There is nothing that says “I’m ready to blow this popsicle stand!” like buying a hundred tins of veggies. What’s that? You don’t spend two thousand dollars at the grocery store before you go on vacation? Well. It is clear to me that you don’t have to shop for six months at a stretch. Let me guide you through it.
First, make your list. Mine is three printed pages in an Excel spreadsheet. I add in my notes on consumption from the last Big Shopping, make new estimates for what we need, and off I go. Always keep in mind that fresh stuff usually gets confiscated when you enter a new country, so only buy as much meat and veg as you can eat between now and then.
As you can see above, Indy is helping me peel labels off tins. Why? Well. Not to be too graphic, but certain insects like to crawl behind the labels and lay eggs. I know. Gross. So it is peeling time. I write the name of the item on the top, Indy peels, then I add the name twice to the sides. This give me at least a fighting chance of knowing what it is later – although I will tell you, Sharpie is not permanent under all circumstances. When I pack the lockers, I keep birds of a feather close together, so if the day ever comes that we have fifty tins of mystery dinner, I’ll be able to sort of predict whether I am opening tomatoes or peas. Three cheers for tins of funny shape! Tuna is always easy to guess.
|One locker of many.|
Tins are no problem, but what about softer items? Things like rice and flour that are weevil heaven? I’m glad you asked. When we first started cruising, another boat recommended we pack bay leaves in with our staples. Many people claim they are a natural bug repellent. I haven’t investigated the scientific validity of these claims, possibly because I don’t want to find out they are nonsense. Anecdotally, I’ve had good success with bay leaves, and find they give me cheap peace of mind. So I plunk in a bay leaf, wrap the works in plastic and move on.
|Merely a subset of our flour rations.|
But that isn’t enough plastic. No, no. Next comes a large ziploc-style baggie. And then, a Tupperware pot. Overkill? Ha. You do not want your starches consorting with air and moisture.
|Like criminals in a supermax prison.|
In fact, put everything in Tupperware.
|I don’t care if it comes in a plastic bag. Pack it properly.|
I learned the hard way (and is there any other way?) to put things I need often at the front of the shelf, and things I need less often at the back. Sounds brainless, right? This is less about being a pain in the neck, and more about preserving my sanity. Imagine being sleep-deprived, seasick, and discovering you are out of flour. But the flour, being heavy, is at the bottom-back of a locker at the front (read: bounciest) part of the boat. And there are ninety-eight things piled on top of it. You might want to decide that your family doesn’t need bread today. But you can’t decide that! Because they will all complain so loudly and constantly* (and fairly) that it is less irritating to unpack the godforsaken locker and get the flour.
So avoid this totally hypothetical situation that has never, ever happened to me. Put most of your flour/pasta/whatever at the back. But put a few pounds at the front, too. And refresh those front pots whenever seas are calm or you get to port. It makes everyone’s life more pleasant.
Avoid glass. Avoid thin tins. I have more than one friend who has had an ill-protected item burst in a locker. And I promise you, only the messiest, stickiest, hardest-to-clean things explode. It is the law.
(Oh no – the family just arrived home. Quick! Quick! Last-minute tips!) A net hammock is perfect for fruits and veggies. Not everything needs to be refrigerated. Buy tinned butter. Ahh! I’m out of time!
A well-fed crew is a crew who won’t murder you a happy crew. Now, where should I pack these 20 L of tomato juice?
*Note: This is purely perception on the part of the seasick-afflicted. It is a sad fact: when you are sick, you think everyone is being a jerk to you, no matter how nice they are being in reality.