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Backpacker Magazine – December 2001

Fast Food: A Backpacker's Guide To Grocery

A soup-to-nuts guide that'll get you through the supermarket and on the trail faster than you can say "express lane."

by: Susan Newquist


  • Baking aisle. Instant dinners often require butter or oil. Hain is the only brand of olive oil that I've found in a plastic 12-ounce bottle. Replace butter in instant dinners with Crisco shortening for 50 percent less fat and less risk of melting in your pack. Look for foil-wrapped Crisco sticks in plastic containers. Powdered milk for granola, coffee, or instant dinners is found in this aisle. The larger box (without a spout) contains trail-handy 1-quart packets.
  • Rice and pasta aisle. If you're willing to pack along butter and powdered milk, just about any instant rice, noodle, or grain dinner is fair game. Otherwise, choose instant dinners that come with sauce in squeeze packets. Rag? Express! is a prime candidate for spaghetti lovers. Mac and cheese fans should seek out "deluxe" versions (Kraft makes a tasty one), which usually feature the squeeze-packet sauce (look for the picture on the front of the box). Lipton pastas and rices call for milk and butter, but are edible without either. Near East's boxed selections (just add olive oil and water) can help you break out of the same old carbs. My favorites are Creative Grains Roasted Pecan and Garlic, Tomato Lentil Couscous, and Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts. Look for instant hummus and dried refried beans in this or the soup aisle.
  • Soup aisle. Cream soups need milk, but broth soups from Lipton, Knorr, and Wyler's cook up quickly with just water. Individual cups from Fantastic, The Spice Hunter, Nile Spice, and Health Valley go beyond the norm with flavors like Creole Vegetable Couscous, Creamy Asparagus Soup, Kasba Curry, and Corn Chowder with Tomatoes. Potato fanatics should snag the individual cups of instant potatoes, which, unlike the large boxes, already have milk and butter added. Canned meats and fish usually sit near the end of this aisle. Look for StarKist tuna in 3- and 7-ounce foil pouches. The packets cost more, but weigh less than a can. Meat lovers should consider Libby's processed meats and Spam, which don't require a can opener.
  • Dairy and bread aisle. You'll find tortillas and pitas near the cheese. Kraft and Helluva Good brand cheeses come in resealable packaging, and Laughing Cow makes small, individually waxed cheese pieces. Individually wrapped string cheeses travel well. Peanut butter, jelly, and honey in plastic containers, plus Honey Sweet powdered honey, bread, and bagels are often opposite the dairy section.
  • Deli case. Near the deli, a stand-alone cooler houses imported cheeses, plus hummus and other meatless lunch spreads in plastic containers. Dry sausage, hard salami, jerky, and pepperoni are usually close by.



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READERS COMMENTS

Vegetarian T
Jul 09, 2012

One more idea for meals for vegetarians is to bring pre-roasted veggies that are prepped and ready to go. Cut yellow squash or zuccini into thin pieces for quick cooking on the trail. Toss them in a bowl with herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning and put on cookie sheet at 375 for 35 min. Let them chill in frig and put in small zip lock plastic bag and will keep for 3 days just fine on the trail. They do have some weight, but taste really great when you toss them in Annie's organic white cheddar mac and cheese. Nice to have fresh veggies on the trail.

Vegetarian T
Jul 09, 2012

I am a vegetarian and there are several meals that are offered by Annie's organics that are just great. It seems everyone is missing out on greens. Spinach is really lightweight and gives really important iron and minerals in food and can be used in wraps, soups, and Annie's Mac and Cheese dinners. You don't have to be locked into the meat thing.

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