How to make the most out of your freeze dried meals

Boiling water in Iceland. I love when there is no bugs and I can cook while in my tent.

I don’t enjoy cooking much. Everyday cooking to me is a chore that I try to do as quickly as possible. I enjoy cooking for special occasions when I have enough time to plan and prepare, but the task of deciding what I want to eat and preparing something each day is daunting to me.
My husband thinks pretty much the same way. When we are together in the same place for some time (which for the past years has not happened very regularly…), we usually do “batch” cooking, typically cooking a huge quantity of one dish and then eating it all week long. I could not care less about eating the same thing every single day of the week, as long as it means I don’t have to cook every day. Additionally, since I’m always saving money for my next trip, eating take-out all the time is not an option for me.

Therefore, the idea of pouring boiling water in a pouch and to have a delicious meal ready for me after 10 minutes is quite appealing. I love it. In fact, after my first sabbatical year, I could say that the only cooking I had done in the past year involved boiling water and pouring in onto something (noodles, rice, oatmeal, freeze-dried meal).

Freeze-dried meals are a great invention. Some are delicious, but not all of them are, be careful and ask around before buying a specific brand. You don’t want to end up like that girl on Te Araroa who was trading all her freeze dried meals for chocolate because she could not stand them anymore… I now know my favorite brands and I swear that some of these meals are so good I could eat them every single day of the year. Unfortunately, they contain too much salt for a healthy accountant-sitting-at-her-desk-all-day diet and that would not be advisable.

Our box of supplies that was waiting for us at a hotel in Iceland while hiking there.

A major drawback to the budget-conscious hiker is that they are expensive. Although most packages advertise two or three servings, I find that a regular package found at your outdoor retailer is rarely enough to feed two starved hikers at the end of a 20+ miles day. And once “hiker hunger” kicks in on a thru-hike, sometimes a package is barely enough to feed just one person. Since I am not going to eat two packages of the stuff in one meal, I have found easy ways to add to those meals that require little to no cooking.

It’s a simple thing and I’m sure many other people do it. Most of the freeze-dried meals I buy contain rice. So if I plan on eating a freeze dried meal the next day, before going to bed, I will pour some rice in a Ziploc container like these and cover it with water. I then let it sit all night and day until it is time to eat my meal. The rice then re-hydrates all day long in the water and only requires being warmed-up. You could even eat it just like that if you don’t mind it at “room” temperature.

Since I prefer to heat up my rice, when it’s time to prepare my meal I boil water with the rice in it. I add the water to the pouch while leaving the rice in the pot and let it sit. Once it’s ready I add the rice to the pouch and mix the whole thing. You now have a delicious hearty meal in two good size portions! Share it with your hiking partner or keep it for your next meal.

Same goes for pasta-based meals, except that I don’t re-hydrate my pasta during the day but just cook it when it’s time to eat. Noodles and couscous can also be re-hydrated in cold water and easily added to your meals.

You’ll now have enough food for two hungry thru-hikers!