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Backpack Penny Pinching

By Julie Norman

We take at least one backpack trip every year and usually our dinners consist of Mountain House dehydrated meals.  There's nothing wrong with the taste...what there IS something wrong with is the price! Each meal costs between $7 and $8.  If we take a third person then we usually end up with 2 meals a night. So that's $14 a night in food...over 4 nights...we've just spend $56 on food for BACKPACKING!  This year I've decided to take a different approach and this weekend I started figuring out how.

Safeway had O Organics blueberries on sale for super cheap because of "overstock" clearance. So I bought 2 small packages and dehydrated them.  These, along with a box of Safeway plain instant oatmeal, will be part of our "design your own oatmeal" breakfast.  I also plan to mix up a baggie of sugar, cinnamon and butter buds.  This is cheaper than Mountain House granola...honestly for all the blueberries and oatmeal I probably spent $6.  That should give us 2 meals; $3 per meal; $1 per person per meal.  The Mountain House granola is probably $5 a bag. And one bag feeds 1-2 people.

I had a FREE offer for a Horizon organics mac and cheese.  We're going to use that as a tester product to see how well the noodles rehydrate when just sitting in boiling water.  Then, if it works, we'll buy a cheaper mac and cheese and create a second meal with that.   I also bought a pound of ground beef yesterday (backpacking meals are supposed to be cheap, though they aren't always the healthiest...) for $2.44.  I browned the ground beef and dehydrated it.  We're going to combine that with a Hamburger Helper mix ($1.66) for another meal.  So that entire meal will cost us $3.66 for 3 people. I mean...an entire box of Hamburger Helper for 3 people? We should be stuffed!

Finally I plan to use a box of cous cous with seasoning.  It ONLY takes boiling water to rehydrate and we can then add some dried veggies (I've got peppers, onions and potatoes in the freezer) and a package of vacuum sealed chicken, for a third great meal.  Now we're down to one Mountain House meal, and if I can come up with another idea, we won't even need that! 

Even though some of these are still processed meals, I feel a little better about them.  I can add tons of veggies to these and I actually just remembered I've got some broccoli bits leftover from dinner the other night...those would be great in my Mac and Cheese meal!  Over the winter I dehydrated peaches and berries, so we've got plenty for our oatmeal.   I am hoping we'll discover a whole new way of cooking in the backcountry with some new and different "homemade" meals.

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