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If there’s one thing that always brings up anxiety for me about food, diet, and SCD, it’s traveling. Will I be able to find food I can eat? Will it be something other than salad? (excessive salad and I do NOT get along well!) Am I doomed to bunless burgers for the entire trip? If so, will the ground beef have any fillers? On and one and on. When trying to remain SCD-legal, it’s incredibly easy to fall into a mindset of scarcity and panic.

For the last year or so, Diana and I have been preparing to attend a particular spiritual retreat. Food is included in the price of admission, but like most large events, the food is heavily weighted towards carbs, ingredients aren’t always organic, and their purity cannot be ascertained. Folks with special diets are encouraged to bring their own food and are offered nearly unlimited use of the kitchen facilities. Sounds great, right? Well, there’s a difficulty…. running water is limited, and there is no refrigeration available. This retreat takes place out in the middle of the woods. All water is supplied by a single spigot (to service 80 people! Hose splitters are a godsend!) and all electricity is devoted to lighting.

So here was my challenge: Given access to a campstove, how could we bring 10 days worth of food, keep it safe to eat, and not go crazy from eating the same damn thing every single day?!? Well, we did it! Click through to read how….

First, here were the assumptions I made: 1) I would have the ability to boil water, 2) I would be able to get more ice halfway through the event, and 3) each meal provided by the hosts would have at least a single item that I could eat. Based on these assumptions, we came up with a game plan that ended up working out really well.

A foundational element to this game plan was vacuum sealing. The idea was that if we vacuum sealed a bunch of single-portion packets and froze them, then not only would they last longer, but since they were already frozen, they would help to keep the cooler chilled longer. When I was ready to eat something, I would just take a packet of something, throw it into a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes or so, et voila… a meal! I have often found our vacuum sealer to be a helpful convenience, but for this, it was a crucial element of our success! If you don’t have one, I highly encourage you to look into getting one!

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, some portion of every weekend is devoted to making some kind of crock pot dish that serves as my lunches for the week. This proved a helpful contribution. For 3 weeks before the trip, we vacuum sealed a couple of portions of whatever we’d made, and threw them in the freezer. By the time the trip rolled around, we had a total of about 12 portions of a Thai chicken curry, pollo verde, and pork shoulder with white beans, rosemary and tomato.

Knowing how I like to eat, and what sorts of foods I’m able to tolerate on a repetitive basis, we also roasted up a bunch of chicken thighs, and made about 10 burger patties. We sealed these up, 2 thighs or 1 patty to a packet and froze these also.

I made a fresh batch of yogurt just a day or so before leaving and put it in a sturdy, watertight container. I did NOT freeze this!

Other things that went into my cooler included: a jar of Bubbie’s lacto-fermented pickles (tasty and full of probiotic goodness!), a dozen hard boiled eggs, a batch of pea salad with bacon and cheddar that Diana had made, some fruit, and a few other miscellaneous perishables we had in the fridge that I didn’t want to come home to. I also took along some dry goods that didn’t go in the cooler: a couple cans of tuna fish, a batch of my SCD granola, some peanut and cashew butters, and a big handful of LaraBars.

10 days is a long time to keep food without electrical refrigeration, so it was important, for safety reasons, that I packed things carefully and used the right equipment. A cheapo cooler will not do the trick here…. spend the extra money and get a good one! I used the 50 qt. Coleman Ultimate Xtreme 6, and I was really pleased with it! Coleman claims that it will store ice up to 6 days with exterior temperatures of 90°, and my experience was in line with that. When packing your cooler, remember that block ice will last a LOT longer than cube ice. Keeping that in mind, I put a block of ice at one end of the cooler, surrounded it with all my frozen items, and then put all my perishables at the other end. About halfway through the week, I dumped in a bag of cube ice to supplement. Surprisingly, at the end of the 10 days, there was still a sizable hunk of my original ice block left!

I’m pleased to report that this arrangement worked really, REALLY well! I even had food left over when we got home! The key here was planning ahead, and it really paid off! I’m here to tell you that, if you’re considering a long trip and want to remain SCD-legal, you *can* do it!

Have you been SCD camping? What was your experience? How did you choose to deal with remaining legal, and how did it work for you? I’d love to hear about it!!