Work smarter, not harder. – Allan F. Morgensen
I’ve fully taken this methodology to heart in regards to provisioning. You won’t see any pictures of multiple, overflowing shopping carts (trolleys/buggies? ) filled to the brim with super-tankers of peanut butter, cases of canned (tinned?) green beans, and 500 rolls of toilet paper. At least not this go-round.
Does that mean I’m am not provisioning Luna Sea for our upcoming trip to the Bahamas, and beyond? And what IS provisioning, anyway?
First, working backwards – provisioning is the art of loading inordinate amounts of food, spare parts and toiletries onto your boat before heading off on your next big sail. To be fair, when you are island hopping, you may only need small quantities to carry you over to the next island. And I swear, there really are grocery stores on loads of the islands we are planning to visit. But our plans have us beginning our adventures in the Bahamas. And from what I’ve been able to find, prices there are pretty extreme.
If you’ve been following along, you know we are going to be trying to stick to a pretty small budget. And while I am FULLY intending to support the islands we are visiting by contributing to their economy (i.e. buying food at their grocery stores/markets, eating at restaurants, etc) I do still have a budget to follow. The numbers I’m finding on food prices in the Bahamas are often QUADRUPLE the prices in the States.
Sure, there’s a mark up due to the necessary added cost of the islands having a lot of the available goods shipped in. I get that. During our previous travels to places like St. Croix, Jamaica and Dominican Republic, I made sure to check out typical grocery store rates. It’s kind of my thing. And of course, on each island you can find reasonably priced food. People eat everywhere. Is it exactly the brand/product you would buy at home? Maybe not. Do I care about that? No. I am absolutely not a name brand girl. And I love to try new foods, so why not just buy what is readily available and go with it?
That brings me to the second question – if I am not loading up on cases of Spam and beef jerky, am I really provisioning?
Of course I am. We are very food-centric. (that is officially a term now) For example, we are going out to dinner with former co-workers tonight. (He’s retired, remember?!) And as soon as I knew which restaurant we were going to, I was online deciding what looked good on their menu. Same with dinner tomorrow night, with another group of friends. Crispy Garlic Chicken and a side of broccoli, fyi.
I also know what we are having for dinner Sunday night. That will be on the boat – and it’s based on what is on hand. (spaghetti and meatballs, if you are as much of a food freak as me and need to know) But that is a significant part of provisioning. We only have so much room available for food – particularly fresh and/or refrigerated food. That requires me to plan out our meals – and only buy what is needed.
So back to provisioning Luna Sea.
I’ve done a silly amount of research online – mostly reading other people’s blog posts and following along on conversations in sailing related groups on Facebook. One thing I’ve learned – don’t buy foods you don’t eat on a regular basis. For example, we don’t eat a lot of canned veggies. Does that mean we won’t eat them if that’s all that is available on island? No, of course not. But I’m not going to load up our bilges with canned green beans and peas/carrots, because those are not foods we enjoy. I am saving that precious space for coffee, rum, beer, vodka, brownie mix and pasta. Things we truly NEED.
Because of my research on the prices in the Bahamas, I’ve found that flour is often $8-$10 a bag, sugar is around $6, etc. So even staples – beans, rice, dry goods, are budget busters for us. Against my original plans, I am actually loading us up with food in the States, and dragging it along. Hopefully enough to get us, for the most part, through the island chain and down to Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico – where we can re-provision in a less Dooms Day/zombie apocalypse manner.
HOW I am provisioning is what seems to be different than what I’ve read on the webs.
My process thus far: I go to the store each week for groceries. This is a luxury I may or may not have in any given location, but I am taking advantage now. Instead of buying one package of coffee, I buy 2 or 3. When I grab one box of pasta, why not toss 2 more in the buggy? Coconut oil in small, bilge-sized containers? 2, please! And then I head home and stash away the few extras I’ve bought – items that I am SURE we will eat. Not only am I spreading out the cost of the provisioning, but I’m also spreading out the time needed to stash everything I’ve bought. It’s relieving what, for me, is the un-necessary stress of trying to stash 800 bags of groceries and toiletries into 17 tiny cubbies.
So is everybody else doing it WRONG?
Of course not. To me, provisioning is very personal. Both in what you choose to buy, and how much. Where are you traveling? How long will you be gone? What kinds of foods do you eat? Are you a flexible eater? Do you “live to eat” or “eat to live”? All of these are going to contribute to how and what you buy. And let’s not forget the all important fact: I’ve never done this before!
I am seriously considering taking pics/notes of the costs of basic foods while we travel. It’s fascinating stuff, to me. Would you want to see that? And more importantly, how do YOU provision? Do you have any handy tricks for me? Am I missing some major piece of the puzzle? I know that there’s a lot to learn, but I’m getting there. And hopefully streamlining processes and spreading some handy tips while I’m at it!