Introduction: Freezer Bag Cooking for Backpacking Using Only Supermarket Ingredients
Yes this has been done before (not here), but from what I have found they never made anything I would eat. More than that they always used ingredients that require shopping for freeze dried goods (expensive) or time consuming using a dehydrator with possibly dangerous results. Scouring the supermarket reading some labels and some experimentation can save you serious money when shopping for backpacking food.
I have been doing this for over 5 years once I discovered you could "cook" in a freezer bag (more like re-constitute and heat up).
The bags / cozys you see in the photos are about 5 years old an instructable will follow very soon if not already, they are simply a pouch made out of foil backed bubble duct insulation, foil tape and sticky Velcro pads. They are also multipurpose: 1 they can be used to pad your back in your pack, 2 you can use them as a pillow (stuffed and a cloth wrap), 3. Cold spot cover for low spots on your sleeping pad.
The photos you see are of scouts in my troop prepping a backpacking meal for 12 (two pouches used). The meal is Chicken with gravy mashed potatoes and stuffing. Not bad after a day of hiking, I have also done other chicken dishes using rice taco seasoning, powdered black beans (Finest Foods), also a beef version.
This has two phases preparation and cooking. I am a firm believer in preparation that way you do not carry in or out packaging. Secondly, there are no surprises at prep time, miles into the woods there are no stores.
Freezer Bags (quart and gallon)
Measuring cups (in this case a graduated 1 cup measure will do)
Cooking Materials / Equipment
Watch cap gloves to insulate your hands while you handle the freezer bags when hot.
Freezer Bag Cozy (shown here easy enough to make but an instructable to follow)
Scout or GSI mess kit cup (with graduated English measures in my case)
Cooking Pot 2 quarts normally 4 quarts for a large group should be fine
Potable Water (drinkable water you brought or filtered)
Can Opener (in my case you can use foil pouch meat)
Stove (heat is a good thing here)
Optional camping spice rack (round container with 6-8 spices in pie shaped compartments)
Step 1: Prep: Chicken With Gravy Mashed Potatoes Stuffing
Serving 4 Real People multiply or divided for your group
2 Packages of Instant mashed potatoes (the 4 serving type that require no milk some are better than others)
1 Package of Instant Gravy (chicken)
2 12.5 oz cans of White Chicken (you can use the foil pouch to save weight but it is much more expensive)
2 Cups of Stove Top Stuffing mix
Sprinkle of Butter Buds (butter type flavoring dried, comes in a salt shaker type container)
DO NOT ADD ANY WATER TO ANYTHING AT THIS TIME.
DO NOT OPEN THE CHICKEN LEAVE IT AS IS. It is only here for Inventory
Take 2 gallon freezer bags place the contents one mashed potatoes package in each, take the air out seal and write mashed potatoes (it looks like the gravy I realize the volumes are way different but there may be an inexperienced scout / teenager handling it) 2 cups water.
In another gallon freezer bag place 2 cups of Stove Top Stuffing, mark this bag with 1.75 cups. The box calls for 2 cups but I have found that given we are sealing the bag no steam escapes, 2 cups made it mushy 1.75 should make is more stiff.
Take the contents of the gravy packet and place it in another gallon freezer bag, mark it with 1 cup water (we marked the potatoes therefore you don't need it here but do so if you want).
Make sure the cans are well separated from the rest of the materials the edges may ding the bags and cause leakage later.
Pack up at least 1 extra freezer bag just in case one springs a leak (there is another reason I will tell you in the cooking phase).
Step 2: Cooking / Waiting
Boil about 2 quarts of water maybe a little more.
While waiting open the chicken and drain, and rinse it with clean water to get the salty brine out.
Once you are at a rolling boil measure out (using your scout / GSI (cup) the marked amount of water and place them in the appropriate bags and seal them ONE AT A TIME.
Starting with potatoes, using a glove or mix the water and powder till well integrated (should be under 1 min).
Place this in the Cozy / Pouch flatten it out slightly so it is not one massive lump and keep it closed.
Next the stuffing in the same manor just try not to crush it. Again place this in the Cozy.
Lastly the gravy, quickly mix it once integrated, add the chicken break up the big chunks so it is easier to heat to not make it into mush. Place this in your cozy sandwiched between the potatoes and stuffing. Close it.
Optionally, you can take the remaining boiling water place it in a bag and place that extra bag place it in the cozy this will add some heat; all the other ingredients lower the temperature of the water while mixing. CLOSE IT UP.
Do not open it for about 10 min.
Step 3: Open and Serve
Using your gloves or hat to remove the bags, take care not to get steam in your face when opening the freezer bags (not a big issue but it had to be said).
Serve it up using a serving spoon (light plastic one $1 at Wal-Mart), if solo you can eat out of the bag (assumed you divided the ingredients and are using quart bags).
We made up a portion for two so that we could all have a taste (it made 5 small serving see pictures, therefore 2 should be just fine).
Yes we did this in a kitchen but I have done the cooking in the field for years this was their first experiment with this.
Always test run your recipe. This is why we lowered the liquid in the stuffing. Even rice you can short a little (very little) due to you will have no escaping steam during cooking.
Step 4: Other Items to Try.
Instant Rice in place of potatoes.
Taco mix as a spice for chicken
Potted beef (sounds bad but it is quite good, from Wal-Mart)
Danish 1lb ham served (can) with potatoes or rice (I cheated and fried up steaks for this, you could also use Spam....)
Powdered Humus (Fantastic Foods, just add oil and boiling water place in bag and let sit)
Powdered Black Beans (Fantastic Foods) these are great if you can find them.
I have also done Fetachini Alfrado the instant side dish you see in the market. The other pasta ones take too long to cook but this one was fine.
If you want a little cooking, try something I make called a Messtada:
Hungry Jack instant hash browns (split the package in 2) hydrate them with boiling (covering the potatoes) water put them in the bak wait 10 min. take them out and drain.
Fry them up in a 9 inch backpacking fry pan (a little oil if you have it) after they start to brown (3 min) add 4 eggs (powder re-hydrated or eggs your brought) scrambled in a zip lock bag. Add those to the pan mix add spice, garlic, hot pepper, salt.... Sometimes I toss a little taco mix in with it. Scoop it out into 2 large tortillas (12in) and you have breakfast for 2. This is what we had on our last backpacking trip for breakfast, no complaints. I will look back in my pictures.
Very good for breakfast, only the fry pan to clean up.