updated 11/23/14

Eating Healthy Without Refrigeration 

When I moved aboard Lealea in 1996 Chuck and I were both Managers in the Power Sports Industry. We worked long hours and our first few years together were hectic. The only meal we ever ate on the boat was breakfast. Lunch consisted of something nuked in the microwave at work or grabbed from one of the small diners nearby. We always worked late and we always met up at the Harbor Pub after work to have dinner and then go home. The boat was just the place we slept.

The funny thing about this lifestyle is that it takes a lot of money and energy just to "survive". We always shared a meal because most restaurants serve very large portions but I look back at how much we spent on eating out and I cringe. But heck, the cook stove was broken and we were too busy to fix it.

As the years passed and Chuck's retirement drew closer it
became clear we needed to address our spending habits. Once he retired and we took off cruising our income would be limited. I would work on and off if needed but the plan was that I wouldn't have to. Having disposed of all monthly payment obligations food became our biggest expense and we consciously changed our eating habits to save money. We got the stove fixed, stopped eating out and started cooking with fresh ingredients at home.

When we worked in Hawaii, before Chuck retired in 2007, we lived that life. Busy, hectic and rushed. Chuck always jokes that we had been married three years before he even knew I could cook. Back then I made a lot of quick meals like spaghetti and red sauce but I made a point of sauteing up a few carrots and an onion for extra flavor. Sometimes I would cook a piece of salmon to have with steamed vegetables or, in a pinch, something  simple like Chili out of a can. By the time Chuck retired I was cooking almost all of our meals on the boat.

We have found that we eat differently depending on where we are. When we returned to Hawaii the second time we found ourselves making light, easy meals of steamed or raw
vegetables and maybe a piece of fish or beef once in a while. We ate locally grown fresh fruits such as papaya and 

bananas which ripen quickly in the tropics. In the tropics we make only what can be eaten in one sitting with no leftovers.

Now that we are in a colder climate we make more stews and beans and rice in the pressure cooker. Comfort foods. One pot will last for approximately 8 meals or side dishes. In this climate we just set leftovers outside to stay cold. It seems to us that the concept of having refrigeration is mostly about storing meat, milk and left-overs (And beer). We do eat meat but not a lot. Our stews are made with lots of different spices and whatever vegetables looked good at the market that day. We toss in a bit of beef or fish every third or fourth pot. Dairy is not a big part of our diet. We like plain yogurt on our oatmeal for breakfast but only have it in the cooler weather when we can stick it outside. If milk is needed I find Powdered Milk works in almost all recipes.  We like cheese but only buy the hard types which are usually aged longer. They can be more expensive but they have more flavor and you generally use less. We keep it in a dark spot close to the hull so it stays cool. We use more butter in cooler climates but it held up fine for us at room temperature while in Honolulu. Mind you, we only buy one stick at a time.

Eating like this does require almost daily trips to the store. When you are working this is usually a real pain but when you are cruising going shopping means a "trip" to the market! We take our time. We have fun wandering around the market coming up with ideas about what good things can be made.

When deciding where to stay for the winter we look closely
at what markets are within easy transit. Chuck will pick up
a back pack size load of groceries once a day or every other day depending on how far away the store is. We prefer walking but in Seattle and San Francisco this meant a bicycle ride every day. There is no cost advantage to buying large amounts of fruits or vegetables that are likely to go bad if you pick up more than you need.

I rarely make more than we can eat in one serving. We shop for items that don't have sugar in them. Sometimes hard to 

find but they are out there. Sugar makes things go bad,
unless they are refrigerated. For example; pasta sauce. We
look for sauce made without sugar. We have left an opened
half jar in the cupboard for two weeks in cooler weather and
a week in warmer climates.  Eggs do not need to be refrigerated and in cooler climates will easily last a few  
weeks without paying them any special attention or longer if you do.

I have always joked that the refrigerator is a place folks
store stuff until they decide to throw it away. Leftovers
and condiments. Although we don't use them, ketchup and
mustard do just fine stored at room temperature. I prefer 
depending on spices to make my food tasty rather than condiments. Our salad dressing is basic olive oil and balsamic vinegar which needs no refrigeration and is easy to make in small batches. At home (the boat) we only drink water, coffee or tea,  black with no cream.  No soda or beer. Chuck will only drink draft beer from a tap in a tavern. (The subject of beer comes under the topic of our cruising budget which is another story.)

I can say it is possible to eat healthy and live aboard without refrigeration. You will most likely go through several "phases" before you find what works best for you.  Cooking a good meal at home takes time and most folks are just to tired after a long day at work which is why eating out has become so popular. The point I am trying to make is; the more time you have the better you eat.

At the moment we are talking about life in port. Provisioning for a passage is an art unto itself but, with careful shopping and planning  you can have good fresh fruits and vegetables for more than a month. Combined with other provisions: dry, canned or freeze-dried, you can eat healthy and very well for quite a while.