Top 8 Tips for Backpacking Meals on a Budget

April 24, 2018

You want to get into backpacking but the price of the packaged freeze-dried meals dishearten you? Or you’ve been fueling on ramen for years and just can’t stomach it anymore? Don’t compromise on taste and prepare tasty and cheap backpacking meals. Follow these tips to save big $.

Note: This blog post contains affiliate links. You can read my disclosure here.

#1 Cook your own meals rather than relying on commercial freeze-dried meals.

That’s really the # 1 tip to cut down on cost. Check out our recipes section for tons of meal ideas.

#2 Go for low-cost proteins.

Low-cost doesn’t necessary mean low-quality. Consider using vegetarian protein-rich foods to boost the protein content of your meals at a fraction of the cost. These foods tend to be cheaper than meat, seafood and poultry options.

Foods Cost / 10g of protein* Cost / 100 calories*
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) 0.46$ 0.69$
Peanut Butter 0.21$ 0.08$
Red Lentils 0.25$ 0.18$
Instant Refried Beans 0.50$ 0.34$
Skim Milk Powder 0.44$ 0.44$
Whole Milk Powder 0.69$ 0.30$
Dehydrated Whole Eggs 0.63$ 0.49$

* Based on items found on Amazon US.

#3 Dehydrate your own food

Buy fresh food on sale, cook, dehydrate and split into bags. However, if you live in an area where electricity is expensive, this option may not save you money.

#4 Shop at discount grocery stores or Costco.

You can make huge savings on things like nuts, trail mix, dried fruits and bars. Dehydrated foods tend to be cheaper online but it might be necessary to purchase large quantities.

#5 Buy spices and other seasonings in bulk.

There is nothing more frustrating than having to buy a whole spice container only to use a small amount in a recipe. Why not purchase spices in smaller quantities? Especially for those you do not use frequently. The price of spices in bulk, self-serve stores can be ridiculously cheap.

#6 Use free fruits.

You have fruit trees in your yard? Lucky you! You live in the Pacific Northwest and are inundated with blackberries when August comes? You can make dehydrated fruit leathers with almost any fruit, just give it a try!

#7 Keep your eyes open for freebies.

Grocery stores, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants are great sources of small packages of condiments that are usually free. Not exactly great if you are looking at reducing your plastic waste, but in some situations such as when traveling out of the country, buying larger containers is not a convenient option. Salt, pepper, and hot sauce packages can be used to season your meals. Soy sauce packets such as the ones included in sushi trays are great for Asian-type dishes. Mayonnaise and relish mixed with tuna can make a nice tuna salad wrap. Jam, jelly and syrup individual containers can be nice for breakfast.

#8 Do not try to save money by cutting down on the amount of food.

Unless you want to hear your stomach growling all night, bring enough food. Your trip will be more enjoyable with enough food.

Eating well in the backcountry is totally possible. It just requires a bit more planning. You are the specialist of backpacking at low costs? Share your tips below!

Gen Masson, MSc, RD, CD, CSSD

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