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Old 01-17-09, 12:13 AM   #1
CCrew
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Freeze Dried Meals, etc

See these in the local Gander Mountain (think Cabela's lite) sold in the backpacking section and wondered if anyone's used them. Knee jerk says they wouldn't kill me but might also be near cardboard on the edibility scale. Attracted because they're small, compact, and light, but how are they from a culinary standpoint?

Actually got some freeze dried ice cream from a NASA friend and that was pretty darned equivalent to eating flavored styrofoam
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Old 01-17-09, 12:15 AM   #2
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Mountain House makes some good meals. Their desserts are real good. Also real pricey though.
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Old 01-17-09, 12:20 AM   #3
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Nasty. Used one of those as an 'emergency meal' on my last tour - not gonna do that again. OK for backpacking, I guess (well, not really) but not necessary for a bike tour.
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Old 01-17-09, 12:48 AM   #4
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I used some (different brand) on backpacking in the mountains. Didn't taste the greatest but it did fill you up with calories and carbs. With a bike though I would think that rice and beans would be fine, you could soak the beans all day and then cook, or you could use lentils.
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Old 01-17-09, 12:52 AM   #5
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With a bike though I would think that rice and beans would be fine, you could soak the beans all day and then cook, or you could use lentils.
On this years long distance tour I am going to do budget budget meals, so I was also thinking rice and beans. Hopefully it will not be that big of an hassle.
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Old 01-17-09, 02:00 AM   #6
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Unless you are cycling in the wilds, on a bike it is easier to buy food and related fixings than it is backpacking. I could see having one Mtn. House f-d Stroganoff package along for emergency use, but otherwise I'd try to buy on an as-needed basis, or, soak the beans.

There is a whole realm of cuisine called "freezer bag cooking" (Google will find it for you) which is great if you have access to a food dehydrator and time to plan ahead, and pack what you'll need to cook from. Cheaper than the f-d and no less tasty.
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Old 01-17-09, 02:53 AM   #7
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Personally, I like MREs.
If they are good for hiking 10 miles with 80 lb backpacks, then they are good enough for biking.
More flavor than styrofoam (but it is a different flavor).
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Old 01-17-09, 03:25 AM   #8
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Always the best way -- buy a packet and try it at home. Then get more if you like, or forget if not.
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Old 01-17-09, 07:26 AM   #9
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Mountain House makes some good meals. Their desserts are real good. Also real pricey though.
Libby and I like the Mountain House best. I prefer them to MREs. Pros - lightweight, easy to prepare (add water and wait 10 minutes), quality is consistent, foolproof. As a quick, emergency meal they're great. Cons - expensive, high sodium, low fiber, not very nutrient-dense. We've also dehydrated some of our own foodstuffs for hiking. Sarber's freezer bag cooking site is a great resource...

http://www.freezerbagcooking.com/

and the discussions about food and hiking can be very informative here...

http://www.whiteblaze.net/

Good luck.

Judy
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Old 01-17-09, 07:37 AM   #10
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One thing to check out on the freeze dried meals ( or any prepared meals ) is the sodium content, some are very high.
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Old 01-17-09, 08:28 AM   #11
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Thanks for all the info - it's valuable. Reason I was asking is that I live in an area that has a huge National Forest presence, and we can run the Jeep all day across two states and never see civilization, so the possibility of being 2/3 days on a bike without getting to a store is very possible. Pretty much akin to backpacking on a bike.

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Old 01-17-09, 09:07 AM   #12
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Mountain House makes some good meals but it isn't too hard to make the same thing yourself. The Freezer Bag Cooking site is great and you can put together your own meals bagged the way you want portion wise and be fine for the solitide you describe.
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Old 01-17-09, 09:17 AM   #13
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On our 12 day tour in SW Colorado last year we took a couple of Mtn House meals along as "emergency" meals. They aren't the most gourmet food, but they are quick and easy to make. I don't like to do much more cooking than heating water when I'm out camping.

We had one combined with a shared sandwich at a convenience store one evening on our bike tour.

I just picked up several freeze-dried meal packets that were on steep markdown at REI, around $4 each. I put them in my stash for next years outdoor trips.
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Old 01-17-09, 09:34 AM   #14
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Personally, I like MREs.
If they are good for hiking 10 miles with 80 lb backpacks, then they are good enough for biking.
More flavor than styrofoam (but it is a different flavor).
Yuck. I had one MRE on my last tour, given to me by a tourer who had overpacked. One was enough.
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Old 01-17-09, 09:35 AM   #15
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I prefer to eat minimally processed foods. But I do carry a couple of freeze dried meals as emergency rations. The last couple I bought hit the end of their storage life so we fed them to a couple of hungry boy scouts (those guys will eat about anything!) Bought replacements for the next trip.

Aaron
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Old 01-17-09, 10:01 AM   #16
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Always the best way -- buy a packet and try it at home. Then get more if you like, or forget if not.


Philosophical difference: Before our long canoe trip we considered trying the various freeze dried foods to see what we liked. In the end we decided to just bring a selection of types and brands and some extra spices because we didn't want to know how bad it was going to be in advance. It turns out that if you are hungry enough they never taste bad, and that if you put enough curry and pepper on anything it starts to taste good.

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Old 01-17-09, 10:12 AM   #17
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Also, look in used bookstores for older ('70's) backpacking books -esp cookbooks for backpacking. Many talk about ways to soak beans while hiking, using orzo, bulger , etc. Also look at Middle East, Orient, African cuisine-any cultures have limited fuel/energy supplies and have adapted more efficient cooking methods to accommodate.

There is more involved than 'box suppers' and freeze-dried. But then,there are significant trade-offs between levels of processing, sodium, variety, favorite flavors.
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Old 01-17-09, 10:44 AM   #18
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I'm diabetic and lots of the freeze-dried meals have tons of sugar. I bought a food dryer and experimented with making my own meals for backpacking. Some things worked better than others (I can't remember exactly what right now.) If you know you're going to go long stretches without access to food you might think about getting one. They're pretty cheap, and it's kind of fun to make your own. That way you know exactly what's in it. You can avoid any substances with names you can't pronounce.

Two summers ago I spent one night in a campground after not seeing a grocery store the day before. I had bought a loaf of bread and small plastic jar of peanut butter, plus I brought a small jar of sugar-free jam. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner and breakfast. It was okay.

Last summer I brought an emergency freeze-dried meal. I went to the local outdoor store and bought the one with the least sugar that sounded the best. It came in handy because I stopped early one day many miles before a grocery store. Having the emergency meal figured into my decision to stop early. However, it was terrible.

After that I just carried the p. b. & j. fixings. I prefer a peanut butter sandwich to a freeze-dried meal. It also works out well for me because I often have to stop for a snack if my blood sugar gets too low. Half a peanut butter sandwich makes a perfect snack.

I think carrying bread, peanut butter, and sugar-free jam is going to become my permanent modus operandi.
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Old 01-17-09, 10:49 AM   #19
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After that I just carried the p. b. & j. fixings. I prefer a peanut butter sandwich to a freeze-dried meal. It also works out well for me because I often have to stop for a snack if my blood sugar gets too low. Half a peanut butter sandwich makes a perfect snack.

I think carrying bread, peanut butter, and sugar-free jam is going to become my permanent modus operandi.
Bread, or bagels? I understand bagels hold up better than a loaf of bread when stuffed in a pannier all day.
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Old 01-17-09, 11:17 AM   #20
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Yuck. I had one MRE on my last tour, given to me by a tourer who had overpacked. One was enough.
You're lucky, you had a newer one. MREs changed around 1988. Before that, they were terrible. The new ones aren't nearly as bad. I have eaten many MREs while in the National Guard. I wouldn't take one on tour either.
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Old 01-17-09, 11:30 AM   #21
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I'm diabetic and lots of the freeze-dried meals have tons of sugar.

I think carrying bread, peanut butter, and sugar-free jam is going to become my permanent modus operandi.
I'm diabetic AND allergic to peanuts! LOL
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Old 01-17-09, 11:47 AM   #22
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For most folks, the biggest detractor of freeze dried meals is their cost.

I've eaten Mountain House, Backpackers Pantry and Alpine Aire (arranged by increasing cost and general tastiness). The MH from my BSA days in the 70s left such bad memories that I didn't try it again until ~95. It seems to have improved. Alpine Aire is pretty good. I can consume 20 bucks (2 packs) worth after packing 10 miles - so pretty expensive.

As others pointed out, sodium content a little high (like most boxed/prepared foods), but you usually need the sodium if backpacking - not so much if winter bicycling.

Some of them are actually pretty good tasting. You have to experiment to find your favorite, like all foods.

I've tried MREs several times, not impressed. Always left me amazed that US Military so far behind commericial suppliers.

Here's a bulk producer/seller that brings down the cost of FD considerably from the single-meal packages. Have to repackage or concoct your own meals. I've used their eggs, excellent for FD eggs.

http://store.honeyvillegrain.com/

Walmart sells food too - fruit, grains. They sell dehydrators too if you want to try some DIY jerky, which is very expensive. FD eggs much cheaper and better source of protein.
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Old 01-17-09, 01:35 PM   #23
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Bread, or bagels? I understand bagels hold up better than a loaf of bread when stuffed in a pannier all day.
Both...and tortillas? We used to buy commercial bread and compress the loaf so it would fit in a backpack/pannier (called square air for a reason) My personal preference is to buy a loaf of relatively fresh baked bread from a deli along the way and use it up as the day goes along, then replace the next day. I do keep a pack of the flour tortillas in my food stash, they last forever (relative to fresh bread) and can be used in a multitude of ways.

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Old 01-17-09, 01:40 PM   #24
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Thanks for all the info - it's valuable. Reason I was asking is that I live in an area that has a huge National Forest presence, and we can run the Jeep all day across two states and never see civilization, so the possibility of being 2/3 days on a bike without getting to a store is very possible. Pretty much akin to backpacking on a bike.

-Roger
On most tours where you can but "real" food frequently I would strongly advise against the freeze dried meals. If you really need to carry a lot of days worth of meals and have water available along the way, maybe. If you have to carry all of the water, the weight advantage disappears.

We did eat some freeze dried stuff on the TA. Some of the veggies are very good (peas and carrots for example). We found the portions skimpy and the taste of main courses to range from barely acceptable to horrible.

There are lots of dried noodle and rice dishes in the grocery that are much better. If you add foil pouch tuna or salmon it works out well.

I am not sure if I will even use it for emergency meals again, but I will buy the freeze dried veggies again.
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Old 01-17-09, 01:42 PM   #25
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I'd forget it I use Mountain House Chicken a La King with Noodles. It tastes great, and is awesome. Just, after a long day of riding or backpacking, it says it serves two, but I can finish it myself.
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