As a newbie to this cruising thing, I’m intimidated by the concept of having to provision for longer stretches. With the plan to head to the Bahamas in the not too distant future, that becomes something I’m mulling over pretty exhaustively. While there are grocery stores in the Bahamas, there are plenty of things that are exorbitantly expensive or difficult to procure at all. I don’t want us to be living off only canned food for several months but I also don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for meals. We have a decent amount of space to fill with nonperishable but in my mind, it requires a pretty exhaustive meal plan that I just diving into. It seems like I should pick meals, days on which to have them and how to utilize the leftovers or extra ingredients (like a partial can of diced tomatoes or beans) for forthcoming meals. There is a good possibility we may be going very close to being vegetarian again for this stretch. Unless we get really good at catching conch and fishing, that is.
We hear that if you like snack foods, you should take plenty, and we definitely do have our vices. They aren’t always the most healthy things we eat but it’s nice to have some treats on board to avoid impulse purchases that can get very pricey when it comes to importing prices. We like Pop Tarts, crackers, some chips (mostly tortilla chips or something cheesy [Fozel’s pick is Cheetos or doritos—this guy is truly my kid]), some sort of candy (m & ms are popular for the chocolate as are skittles), and baked treats (like little debbie—can’t believe I’m actually admitting that we eat that crap, but oh well. The truth is ugly sometimes). We’ve read that cereal, and condiments like soy sauce, peanut butter, and honey can be pricey or hard to get so we will take enough to last 3 months.
So we will pack up the fridge and cabinets to the best of our abilities and give it a go. When I sit down and make my menu and stores list, I’ll post it here so you guys can see exactly what we’ll be eating for the next several months. I assume there will be some days where things shift because we went out to eat or caught fresh fish or went to a potluck or something but I’m hoping to stick pretty close to what I plan. When I shop I’ll make a spreadsheet so I know exactly how much of each thing I bought so I can look back and see what we had an excess of and what we were short on for future seasons.
My understanding regarding fresh ingredients is that they can sometimes be difficult and expensive to get. It depends on what you’re after of course. Cabbage is prevalent, as are onions, bananas, peppers, carrots (sometimes), eggplant, okra, beets, tomatoes, pumpkin, and limes. I’ve heard of other cruisers (in the BVI) who have gone to the local market to find only a few rusty, dented, expired cans and not so much as a fresh carrot. Hopefully we won’t encounter too much of that. We try to eat healthy and I obviously prefer fresh foods, so the idea of a shortage like that concerns me. I’ve begun to menu plan and will try to plan for meals that don’t require much meat (or meats that are canned—tuna, chicken breast) and rely on the things that we do used canned (beans and corn) and vegetables that are known to have long shelf lives like squashes, potatoes (especially sweet potatoes), cabbage, cauliflower, and onions. And supplement when I can get more fresh items. For fruits apples, pears, and oranges seem to last the longest. We will supplement with canned or jarred fruits. We also use raisins on a regular basis so those will be part of our grocery list.
Our refrigerator space is valuable real estate and I will keep the perishables in there. Many cheeses (especially blocks) do well and can be shredded for usage when necessary, eggs we get before we leave the states (once in the Bahamas I should be able to get local eggs which, if not washed, keep at room temperature), maybe some deli meats (those keep for several weeks if the air is squeezed out), butter/margarine, and open milk (we are going to be using parmalot, which is shelf stable milk and only needs refrigerated right before and during use). Mostly I have read that condiments are fine unrefrigerated and we have been keeping ours out for years now. The only condiment I do refrigerate is mayonnaise. Room temp mayo is just yech.
I’m going to stock up on grains as well. Rice, oats, polenta and grits (maybe), quinoa, and lentils. I will buy some pasta and will be purchasing tortillas. They’re shelf stable and they last for weeks, unlike bread which goes in a matter of days depending on the brand and variety. I’ll be sure to take plenty of flour and sugar, bread crumbs, and plenty of spices and seasonings.
My plan for menu planning is this: pick 2 weeks worth of recipes and then buy enough for 3 months worth, meaning we’ll repeat those meals twice a month. Generally, this wouldn’t be my jam, but we do what we have to do. I’m sure there will be enough variety and I’ve picked enough fun yummy dishes that twice a month won’t seem irritating, I hope! I’m focusing on casseroles and one pot meals because I suspect we may be busy with other things and I don’t want to be tied down.
Beer is apparently something that is cost prohibitive (and weight prohibitive too when it comes to walking back to the dinghy from the grocery store) so we will have plenty of that for cooking and drinking purposes, of course. I like to make beer bread on occasion so a can here and there will go for that. Some liquors are cheaper though, which is interesting.
I’ll also buy some fresh meats and freeze in serving portions (most likely 1 pound increments). Things like chicken breasts, ground beef, ground turkey, and pork tenderloin. I’ll try to make use of them in sparing ways and in recipes where the meat goes further such as in a casserole or soup instead of just straight up grilled chicken breasts. A church cookbook my grandma gave me is inspiration for those uses. Feeding 9 kids wasn’t cheap so I know she and her peers in Sacred Heart church know a thing or two about stretching a pantry’s worth of food to fill every mouth.