Just Add Water - Instant Foods
- soypower Jan 6, 2008 05:34 AM
Without getting enmeshed in the details, it appears I will be spending a few days in a hotel with only a coffee maker...no microwave, no refrigerator...Going to the grocery store after i arrive is also not possible. so I'm wondering if you can all help me with ideas for products that i can pack with me (and bring on a plane) that require only boiling water...i realize this will not be very healthy, nor very tasty, but believe me, these are the parameters i'm stuck with...i realize i can go to restaurants, but the budget for that is very small (about $20 per day) and i don't believe there are very many fast food restaurants in the area.
so far, food products that require only hot water or no preparation (that can be brought on a plane) include:
cup o noodles
seasoned roasted seaweed
snack pack tuna & crackers
any other ideas? please help...i'd like not to starve...
Powdered milk to add to the soups, bonito flakes, a hard cheese for grating (use the knife you packed in you check-in), instant couscous. Don't forget to pack chili flakes or powder.
Thai Kitchen Rice Noodle soup bowls.
Instant Miso Soup
Cellophane Noodles (bean thread noodles)
If you like steamed rice, you most likely will not like instant rice - at all.
Many of the large Asian stores now carry pre cooked foil packs of meals like bulgogi, kai bi, etc.
Instant Korean or Japanese made ramen soups.
Powdered Japanese dashi or Korean Dashida can make a good instant soup broth.
Cheese in general is fine outside of a fridge, just make sure it is well wrapped. I find hard cheese are most successful, but I have also travelled with softer cheeses, I just eat them first.
Bring a good loaf of bread, it will last well. A crusty loaf will help preserve the integrity of the bread, so a nice artisanal loaf is best. Regular package bread can work, but it gets squished easily.
A small amount of olives adds a lot of flavour, and are fine for the first few days.
A dried cured meat product such as a good salami or Rosette de Lyon lasts fine.
I'll pack a bag of raw baby carrots, apples, oranges, hardy fruits and vegetables and i have found that they last just fine for a few days out of the fridge.
If you are in a place that has condiment packages, those small packets of butter, jams, peanut butter, mustard, etc, are very easy to carry, not at all messy, don't take up a lot of space, and help give nice flavour to the bread. Or stock up before you go. Or: The hotel may have a breakfast place with these products stocked, and if I am eating there, I'll slip a few unused jams and cream cheeses etc. away for lunchtime use. (as per the other thread, they are supposed to throw them away anyhow!) It just makes that salami sandwich better! It is astounding what can be packaged into individual servings that are spillproof. Just go to any food court and you'll see...
Pack some teabags and some instant hot chocolate or chai! Always nice to have a flavoured drink. Then carry some restaurant honey containers or sugar packs if you want sweetening. And small box of really nice biscuits to go with it. Will cheer you up to have a nice chocolate bookie wiht your drink...
You woudl be surprised what can last outside of a fridge. Key thing: pack things well, to avoid messy spills, avoid things getting crushed. Don't forget utensils, I usually carry a few plastic spoons, knives, forks, they are light and can't be construed as weapons, and I don't care if they get lost. I carry a small lunchbox sized cooler and I put the most perishable items in there, often with a small ice pack. The perishibles get eaten first, just to be safe. But again, you'd be surprised what will last. Tupperwares are your friend, as are ziplockbags.
Be creative with your space. If you are in a cold climate, put food next to the window to keep it cool. Just feel around the room to find the cold drafty spot, and voila: refridgeration. Also, The hotel might have a fridge somewhere, and you can always ask if you can store a few items in that. I have a friend who regularly asks the hotel if he can store his cheeses in their fridge as he travels around Quebec. More often tha not, they will let him. You might even call ahead and ask, you never know.
Lastly, you'll have to figure out what can go carry-on and what gets put in cargo. I usually put most things in cargo. If you are travelling in the same country, it is easier to put more unusual objects into carryon.
Good luck! Having spent many a meal of instant cup o'noodles up north, I can tell you it gets tiresome! But with some creativity, it can be ok...
Another idea is to carry a collapsable insulated bag. You can use the hotel ice machine,fill it with ice and leave it in the bathtub or shower to keep things cool should you decide to take some cheeses.
I noticed Betty Crocker ... or some similar company ... makes instant sweet potatoes and instant yukon gold potates. At any rate, I like instant mashed potatoes.
If you have a camping / sports store near you, maybe check out some of the dehydrated meals where you just add water. The link to this site is just for an example
Any chance you could fit in a hot plate, small pot and plastic dish into the suitcase? It would expand possibilities. A hot plate cost less than $10 and is useful after too. I juse it as an extra burner when cooking for a holiday.
Key words here: "it sure tastes good after a few days on the trail." It's a little different in a hotel! But I think this is a great idea, the range of dehydrated meals have expanded tremendously. They would be a nice alternative to cup o' noodles. I like cup o' noodles a lot, but after a few days they are tedious. Also, they are not as healthy as they look. I took a look at the nutritional info, and boy, they have a lot of calories and a lot of fat! It turns out they have to fry the noodles to keep the texture right, and it adds a lot of calories from oil!
For best variety, a mix of fresh and dried ingerdients is important. ANother good hardy vegetable that is light, adds fibre and is tasty: Snow pea pods! I love eating them raw. And they handle lack of refrigeration reasonably well. Peppers are not so great, the cut edge gets a bit slimy after a few days. Celery sticks are good too, but make sure they are very dry when you pack them, and they will last longer.
depending on how you feel about soyfoods....there are plenty of "just add hot water" versions of vegetarian chili out there that are passable, same goes for black bean soups (depending on where you are, i think President's Choice makes versions of these)....as protein would be a problem in those kinds of situations ? Barring PC, you can usually find these in health food section of grocery store....and they typically contain less salt and fewer additives. I sometimes find them bland and add hot sauces and such to them to boost flavor.
If you are only used to regular rice, minute rice won't cut it. Personally I can't stand the stuff.....but i do like mashed potatoes, and use couscous on a regular basis. Never knew there were versions of instant sweet potatoes, are those available in canada?
Bulk food stores often sell varieties of dehydrated veggies, and freeze dried mushrooms are also nice. Depending on the climate you are travelling to, and the layout of your room...sticking food items up on the windowsill close to a cold window, can keep some things going.
Not knowing how long "a few days" is, have you thought of tucking a hot plate in your suitcase? Also don't know where you're going or whether it's a big city or a village, but if there are "suite" hotels available that do have kitchens, many of them are pretty reasonable, especially when it comes to a trade-off between being able to cook at an affordable price or eat in expensive restaurants. But I have to assume you're aware of all of this, so...
Some mayonnaise packs from fast food restaurants and a very small jar of pickle relish will turn a small can of tuna into a fairly decent tuna salad. Bread or crackers.
A couple (or three) hard boiled eggs in a cold pack tucked into a side pocket of your suitcase is good for egg salad. Stick in a small head of lettuce (or cello pack), a few grape tomatoes, a can of tuna and a small leak proof jar of vinaigrette you make at home and you have a nice dinner salad.
Pizza places deliver to hotels. So do Chinese restaurants.
It's all a fun chance to exercise your imagination. No idea what your baggage allowance is or if you're traveling by car, but I have a really small microwave I keep for such trips, as well as a "Pot au Feu" butane hot plate. But restaurants and/or room service are a lot more fun when the budget allows.
I saw a mini hot pot and couldn't think of any use for it, but it was small enough to throw in a suitcase ... you could make rice or REAL oatmeal (hate instant) ... a potato, carrot, canned meat, canned tomatoes, canned beans... voila stew.
Seriously if you take any appliances, be sure they are tucked away out of site of hotel staff when you are out of the room.
I used one of those mini hot pots (well it boiled water) on a trip to England (brought converter/adapter, of course). Sometimes the water out of a coffee pot just isn't hot enough.
Here is another idea, but you have to be *very* careful: bring one of those portable one-burner electric cooking coils. I've seen them for sale in Walgreens drug stores. You have to be very sure that it's absolutely cold before you pack it away to hide from hotel staff as you do NOT want to start a fire and they are against hotel rules (and also must go in your checked-in luggage; this is *not* a carry-on item). Depending on how long you will be at this hotel you might want to pack up some of the more cumbersome stuff, and ship it in a small box to the hotel in care of your name and it will be held for your arrival, so you won't have to fly with it. Don't forget to pack a cup, spoon, fork, knife (again--checked luggage!), a plastic plate, and pick up one of those cheap salt and pepper shaker combos. Put all those little packets of condiments that you've saved from take out places into a ziplock bag and take it along.
That idea someone had of a thermal bag is great if there is any chance at all that you can make a supermarket stop. You can stock up on stuff for sandwiches and use the hotel ice to store your perishables in the bag. I might not particularly want to, but I could live on sandwiches for lunch and dinner for a few days.
Good luck. Just think... "real food" will taste so much better when you return home!
Okay, a few more details:
I'll be in downtown Fargo, ND. Not sure how long I'll be there as I am being called as a witness in a court case, so it will be anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. Just spent most of my $$ on a new laptop without thinking about the impending trip, so money is very tight. whoops. Am also disabled with a heart condition which makes walking more than a couple blocks not feasible. Will be flying, so I can only pack things that do not have liquid in them. The suggestions have all been great, so please keep them coming. :o)
No idea what the law is in North Dakota, but in many states the law requires that you be either paid a flat per diem in some states, or costs in others, so as justagthing suggests, be sure to check that out. It may make a suite-hotel with kitchens in all rooms a viable option, or even a hotel with room service.
Don't know what the time involvement is, but in many states you would be allowed to testify by deposition, based on your health problems. Normally depositions are taken during the discovery phase, but in your case it's worth checking out.
Another option that occurs to me if all of the above fail, since you do know what hotel you'll be staying in, you could mail a package with whatever supplies you don't or can't carry with you on the plane. If there's anything left you want to take home with you, most hotels will handle mailing it for you.
Here's hoping it all goes really well for you! Good luck.
Federal per diem rate for 2008 for North Dakota is $70 for hotel and $36 per day for food. If you are being paid only $20, you are being ripped off. If that is what you have budgeted yourself because you are being a witness for a different reason other than as a professional witness, then I understand you want to keep costs low.
That being said, your profile says you are from Seattle, home of lots of Asian markets. A lot of really cool stuff is sold there pretty much in 'just add water" packets, the aforementioned miso and other soups, really neat drinkable instant cereal breakfasts (Nutri 5 is a staple at my house) and instant soybean drink powder, along with instant Vietnamese coffees and teas with milk, vacuum sealed preserved vegetables, noodles with seasoning packets and even precooked rice in bowls and bags.
Find an Asian market, you'll see.
this is exactly why i didn't want to get into the details...
so more explaining...i'm being paid $39 for meals for each full day in court and $19.50 for each travel day. however, i need to use my money (don't have a credit card) and then wait about 30 days for reimbursement. and being disabled, i'm on a rather fixed income. would rather not borrow money, so about $20 a day is what I can afford due to my rash spending on the new laptop. returning the laptop also not an option as i will have to pay a restocking fee, and i do actually need it.
deposition by video/phone not an option as my health condition is not debilitating enough for them to let me stay at home. believe me, i've asked...not expert witness, simply fact witness being called by both parties involved in the case which is why i'm not sure how long i will be there. they could examine me and then cross examine me in one day (ideal), or i may have to be available through the duration of the trial. it is a rather complicated trial, so it may last for a week or so.
currently my house/pantry are stocked (another move in poor planning) so taking food from home or buying inexpensive instant food seemed like a good idea.
so now you know every last detail...thank you for the suggestions thus far, i know these parameters are rather ridiculous and it's my own fault for blowing money on electronics when i could ill afford it, but my my doctor says my heart condition affects the oxygen flow to the brain, so maybe i can blame it on the hypoxia. :o)
at any rate, it is what it is, so thank you all for helping.
Cool. That makes sense. Planning ahead and asking for ideas also makes sense.
I live in San Diego county, so am always prepared for Earthquakes and the possible loss of power and know I would need to be able to provide for myself for sustenence for a few days. I do have bottled water available and an extra filled propane tank at all times. Your only added complications are the travel part...and taking enough food for 14 days, yet maybe only consuming two days worth.
We can work with this-and you can probably see things in your house you want to take with yourself in the meantime. Crackers and noodles and snack goodies...protein is going to be your main concern as I see it. So, that problem would be resolved with either dehydrated camping meals or canned meats or nut butter. The dehydrated soy drink I have in front of me is from China and came in a box of 24 packets, does have cane sugar added to the soy powder and can be served hot or cold. There is no brand name but it is something I like to have as a treat and is mostly protein. It is also in the "cereral" section of the Asian markets.
I bet you will end up being wonderfully creative about this in the end. It isn't rash spending to get yourself a laptop when you need it, nor to have a stocked kitchen and pantry. Look at all of this as an adventure. It will be...Fargo. Before June thaw.
You should let the court know (and both lawyers if need be) your situation and have them make reasonable accommodations about transpo and meals. They're in the legal system they know it's law. Requesting a suite with a microwave doesn't seem unreasonable given the circumstances.
I'd also ask if there's a cafeteria at the courthouse...odds are there will be and likely you'll be able to get one hot meal there. You might also ask the hotel about local restro with delivery service and prices.
re: carry on or luggage -- ship stuff ahead to the hotel.
Best of luck.
How about rice (not instant) or any other grain? They may take a little while, but if you can boil water, then that's all you need. On backpacking trips I take a pot, a stove and a bag of rice and it really isn't that much trouble.
Also, something I highly recommend bringing is preground spices in baggies. They take up no room and are handy handy handy for improving food in that situation.
There is a brand of instant indian food called Tasty Bite available at most, you know, co-op like stores. They come in foil packets that are indestructable and can be stuffed anywhere, and then you just boil the foil packet for a few minutes. They're very good (look at the ingredient lists), also on backpacking trips I would make these with rice.
Pretty much I usually just think of any of my dried food I would normally boil at home and I bring spices.
Edit: I just realized that you probably mean boiling water from the coffee pot...Most of my suggestions may not work then. Well at any rate perhaps think about bringing a camping stove? They're tiny, really.
And at least you have a coffee maker. Do you smoke? Coffee and cigarettes should get you by, yeah? :)
another alternative to the plain can of tuna, are the packet tuna steaks you can get now. Clover leaf makes two that i like, one is a curry and the other a thai. Both are just as good cold.
I feel for ya! I once had to live an entire month in a hotel that had nothing but a coffee maker, didn't even have laundry facilities. Not even a fridge to keep a cold beer in :(
This is about the only time I can imagine a *semi-made home meal* might come in handy...
Antipasto - bring some canned ingredients (beans, veggies, pick up some meat at the market nearby) and your fave dressing--just be sure to toss your cans outside of the room or you won't be able to sleep with the remnant smell of food (canned beans are great for protein and fiber too)
Lentil and Bean salads (if you don't mind the canned stuff)
Some crackers with tapenades or cheeses or fruit
Along w/ couscous, bulghur is another easy grain.
This page has a ton of "disaster meals"
Also, too hot to cook meals
Assume you read the CHOW instructions
A How-To article on hotel room cooking... like the idea of steaming veggies in the coffee maker...
You can buy dehydrated refried beans or hummus in the health food aisle of the grocery store. I also found a paste base for hot & sour soup there.
The kosher aisle has instant matzoh ball mix.
If you're near a Trader Joe's, they sell shelf-stable Indian food that you coul probably heat in a coffee maker or even eat cold.
Are you able to check luggage?
Sam mentioned powdered milk--if you brought powdered milk, you can also bring cereal and have milk & cereal mornings you don't feel like oatmeal.
Peanut butter(checked bag only)+graham crackers (or just a loaf of bread--Wonderbread lasts forever, go ahead, revoke my chow credentials)+& Nutella (checked bag only). The PB has good protein.
All kinds of fish comes in tins (or even those vacuum packed pouches) including tuna, salmon, sardines. Mayo (checked bag only) doesn't need to be refrigerated for short periods of time. You can make tuna salad sandwiches. Again, on crackers after your bread runs out.
Also, not in your carry-on, but those single sized servings of apple sauce, or those little poptop cans of fruit cocktail or pineapple.
Here's another one you can revoke my 'hound credentials over, but I like poptarts cold on occasion.
Don't forget to bring utensils, plate, bowl, can opener, zip lock baggies...
I know you're trying to plan ahead for all of this, but, when you arrive at your hotel, you may explain your disability to the hotel staff and they may be willing to accomodate a request for a mini-fridge, for instance. Lots of hotels keep one or two for people who keep medications chilled. Same with a microwave--they may have one in the back they would be willing to bring out for you. I think you're smart to plan ahead, but, once you get there, it can't hurt to ask. This is the Midwest--a little bit more small town feel. Don't forget to dress warmly.
I've found the one the thing the midwest slays in is the full American breakfast. I'm sure there's bad ones out there but the ones I experienced were always very good to excellent in a way you don't get on the west coast...and super reasonable in price. It was always near ridiculous what you got for what you paid. If I was going to the MW for a week, I'd have a full breakfast 3-4x...and eat a light lunch.
Depending on the hotel, you might call them and ask if they can provide a small fridge. I have a friend who needs to keep medicine cold and most motel/hotels can do this.
Also call and ask them if they can provide you with menus of any places that deliver to them... they'll know... the night shift probably orders ; )
If your flight is not too long you can also pack some limited perishables. And then go for the ice machine ice to keep them cool in a plastic bag lined waste paper basket.
Peanut butter... Wasa crackers... raisins and other dried fruit.
Also, look for some of those foil pouched foods... you can put the pouch in the coffee pot and let it sit in the hot water to heat.
Best of luck!
The tuna curry pouches from Trader Joe's are very good. They also sell pouches of already-cooked rice at TJs -- and the two go perfectly together! Buuuut I guess you cant warm it up. The tuna can be good cold, maybe between two slices of bread.
I ate millions of those instant mashed potatoes in a cup in college. They were kinda tasty. For just-add-water food.
Maybe you can ask about a toaster for the room?
I also second the idea of having a little cooler you can fill up with ice and perishable things like sandwich meat and cheese -- and milk for cereal.
I feel bad for you! Couldn't they at least have hooked you up with a microwave for your troubles!
it's weird, but the hotel i'm staying at (the radisson) is apparently too nice for refrigerators and microwaves, but not nice enough for a wet bar. i just looked on their website and it appears that microwaves and refrigerators can be requested for an extra fee...sounds like it may be worth it. :o)
An "immersion heater" is a metal coil attached to a wire and plug; you immerse the coil in water (as in a mug) and it brings the water to a boil very fast. With this you don't need the coffee maker at all. Immersion heaters are sold online and in travel stores. Don't forget hot chocolate that comes in individual envelopes and needs only hot water.
I was going to suggest this too, although an immersion heater would also fall into the area of items the hotel would rather you not have from the standpoint of fire hazards. But this would get your water hot enough for the things that need boiling. The in-room coffee maker will not. And these are pretty disgusting anyway and it may be difficult or impossible to get water out that doesn't still have a hint of coffee to it.
I know you've mentioned many of the logistical challenges even though you originally wished not to get into them here. Have to say I would suggest that you share your situation to the parties and request some of the anticipated reimbursement upfront to help you out. I really don't think that's unreasonable; you are traveling there for their benefit and not so much your own. It is entirely in their best interest for this not to inconvenience you so much! But, they first have to know what an inconvenience it is. There is no shame in telling them this if you have not done so already.
Making it work in the hotel room is the most economical route to be sure. I would attempt to make it easier on yourself by getting the fridge and microwave in the room at least. Another possibility to think about is one diversion to a local supermarket when you arrive, on your way from the airport to the hotel. May be tricky but it would certainly give you more food options! Barring that, I think spending a few bucks to ship ahead is probably a good idea. You can do the best packing in the world for your checked luggage, but they might end up opening it for some reason. Shipping ahead pretty much ensures you can ship anything you want and have it arrive safely.
One of my favorite snacks is Granny Smith apple with Laughing Cow cheese, but apples would be heavy to carry. I often find Laughing Cow unrefrigerated at ethnic groceries, and the package says to "refrigerate after opening." I have to believe that "after" refers to the foil, not the cardboard carton.
Knorr makes some fantastic instant risotto. I really enjoyed the porcini and the truffle. Add salt, fresh cracked pepper and grated PR and there you have it (and don't for get the boiling water).
Other than things everyone else has suggested: Ocean's has a line of Tuna salad kits: Spanish, Italian etc that come complete with pull tab and plastic spoon....at least they're more than tuna & mayo...and they're waaay less processed than cup o'noodles. They'd certainly meet protein requirements although if salt is an issue then they wouldn't be the best choice.
One bit of advice: Do NOT put canned goods with the flip tops in your stowed luggage. I went to a conference in DC earlier this year and thought I'd save on some meals by bringing a can of ravioli. I thought it was perfect. I like it cold, it has a flip top, it is tasty.
Well, it burst open in my suitcase, getting all over my clothes. It was bad.
How about some peanut butter
Power Bars/Cliff Bars
Dried fruit leather (trader joes has some that is all fruit)
If you decide to ship stuff ahead, the post office has 2 flat rate boxes that cost around $8 to send no matter what you put in them so you might be able to send some of the flip top canned items and not worry about them bursting in a suitcase
I think you should ask for some money up front so you don't have to front the money and have to wait. You could submit receipts to them afterward. I think if you explained it to the parties involved they should be willing to do that to make you more comfortable. In my opinion they should do whatever it takes to make this easy on you, you need to be comfortable and have enough to eat without having to worry about bringing your own food.
I think its a good idea also to see what restaurants deliver. Sometimes in the phone books in the hotels in the back, there will be coupons for local places.
thanks to everyone for their helpful suggestions...it turns out the defense has gotten another continuance, so i won't have to go until next month...at which time i should be okay with the cash-on-hand situation. but thanks to your recommendations, i think i will be packing a few snack items and sending them ahead of time..