EasyPrep Food Storage
Saratoga Farms Food Storage

updated 10/21/14

 Thoughts on Provisioning

Provisioning; The action of providing or supplying something for use.

Sounds simple enough and it is!

Provisioning for a voyage of one week, one month or even one year is a relatively simple process that requires a little advance planning and some basic math. I break up my provisioning into three elements; plan, prepare and stow.  The first part of the planning process is to determine what the length of your passage is expected to be and how many crew members will need to be fed. Are there any specific dislikes or allergies or maybe one of your crew does not usually eat breakfast? With the exception of seasickness I have never met a sailor who would pass up a meal. It is amazing how much food becomes a very real focus while at sea.

Once you have determined your expected passage time and the number of mouths to be fed, you then need to come up with a formula for determining how much food to bring. With Chuck and I it was easy. I kept track of what we ate at home for all three meals for several weeks. I then sat down and wrote out the recipes for every meal we had plus some of our other favorites. Use recipes that can be duplicated with fresh or canned ingredients and still taste good.

List out each item then do the math, chili, corn, peaches, cookies, crackers etc. If you are planning for your first voyage I would recommend adding 1/3 to your equation. This gives you a good safety margin in case you are out longer than anticipated and will take into account the increased appetite of a hearty sailor.

X # of eggs per person per day =
X # of onions per person per day =
X # of apples per person per day =

X # of cans of chili per week =
X # of cans of corn per week =

X lbs of oatmeal per week =
X lbs of raisins per week =

My lists are separated into catagories such as; canned, fresh, bulk and treats. Once you have a basic list established you can always add or subtract as needed. Also remember to bring items that are easily digested for seasick crew members; ginger snaps, saltine crackers, fresh ginger for tea and macaroni and cheese. Don't forget to include snacks and treats. After four long passages we have tweaked our list many times and almost have it perfected.

Thoughts on Provisioning by Laura Wong-Rose

Besides food you should also be developing separate lists for toiletries and spares. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, oil filters, lamp wicks, etc. Especially if you are heading South where many of these items are nearly impossible to find or prohibitively expensive.

Once it's determined what you need the next step is to inventory what you have. Don't guess. Pull everything out and count every can of corn or jar of peanut butter and compare this to your provisioning list. Once you know exactly what you need then you can head to the market. Be sure to take your list with you and stick to the numbers. When Shopping for our first voyage I second guessed myself on several items simply because it looked like way too much in the shopping cart and I put some items back. It was a rookie mistake and I regretted it later. Stick to the plan.

Great, now you have groceries. Next comes the preparation and stowage. There is an amazing amount of garbage produced from a load of groceries and you don't want to take it to sea with you. Breaking down the packaging, repacking and marking everything takes time; Plastic bags for the fruits and vegetables,cardboard boxes from cookies or pasta, especially if you are buying in bulk - It all needs to be broken down, repackaged and stowed. I like to plan my shopping trip so that I have one full day to prepare and store supplies before we are expected to depart.

With bags piled everywhere on the boat it's easy to become overwhelmed. Take a deep breath, break it down into sections and tackle one locker at a time.

If you are stowing items for the first time just know that how and where I stowed items on our first trip is not the same as I do it now. We discover something new every time we go out and have changed where and how we store things several times. We used to store all the canned items in one place but found that weight distribution was an issue. On a forty footer this might not be a problem but on a twenty seven footer it is. Learn and grow. We now store fast moving canned items such as chili and corn in one area of the boat, over stock and slower moving items are stored in another. Be sure to write the purchase date and contents on the top of each can with a permanent marker. We do not remove the paper wrapping but that it your call. We will discuss pests in a moment.

We generally stick to the basics when it comes to fresh fruit. Apples and oranges. When buying in bulk be sure to cut one or two open and try them first to make sure you get a good batch. There is nothing more frustrating than being one thousand miles out to sea and cutting open one bad piece of fruit after another and having to pitch it over.

If you pay any attention to sailing folk lore then bananas are out but if you do choose to bring some along then I recommend picking out several bunches in different stages of ripeness. Before you buy anything check each piece carefully for bug eggs or bruising, especially the bananas, and treat them like eggs on the way home. Choose a well ventilated area to store both fruits and vegetables makeing sure they don't have room to roll around and bruise or they won't last long. This is where storage nets come in handy if you have a good place to hang them. Hanging 20-30 lbs of fruit in a net will have its own challenges; space being one of them and having a durable enough anchor point being the other. Fruits stowed in this manner need need to be checked regularly since the weight applies pressure to fruit on bottom and will decrease their life span (eat from the bottom).

For vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes we use "Green Bags" to help keep them fresh. I cut the tops and tips off each carrot and make sure it is completely dry before placing it in the bag. You will want to check the vegetables every other day as they breath in the bags and moisture will accumulate. If the moisture is not removed regularly, every other day, rot will quickly form. Turn the bags regularly so items are not sitting on one side for too long which will also lead to bruising and rot. When preparing a meal inspect what you have available before hand and use the softest or most bruised first leaving the best ones for last. To ensure everything does not ripen at the same time be sure to buy produce in varying stages of ripeness.

Potatoes and onions are by far the easiest thing to keep fresh the longest but still need to be checked regularly. Any amount of mold or rot will spread quickly.

The final step is the stowage. I will sometimes repack an area several times before I am satisfied. Stow cans and jars so they are easy to access with older items in front or on top and newer cans in the back or on the bottom. We save all those those pesky single socks to wrap around glass jars and prevent them from breaking. Everything should be easy to get to but not so loosly packed that items will roll. There is nothing worse than having a can rolling back and forth directly under your bunk while you are trying to sleep. We use bailing sponges or extra socks for wedges.

Every locker should be completely emptied, vaccumned and treated for pests before re-filling. There should be no scary dark corners aboard. Clean and check every container for cracks, bug infestation or mold. The more often you do it the easier it gets and you are less likely to forget where anything is. As items get used space will appear and items can be shifted from one locker to another. Rotate, rotate, rotate.

We do not have refrigeration on board. After nearly 17 years of living aboard I have come to the conclusion a refrigerator is the place you store things until you throw them away. Everything we buy is eaten before it goes bad and nothing goes to waste. Most items if carefully purchased do not need refrigeration after opening. We shop for items that do not include sugar and will not ferment quickly.

No matter how hard you try you will eventually get unwelcome pests aboard. The only thing you can do is take precautions to limit your amount of exposure and be prepared for the inevetable. When it comes to pest prevention we follow one simple rule. No cardboard. Any and all cardboard, boxes, packaging, etc. is broken down and removed in the cockpit, or better yet on the dock, then immediately disposed of. No cardboard is allowed below, period. Roaches can and will still manage to find their way aboard (they do fly) and it is smart to always have bait and or traps on hand. We always carry both. Sticky traps are great for visually determining if you have an infestation or how bad it is. Leave one out in your galley area every night for a week. If you catch a few you know you have a problem. On our boat the bait is always out and changed every three months.

Remember that the weather will have an impact on eating habits. Warm weather lends itself to more snacking and fresh fruit will disappear quickly. Cold weather usually means lots of hot drinks and hearty meals and bad weather is when meals become vitally important.  For this reason I also include a good variety of freeze dried meals on my provisioning list.  A good hot meal will dramatically reduce stress and all you will need is boiling water.  There are several online retailers for freeze dried meals or you can purchase them through most any camping store. We purchase ours online through The Ready Store.

Each trip we have made has been different from the previous and we are continually learning. Eating well and sleeping well are the two hardest things to master while cruising. Everything else is a piece of cake.