Grand Canyon: DIY foodpack? - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 11-28-2018   #1
 
Bozeman, Montana
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 96
Grand Canyon: DIY foodpack?

Hello friends!

I convinced a friend of mine to put in for GC trip last year for the first time and she was lucky enough to draw an 8 person April 1st permit for 2019!

This will be my seventh trip down the Canyon. I have always gone with trips that have everything outfitted: I've gone with PRO, Ceiba, and Moenkopi (4 times!). They're all good and Moe is my favorite. I got a quote from Moe. Standard stuff- rent 3 boats, foodpack, and shuttle. The price was not much different than it's always been, but this time splitting it between 8 people instead of 16 brought the total per person to nearly $2k. Ouch. My last trip (just a month ago) also brought me to a realization: I think I can do it better, I think I can do it simpler, and I know I can do it cheaper. I know it'll be way more work on the front end, but please tell me it's possible!

I get really tired of cooking big complicated meals every night. I am pretty sure I can make delicious meals without the 2.5 hour prep time required by most of the outfitter meals. The amount of kitchen crap is annoying too- big breakfasts= lots of dishes= kitchen box tetris- my biggest pet peeve. I already have a menu started and I have access to a large walk in freezer for the coolers. The rest of the group is skeptical... help me convince them.

If it was a regular 16 person trip I'd say just go for the outfitter, but I'm really excited to have a smaller, simpler trip. More time to hike and go canyoneering, more time to relax, earlier days on the water for a windy spring trip. Plus cooking for 8 is way easier than 16, right?

Who's done it? What suggestions do you have? Does anyone have a sample menu?

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Old 11-28-2018   #2
 
John the welder's Avatar
 
Delta, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1971
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 195
Do your own food. We did 28 days and I put the food together and we ate well and had plenty of food. Started off with meats, fresh vegetables and food you would take on a shorter trip. Cured meats like ham last along time. Canned chicken can go in a lot of dishes. Pizza, Mexican, pastas, stir fry and what ever you want. A small group makes it easy.
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Old 11-28-2018   #3
 
Jackson, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 92
I think you could totally do it.

My advice:

Vacuum sealer- it helps prevent food from leaking (ie meat juice), and then try to freeze things solid before introducing to the cooler.

Pre-make what you can, chili, burgers, meatballs, curry, it can all be made, vacuum sealed, and frozen (at least the first couple of weeks).

Costco- where do you think they got a ton of their stuff? Burger patties pre-made, hell ya burger night! Chips, oh ya. Candy- you know you want and need that sugar!

Udon Noodles- Costco sells some big boxes of udon noodles, buy them, deconstruct the bowls and such. When you get to camp add chicken, frozen veggies, and sauce (Trader Joe's) it's a super easy meal, ready in minutes, and is tasty.

Food servings- look at the boxes and see what the serving sizes are, I tend to stick with it and go for more rather than less.

Bagels- DON'T GET FANCY BAGELS! Those things will mold if you look at them funny! Find the bagels with the preservatives if you are thinking of that route.

Try to balance your menu- and think about things that will hold longer vs less. Don't plan for a fresh salad on day 19, just don't do it!


Downside, if you don't have enough coolers, this just won't work. And you will want them!
Dry boxes/rocket boxes- will you have enough? For 8 people, you can probably get 2 days of use out of each rocket.

Last some companies might not provide the gear without the food pack, so make sure you can still get any boats and frames you needs if you aren't using them for food.

Good luck!
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Old 11-28-2018   #4
 
Ever_Cat's Avatar
 
Evergreen, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 100
You can totally do it. I have been on 2 small-group trips where we did our own food.

Once approach that I like that shares the burden before and during the trip is to break into food groups and have each group responsible for dinner/breakfast/lunch (prepared in the morning to take with on the rafts).

For example, if you have 8 people on a 16-day trip, break into food groups of 2 people with each group responsible for bringing meals for 4 days. Obviously some communication is required ahead of time to avoid eating the same thing but it works.

Grill early in the trip. Steaks and grilled zucchini and bell peppers (they are durable) make a great meal.

For those mornings that you want a hot breakfast, make eggs with Egg Beaters in a carton (they pack well and last a long time), pre-packaged hash browns and a can of diced green chilies. Add some shredded cheese and a tortilla and you have a pretty simple hot breakfast. Or even easier buy pre-made egg burritos from Costco and freeze them ahead of time.

Vacuum bags are a great thing, especially the ones for boil-in-a-bag usage. Prepare at home, freeze, and boil in water when it is time to eat.

Ice lasts pretty well in April but meals will have to shift direction from frozen to dry/packaged later in the trip.

You can do it.
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Old 11-28-2018   #5
 
Fort Collins
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 222
Amazon has powdered eggs, and costco and sams have dried hashbrowns. With these, you don't need cooler space, and once hydrated and cooked you can't tell they weren't frozen. There are also canned beef which makes great tacos and burritos sans cooler. Velveta cheese packets work on tacos and burritos, canned chicken and ranch dressing on a pita made a yummy lunch. While it may not be the Grand, I did 4 days on labyrinth in june, with temps in the high 90s, sans coolers, and made a point of eating well. We looked for canned versions of foods and things that were shelf stable. It worked really well. These would be good for later in yoour trip.

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Old 11-28-2018   #6
 
Rick A's Avatar
 
Henderson, Nevada
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 152
We did our own food pack and it worked out great. We did put quite a bit of effort up front but the food was good and we did not have to go boat to boat looking for items. We used rocket boxes for dry goods. We packed a cooler for each week of the trip and finished the trip with plenty of ice to spare (winter trip).
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Old 11-29-2018   #7
 
St. George, Utah
Paddling Since: 1974
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 185
You are getting good suggestions. I will add a few things that we have learned from experience. If you are going to be point person for the food maybe this will help.

We almost always do our food for Grand Canyon trips. My wife has done the food for many trips and has a great system, but it does take time. I don't think you really save a whole lot of money as you aren't getting wholesale prices and are also paying sales tax but you will have the food you want and won't end up grating cheese in a sandstorm.

Step one - Get everyone on the same page regarding meals. Coolers, no coolers, ease of prep vs. elaborate meals. If each person provides some meals it defeats the purpose if they want elaborate and you don't. I hate how the food takes over the trip regarding schedule and timing but for some good food is an important part of the experience.


Step two - Decide how you are going to carry it all. If renting boats use the rocket box system, use it even if not renting, it's easier to deal with the trash.


Step three - Plan on spending more time than you think on prep and packing. My wife spends a couple of months purchasing, pre cooking, vacuum sealing, re packaging dry foods, packing rocket boxes, freezing food. Don't try to do it in one session. You will hate it and make mistakes.


Step four - Label everything very well and include cooking directions with the packaging in addition to having a well planned menu book. If you don't do this you will be answering questions the entire trip. It's a lot easier to say "look in the book" than put down your beer and climb on a boat looking for the relish. Have extra marking tape and markers to mark trash and extra rocket boxes. Buy a big roll of 3M vinyl marking tape from Amazon, don't use duct tape. Put a shopping list in a baggie on top of the packed rocket box food so you don't have to take the full menu to the boat to shop. Color code it with cooler items vs. dry and if you have dairy and vegi coolers what cooler to look in so people aren't standing staring into the wrong cooler. Mark the coolers by day and contents and pack by day. Label the frozen vacuum packed meals by day and if more than one package note it on the shopping list and mark it on the all the packages.


Step five - Make sure everyone knows that they have to get it all in the boats somehow and everyone will be required to pull their weight. We had one trip with someone providing their meals had brought an extra cooler that they expected someone else to carry. My wife just walked away " saying figure it out or don't eat the last four days, your choice". It went.


Step six - Don't let people screw with the meals once on the river! Stick to the plan unless you need to change a out meal due to an emergency. I have seen people try to cherry pick easy meals if they don't like to cook. You really need a food person who is willing to keep with the program and remind people to check produce, drain coolers, eat the ripe fruit or else you will end up with a mess and wasted food.


Hope this helps, have fun.
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Old 11-29-2018   #8
 
MT4Runner's Avatar
 
Kalispell, Montana
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 2,284
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick A View Post
We did our own food pack and it worked out great. We did put quite a bit of effort up front but the food was good and we did not have to go boat to boat looking for items. We used rocket boxes for dry goods. We packed a cooler for each week of the trip and finished the trip with plenty of ice to spare (winter trip).
That's a fantastic menu.
I'd like to cherry-pick Jeremy to go on my trips, I like his meal ideas!


Quote:
Originally Posted by dsrtrat View Post
Step one - Get everyone on the same page regarding meals. Coolers, no coolers, ease of prep vs. elaborate meals. If each person provides some meals it defeats the purpose if they want elaborate and you don't. I hate how the food takes over the trip regarding schedule and timing but for some good food is an important part of the experience.
This is HUGE. Prior communication goes a LONG way. I like good food, but it's so much easier to hear that meals will be simple during the early planning process than to discover that on the river. Similarly, if most people want good food and a few people can't cook or won't cook...swap roles during early planning and assign them more groover duties or assistant cook duties instead of being disappointed when you get to night 4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dsrtrat View Post
Step four - Label everything very well and include cooking directions with the packaging in addition to having a well planned menu book. If you don't do this you will be answering questions the entire trip. It's a lot easier to say "look in the book" than put down your beer and climb on a boat looking for the relish.

Awesome.




To add to the vacuum-packing....also consider boil-in-bag meals. You pretty much already have everything precooked. No point in opening the bag and dirtying a pot or DO to warm it up. Get the blaster going, drop the bags in a chickie pail of boiling water, and warm food up while you nosh on hors d'ouvres or fix a salad. Then after dinner, you have one chickie that is still mostly hot and nearly ready for dish duty.
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Old 11-29-2018   #9
 
evanston, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1968
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 26
Great menu. Possible to get cooking instructions for dinners?? I am looking at doing food self support for a May GC. Some outfitters will Not do food w/o boat rental. Thx. wbb
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Old 11-29-2018   #10
 
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 261
Great ideas from everyone. I was very lucky to be a restaurant owner and chef so have some food prep experience and access to commercial foods. If you know a restaurant person use his or her expertise and help.

Some other thoughts:

- Create a bible with all the recipes, portions, directions, etc., by the day and campsite. Have two copies, one in the kitchen box, the second somewhere else safe. I had designated kitchen/food managers.

- Have some emergency food, like ramans or even energy bars, in case you get into a dire situation.

- Good ice is important. Block ice from the grocery store melts fast.You should be able to find a better ice source. If you have access to a walk-in freezer make ice right in your coolers. Make the ice in layers, an inch or so at a time, until it's 6-8 thick. You won't air bubbles which make it melt faster. Even if your making ice in a milk jug still do it layers. Dry is should be used for coolers your going to open later in the trip. On my first trip, in August, we had a little bit of ice at the end of the trip.

-I had three camp groups that rotated daily. Group A was responsible for cooking, B for the groover, water, and fire, and C was off. Might not be as easy with just 8 people.

- If you plan on freezing fresh eggs, scramble them. Frozen whole egg yolks get really hard.

Have fun!
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