocolate syrup
soda pop (I know we shouldn't drink it, but we are addicted)
bottles of water
two types of lunch meats
1 package of wieners
4 packages of bagels
1 loaf of bread
1 package of hot dog buns
1 package of hamburger buns
several 2 slice packages of breads like rye, multi-grain, whole wheat, pumpernickel
some chocolate candy for special treats
1 large container (ziploc's large rectangle) of home cooked pinto beans
1 container of jalapeno cornbread casserole
1 large package of flour tortillas
1 large package of corn tortillas
1 package of cheddar cheese
1package of pepper jack cheese
1 package of mozzarella cheese
1 package of soy pepper jack cheese
1 container of homemade garlic butter.

Then you add the pantry that contains the vegetables and add on ingredients to turn this all into meals to feed two people for a VERY long time, including desserts. Much of this is homemade, or home cut. That really saves money too.

The home cut meats are from purchasing larger pieces at Sam's Club and cutting them into the smaller pieces just like the butcher does only at home. The savings per pound is huge when you do this.

All the pork products, except the ham, came from one large pork loin. The smaller end is cut into "boneless ribs", the wider end becomes boneless pork chops, at home in the freezer is the center part pork loin. Scraps from doing all the cutting produce the pork for stir fry.

A large boneless rib roast turns into rib eye steaks, a perfect for two small roast, and beef for stir fry..

A purchased rotisserie chicken is actually cheaper than I can purchase a raw bird and cook it. So that was purchased, we ate one meal and some sandwiches off of it at home. The rest was deboned and packaged up and frozen for meals and sandwiches on the road. The skin from it went to the dogs, and the bones went to the maggot bucket for the free ranging birds.–I'll discuss this sometime in the future.

Instead of purchasing individual juices for in the car as we have done in the past I made up frozen juice at home and filled several flip top bottles that I already had.. These I froze. They will be refilled as used from more frozen juice concentrate as we travel. They make great cold packs for the daily lunches we pack for shopping. More on this another time as well.

I'll spread the recipes out as time goes on. The one I'll include with this post is the "Smoked" Brisket. It's one of the easiest ways to cook brisket to make it tender and tasty that I know of. You do it in the crockpot or on a campfire in a Dutch oven..

Start out by purchasing large brisket when they are on a great sale. Even if you don't want to cook one right away. Buy the biggest and best looking one you can afford. Mine came from Sam's Club and I nearly had to drag it behind me.

Once home you cut it into pieces that will fit your crockpot when wrapped in foil. Don't forget you can go up, so if your crockpot is deep and not wide cut two sections for each cooking spree and stack them. Unless it's EXTREMELY fatty don't trim the fat. Trimming too much of the fat off will make for a very dry brisket.

Once you have the meat all cut up package, label, date and freeze the extra sections. I often will get two or more crockpots going and simply cook the whole thing up that first day. I didn't this time because I broke my biggest crockpot and have not found one at a thrift store or garage sale YET. I will, eventually. Or someone will run a great sale on one. In the meantime I'm down to my medium sized one and two small ones. So I could only cook one section of the brisket this go around. The rest was flash frozen then vacuum sealed and is stored in the freezer at home.

To cook the brisket either at home or to leave cooking in the camper while you are out having fun.:

1 brisket your choice of size, most of the fat still on it
Meat Tenderizer, I use Adolph's no MSG one myself.
1/4 cup Liquid Smoke, whatever brand you choose. I use the Liquid Smoke brand
heavy duty aluminum foil
crockpot or a cast iron Dutch oven (if you are cooking on a campfire)

Using the aluminum foil make a large X of foil big enough to totally enclose the brisket for cooking.

Sprinkle the brisket with the meat tenderizer. Pierce the brisket with a fork in several places to help get the tenderizer down in the meat.

Place the brisket in the center of the foil X, fat side up. Fat side up is important to help keep the brisket moist.

Pull the foil up to form a bowl around the brisket. Pour the Liquid Smoke over the top of the brisket. Seal the brisket in the foil then place the entire bundle in the crockpot. Put the crockpot lid on and start the crockpot.

Cooking times: Low 5-8 hours; High 3-4 hours. If cooking in a Dutch oven cook as if you were baking biscuits by sitting it on coals and having coals on the lid for 3-8 hours depending on the heat of your fire and the size of your brisket. You can also wrap it in a double layer of foil and pit roast it all day..

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR COOKING TIME: If my brisket does not fill the cooker completely up I will often add these items to the top to take full advantage of the cooking heat. After all the better you use your cooking heat the lower your over all cooking bill.

Foil wrapped frozen ears of corn that I have buttered and salted.
Foil wrapped potatoes for baking.

Place these on top of the brisket when you first start it.

We generally have a meal from the brisket when we first cook it. The rest is either sliced or shredded depending on how I plan on using the leftovers. Packaged, dated, labeled and frozen for future meals

The real trick is to plan ahead and make the most of your home cooking. Include a lot of variety for your meals on the road. .

If you only pack hamburgers and hot dogs, within a very short time you will find yourself at a restaurant feeding your family because you can't take the same old same old again.

We definitely have variety and with what I packed combined with the meals mystery shops we will do we are in good shape.

Jan who scratch cooks, but also uses some convenience items when it's cheaper in OK

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