7.31.2017

My simple 'hack' for planning a quick, easy & no work menu plan for a week's beach vacation for a family or group


Over the past couple years I've come to love the ease of packing, preparation and yes, taste of freeze dried foods when I'm camping.  I'm kicking myself for not jumping on the freeze dried bandwagon sooner as I recall lugging coolers and containers of foods on so many of our family tent-camping trips when the kids were growing up.  Many times we would 'hike in' to our site and it was all hands on deck to lug heavy coolers and bags of food to the site and then of course you struggle to keep it all cold, organized and out of the hands of sneaky and mean raccoons who have grown accustomed to humans and the goods they bring into the woods.

Last year due to a variety of family events and needs in various states, I did a LOT of solo driving cross country.  I ended up packing freeze dried and dehydrated foods and bottled water in my car and it was a life saver when I found myself stopping at a hotel for the night after a 10 or 12 hour drive and didn't feel like going back out to find food, or in one case; a VERY QUESTIONABLE HOTEL LOCATION that I didn't realize when I made the reservation online and couldn't get out of without losing my money; I was *not* venturing out even 1/2 block from my hotel to hit up the McDonalds in that neighborhood so the mushroom and beef noodle dish I prepared in my hotel room from a freeze dried meal and hot water from my in-room coffee maker made me the happiest girl in that hotel that night!

On the cross country road trip me and my daughter took in May where we camped our way across the state of South Dakota, we packed 2 weeks worth of food and bottles of water into the storage compartment of my little road-trip car and it was the best meal planning we've ever done for a trip.  We never worried about how close we were to towns with the availability of food and water; we had everything we needed.

We also used freeze dried foods on our beach camping trip this spring.  Other than some supplemental 'baby and toddler friendly' foods and powered formula for the baby, we again had no concerns about meal planning.  The most difficult part of planning lunch and dinner was deciding which package to use.

Now I'm in the middle of planning a trip to the beach - but we aren't camping.  It's a rental house.  For years we've tried to get away to the beach at least once a year and to save money we've always rented either a condo with a full kitchen or a rental house with a full kitchen.  This DOES save on the cost of eating 'out' and makes it so much easier to plan meals because you aren't wrangling busy kids and relaxing husbands into showering and getting ready to 'go out' to eat all your meals but as the wife and Mom and 'head cook' in our family, it means I've spent the last 20 years wasting a LOT of time in the kitchen prepping, cooking, baking, serving and cleaning.  Even with 'help' it's wasted time and no one likes to do dishes and scrub lasagna pans on vacation!

ENTER FREEZE DRIED MEALS!

After a lot of research, price comparison and thought to the process of preparation, dishes, ingredients needed to make similar meals, time involved and the ages and favorite foods of those on this trip, I decided on a 'kit' of Mountain House foods that is sold as a combination of their 2 day, 3 day, 4 day and 5 day emergency kits bundled together as one.  I ordered mine through Amazon and this is the exact one I ordered (affiliate link enclosed);




Mountain House 14 day Kit



This kit comes with all the foods you see pictured above and described below:
  • Breakfast Skillet 5x — Hash browns and scrambled eggs mixed with pork sausage, peppers & onions. Each pouch makes two 1-cup servings.
  • Biscuits & Gravy 3x — Hot fluffy buttermilk biscuits with creamy pork sausage gravy. Each pouch makes 2 1-cup servings.
  • Eggs & Bacon 2x — Crispy, crumbly bacon combined with scrambled eggs. -Each pouch makes 1.5 1-cup servings.
  • Eggs with Ham & Peppers 2x — Scrambled eggs with savory ham, green & red peppers. Each pouch makes 2 ¾-cup servings
  • Granola with Milk & Blueberries 2x — Crunchy sweet granola with real blueberries and milk. Prepared hot or cold, it is a great way to start any day. Each pouch contains 2 ½-cup servings.
  • Pasta Primavera 4x — Zucchini, spiral macaroni, cauliflower, broccoli, red & yellow peppers and green beans in a creamy, parmesan cheese sauce. Each pouch makes 2.5 1-cup servings.
  • Rice & Chicken 3x — Rice and chicken in a savory sauce accented with pimentos. Each pouch makes 3 1-cup servings.
  • Beef Stew 2x — Diced all natural beef, potatoes, peas, and carrots.  Each pouch makes 2.5 1-cup servings.
  • Beef Stroganoff 2x — Tender beef, noodles, and mushrooms smothered in a rich sour cream sauce.  Each pouch makes 2.5 1-cup servings.
  • Chicken Fried Rice 2x — Made with long grain rice, chicken, scrambled eggs, chopped onions, savory mushrooms, green peas, red peppers and diced carrots. Each pouch makes 2.5 1-cup servings.
  • Chili Mac with Beef 2x — Spicy chili sauce with real beef, macaroni noodles, onions, and beans. Each pouch makes 2.5 1-cup servings.
  • Lasagna with Meat Sauce 2x —Pasta with cheese in a rich tomato meat sauce. Each pouch makes 2.5 1 ¼-cup servings.
  • Macaroni & Cheese 2x — Macaroni noodles in a smooth, creamy, cheesy sauce. Each pouch makes 3 1 ¼-cup servings.
  • Mexican Rice & Chicken 2x — Spicy rice, beans, and chicken seasoned with tomato, peppers and olives. Each pouch contains 3 1-cup servings.
  • Noodles & Chicken 2x — A rich and creamy sauce with pasta, red peppers, and pieces of real chicken meat. Each pouch makes 2.5 1-cup servings.
  • Italian Style Pepper Steak with Rice & Tomatoes 2x — Tender cuts of steak with red, green and yellow bell peppers, onions and tomatoes with long grain rice. Each pouch makes 2.5 1-cup servings.
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce 2x — Tomato sauce accompanied by tender pasta and beef chunks. Each Pouch makes 2.5 1-cup servings
  • Chicken Teriyaki 1x — Chicken, rice, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and vegetables with a sweet and tangy oriental sauce. Contains 2.5 1-cup servings.


I have personally had most of these foods and since our family knows we love (love love love) the chicken breasts with mashed potatoes, the lasagna and the biscuits and gravy; I also ordered an extra case of each of those items.  This gives us a great variety for everyone to choose a favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner meal.  Most of our large family group are adults and young adults so everyone can prepare their own (you simply add hot water, close the package and wait about 10 minutes - open and eat!).  The little toddlers also have some yummy options with the not-spicy pasta and rice dishes and even a macaroni and cheese favorite.

Another perk?  Not only can people eat breakfast and lunch on their own schedules (early riser? late sleeper? doesn't matter!) you can literally eat this right out of the pouch so if you choose to do so, it means no dishes to wash!  Each package can serve between 2-4 people depending on how hungry they are and their ages.  Leftovers are not an issue; just pop it into the refrigerator and when wanted, just reheat on a paper plate in the microwave.

This kit has 42 pouches of breakfast, lunch and dinner options with 2-4 servings in each pouch.  As I mentioned, I also ordered 3 cases (6 pouches each) of our favorites; biscuits and gravy, lasagna and the chicken breast with mashed potatoes.  We have a total of 60 pouches of all variety of foods.  I also have freeze dried vegetables and fruit we already have on hand in our camping supply boxes as well as a couple freeze dried 'dessert' options like raspberry crumble and a chocolate chip cookie dough mix.

The only foods we will be buying when we arrive at the beach house are sandwich fixings; bread, deli meats, cheese, lettuce and condiments as well fresh fruits, milk, yogurt and one or two cereal options. This is a much much easier-to-manage shopping trip than the usual week long lunch and dinner ingredients trip that runs $400 and includes a whole car full of food items that we try desperately to 'use up' so we don't have to throw out much of it before starting the long trip home. 

We will probably have a lot of food leftover but that's not a problem!  Mountain House brand pouches, when stored at temperatures not over 75 degrees will last up to 30 years.  And they will not last that long in our home because as you've read in my post above, I use these for camping, for road travels, for hotel meals... they come in handy for many meals!


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You might also be interested in the products related to this post available to order through my affiliate links on Amazon if you can't find it locally or like Amazon's prices better:



Mountain House 14 day Kit




Mountain House Just in Case 72 Hour Kit

 
Mountain House 3 Day Emergency Food Supply
Mountain House Just In Case 4-Day Emergency Food Supply