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My most time-consuming job on Starry Horizons is the position of Chef. I spend a lot of time grocery shopping, storing, and cooking our food on board. It’s a good thing I like doing it – with the exception of schlepping to the store!
There have been several instances where we’ve cruised to places where there are no stores or a very limited selection. Sometimes, certain things may be available but not the quality that I want.
However, Starry Horizons can be well-stocked for a month or more of cruising these kinds of remote locations.
In all of our travels sailing around the world, I have found that there are always these things available:
- Fish and seafood
Ok, maybe Pringles and Oreos aren’t good for a balanced diet, but we’ve been shocked how often we roll up to a small convenience store to see a variety of Pringles flavors available. They keep a long time, and by stacking the chips in the canister they can maximize food to volume ratios.
This grain is used world-wide for a calorie-dense carbohydrate. We always see at least a standard white rice. We’ve often been able to find Jasmine rice, which we buy in big bags. Specialty rice like wild or brown rice is harder to find, so we stock up when we have access to them.
There are a few products that we are loath to go without but are very hard to find elsewhere, like peanut butter or maple syrup. We stock up on those as much as we can.
Since we are primarily traveling by sea, it makes sense that fish and seafood are available everywhere we go. In more remote locations, we often get a knock on our hull from the local fisherman. Going on deck, we communicate through hand gestures and a minimal understanding of the local language to buy or trade for the fisherman’s catch.
Additionally, we catch our own fish, as many cruisers do. We rarely catch reef fish with a line or spear gun, but we troll our fishing lines on every major passage.
Meat is usually the biggest challenge. Local people tend to eat less meat than most westerners. Plus, food safety can be a huge concern – sometimes in Indonesia, I saw vegetables being weighed in a bowl that had just had raw chicken in it, or raw chicken was out in the open air without refrigeration and covered in flies.
Additionally, in more remote places (like Tonga) I would find frozen “mystery meats” or lower quality cuts. In the Indian Ocean, we often found buffalo meat from Indian instead of beef.
For meat, it is best to stock up with as much as possible when you find good quality. In the ideal scenario, I will go directly to a butcher (Australia was great for that!). I buy boneless meats such as chicken breast, cutlets, steaks, and ground meats. If I can, I get the meat department or butcher to vacuum seal the meats and bring them fresh back to the boat. If the meats are frozen, it’s impossible to wedge them tightly into the freezer.
Since leaving the states, I have always been able to find refrigerated eggs. Good eggs can last over a month without refrigeration if properly cared for.
I can’t think of a place we’ve been where I couldn’t find papaya to buy. Tropical fruits are easy to grow and are often prolific. Some of them, like the breadfruit, are more nutritionally dense and can bulk up meals.
Vegetables are reliable too. Most villages have at least a small market to purchase locally farmed goods. In the tropics, eggplants, cucumbers, and tomatoes are common. Gourds, like pumpkin and butternut squash, are also usually available as they last a long time without refrigeration.
I don’t use a rigid meal plan. We have certain things that we typically eat for breakfast and lunch, so I make sure to stock whatever dry goods I need to get us through to the next big provisioning run.
Breakfast is often some type of cereal for David. Cereals are harder to find, so we always have a good supply. We stock plenty of UHT milk, which is a shelf-stable cow’s milk that is hard to find in the States. I often eat eggs or peanut butter with an apple (hard to find) or bread.
Flexibility is key, and I make my plant-based lunches on what is available at the moment. I always have the dry ingredients on hand to make dishes like hummus (tahini, canned or dry chickpeas, garlic, olive oil), chopped greek salads (chickpeas, roasted peppers, olives, red onions), or fried rice (onions, rice, eggs, oil).
Dinner is always based on what is available. David eats meat with every dinner (and lunch), and we always have a vegetable. Once or twice a week I cook a dish like fried rice or a pasta salad that is plant-based but David can add meat to.
I don’t hesitate to take the easy way out, especially on long passages when fresh supplies are running low. Starry Horizons is always well stocked with our favorite canned vegetables (usually beets) and the condiments necessary for a few of our favorite simple recipes:
Soy-Maple Glaze: Equal parts soy sauce and maple syrup. Simmer, use as a glaze for cooking and sauce for serving. Serve on salmon, pork chops, or chicken.
Salmon casserole: Sautee diced peppers and onions. Mix with one can of salmon and three eggs. Bake for 30 minutes.
Green curry or other bottle sauce: Simply follow directions and add meat.
Chicken Picatta: Pan fry chicken in butter. Remove chicken and add lemon juice and capers, plus extra butter if needed. Reduce and serve.
Raspberry balsamic chicken or pork chops: sautee diced onions in butter. Add raspberry jam, balsamic vinegar, and coconut milk (or dairy cream). (** Note, this works great with a variety of vinegar and jam combinations. Leave out the milk if you prefer.)
Anything BBQ: Seriously, just cook some meat and throw some BBQ sauce on top and David is a happy camper.
When stocking the boat for a passage, where I won’t have access to any provisioning, I tally the number of servings for the most important items:
- meat (in the freezer & in cans)
We have an insane amount of space in our fridge and freezer. Actually, we might have too much space in our fridge, since I often store eggs and produce refrigerated.
I always try to buy fruits and vegetables that haven’t been refrigerated. If they have been in the cooler, they have to be stored in the fridge. If they haven’t then I can store them in a bowl on the counter or in a hammock out in the cockpit. For long-term produce, I stock up on pumpkins and squash, which keeps for a long time.
Our freezer can hold over 80 servings of meat. With David eating fourteen servings a week and me eating five to seven servings, 80 servings will last us 28 days. We can supplement that with (hopefully!) freshly caught fish, or canned meats if we’re having bad luck.
For the ultimate in food storage onboard, refer to The Boat Galley.