Ironically enough, when I discuss the stress of preparing for our hike, I'm not really discussing the hike at all. The actual hiking of the Pacific Crest Trail has not been the most intensive part of my preparations. The things I will be leaving here at home are significantly larger logistical issues than the process of hiking across the nation. That right there should be a good indicator of how much mom's and housewives actually do!
Most of my preparations as of late have been food related. Though Jules survived many bachelorhood years before I was in the picture, the main sustenance contained some mixture of tuna fish, cheese, mustard, salsa, sour cream, mayonnaise and chips. Most all meals were microwavable and many came in plastic bags with various colorful fast food chain logos printed on them. During college, many calories were also consumed in liquid form of either alcohol or Coca-Cola. Now, not so much. I would be judicious with the words "Food Nazi," but let's just say I'm a bit more specific about what I put into my body. Case and point, I'm battling being sick right now and the boys are off at McDonalds. While Jules offered, I declined any take out. They are both eating multiple double cheese burgers to be sure, since The Barracuda is now keeping up with both his father and I in food consumption.
Jules' original reaction to 60 days all by himself was quite a delighted squeal and a run to Taco Bell for a 12 pack of tacos. After consuming about 4, he began to realize the thrill might be gone. Not to be thwarted, he continued in true bachelor fashion and was promptly quite sick. He didn't feel "normal" again until a couple days later. I
Shortly there after, we talked a bit more about this whole eating-while-I-was-gone thing and I suggested a meal planner. That didn't go over very well at first, but soon the thought of coming home from work and being able to have food without thinking sounded pretty good. Our meal planner is much like one from Traveling Mel. It has a calendar which tells Jules exactly what to pull out the night before to defrost, what to pack for lunch the next day, and what to do with the defrosted/canned items for dinner that evening. There are recipes and quick tutorials if he needs them. There is even a grocery list in the back which will provide him with the exact quantities of what to get so that he doesn't wind up without something important.
|Frozen half gallons of tortilla chicken soup, ready to be defrosted and eaten.|
The freezer is quickly filling up. My hat is off to all those working mom's who freeze and prepare meals for their families. Taking one day a week and making big batches, figuring out how much extra to prepare so that one whole meal can go into the freezer, those were not tasks anywhere near my normal life. It takes work. Work that many mom's do on their precious down time. Way to go, all of you!
|The enchilada assembly line progressed this week and they were all wrapped in wax paper and Zip-Locked up.|
Over the next couple days, Jules is getting crash courses in cooking. He's doing well and we have all been quite happily eating what he makes. So far, it appears to have met his rigorous standards - hot, covered in cheese, contains meat in some form, has less than 4 steps. He's feeling much better about his food options, though we are still joking that without cooking lessons he might just show up to meet us weighing 400 lbs due to eating junk.
Jules would like me to reiterate that he is not stupid or helpless. On the contrary, he's quite talented. However, when we decided to diversify the household chores around here I took over the kitchen. We have steadily progressed to the point there is no insta-food left. If microwave and stir is involved, Jules is all over it. If open, dump contents, stir, place in oven are the steps, he can create some very tasty-ish things. We don't really have much of that kind of food left unless I pre-make it.
In many ways Jules is greatly stepping out of his comfort zone, just like The Barracuda and I. Traveling for 60 days and living for 60 days without the other partner is a very new experience for this highly interdependent family. This was somehow left out of my mental game plan when the whole PCT thing was originally discussed.
|His enchiladas turned out really well and were completely unsupervised as I took a shower.|
The major bonus of all this food prep is that we don't need much by way of groceries for the next 6 months. With backpacking food all measured, prepped and parceled the entire time we are hiking is taken care of. We are still bringing cash with us for fresh veggies along the way and the occasional town stop to eat as many calories as we can cram in, but that doesn't amount to too much money. With me preparing all of Jules' food, his grocery bill is going to be pretty darn tiny as well. Mainly he will be purchasing the fresh salad stuff, fruits, a block of cheese or two, and snacks.
|A southern man cannot be left without his cornbread!|
It is odd to think of this kind of trip saving us money, but I've crunched the numbers multiple times now and it appears that we will be putting a good 300 extra dollars a month in the bank. The original purchasing for our hike has worked out to be approximately 100 dollars extra over the last 4 grocery bills. With our tiny house, we rarely meet the minimum for our electric bill, so the processing of the food doesn't play much into the equation. It is really quite a testament to how purchasing in bulk, careful planning, and proper food storage can save families significant amounts of money. If saving money proves to work out true, you can bet we will be doing this much more readily as the years progress. The Barracuda has quite a long list of hikes he wants to do and saving money sure makes that prospect a bit easier!