Getting out each weekend takes effort and preparation. Now that we have figured out the right gear needed and each child can pack their own bags (with a cursory review from Dad to just make sure they have what they need) the main work of getting ready for a hike is preparing food.
Preparing everyday food takes a lot of time around this house. Eating healthy whole foods that protect our bodies from disease and fuel our activities does and should take time to prepare. But if it takes too much time we'd never get out the door so we don't want that either! We mostly resolve this time crunch by preparing easy, one-pot meals - both at home and for the trail. But by easy I don't mean packaged. Here is the food routine that we currently use for our hiking days and it is working very well for us so I thought I'd share it here.
Because we like to be out the door anytime between 6 and 9 am (depending on how far we have to drive) we have started to pack breakfast with us. In the summer this meant blending a fruit and nut smoothie before leaving, putting it in a large canning jar and drinking it either on the road or when we arrived. The kids would also pack a little bag of mixed nuts, dried fruit and sometimes whole-grain cereal flakes (a treat around here) to eat along the way if they wanted more sustenance.
Smoothies just don't cut in during the chillier fall months though. Instead we're eating baked apples with a nut and dried fruit crumb topping. For our last family hike I prepared this dish the night before, put it in the fridge and then baked it for one hour before we left the next morning. I wrapped it up in my quilted casserole carrier and kept it at my feet in the car until we were ready to eat it. I dished it up and we ate it while driving.
Another good whole food option is granola but we don't eat a lot of it because it takes a few hours to prepare and Damien can't eat gluten. It also usually involves milk (dairy-free or otherwise) which is one more thing to manage on the road. For a camping trip this summer I prepared this easy (& delicious) muesli for our early morning departure. The kids managed the addition of soymilk better than I thought.
This one used to always perplex us. What do you pack for lunch when you don't want to eat bread because a) it's refined even if it's whole wheat, and b) one family member is gluten intolerant? Add to that we choose to mostly avoid meat and cheese, traditional sandwich type foods. We finally decided that we'd eat what we already eat a lot of at home - rice & beans!
When Damien gets home from work on Friday night he puts a pot of rice on to cook. Earlier in the day I try to remember to get some beans cooked but if not there's often some kind of cooked bean or lentil in our fridge. When the rice is cooked Damien puts it in a portable, sealable container (right now we're still using plastic unfortunately). The beans he mixes up with either salsa, pasta sauce or chopped tomatoes and spices. Those he packs in a separate container. The next day on the trail we eat rice topped with bean sauce. Super easy and inexpensive. We also pack a piece of fresh fruit for each person.
For variety we sometimes have baked beans (homemade or store bought) and rice cakes, brown rice crackers and sometimes even bread for the kids and I. But those options are all either more costly or processed - factors we are trying to minimize as we make adventure a lifestyle.
We snack often while hiking. The kids pack a little bag the night before with nuts, dried fruit and anything else they can rustle up from the pantry (you can be sure they don't find any chocolate chips in there!) for their own personal snack bags. In addition Damien prepares easy nut bars that we eat during our hiking breaks. To read more about the breaks we incorporate into our hikes see setting the pace.
Sometimes, especially if the hike is particularly difficult we pack a bar of fair trade, slave-labour free chocolate (and I'm not trying to be all hoity-toity here, eating chocolate that is slave grown is not cool). It's amazing what a little square of chocolate does to motivate! Even better though is hiking during the summer months when wild strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and then blackberries are in season. Munching on these morsels is such a special treat.
This is where it gets fun. We eat out once a week at our house and this is the night we do it. So, I'm sorry I don't have an easy supper recipe for you. Ideas that come to mind though are crockpot meals, leftover soup, or stews prepared in the pressure cooker. In our family we save our meal out (most often at our favorite, cheap local thai restaurant) for our hiking day. This gives everyone a break.
Do you have any whole food, vegan, gluten-free ideas to share? Please feel free to contribute.