What are some good meal ideas for a houseboat vacation?
June 23, 2014 1:45 PM   Subscribe

My family will be vacationing with another on a houseboat. Total of 4 adults and 5 kids, all good eaters (but the kids are kids, too). We are trying to optimize our food and seeking wisdom from those with experience.

The trip will last a week and once we board we will be in the middle of nowhere with no real grocery options. We'll have a pretty big fridge and a big cooler to work with, and we can do a giant shopping trip prior to boarding.

Our goals will be to (a) not eat hot dogs all week, (b) not have meals that are a pain / take a long time to prepare (esp. if you have to make it one at a time, b/c we have 9 people), and (c) have food that we are able to make in the small kitchen with limited tools.

We would be willing/able to make stuff in advance and freeze/cool it, and are thinking about a giant lasagna, some enchiladas, and maybe a tray of pulled pork.

Campers/houseboaters: what are our best options? Do you have any can't miss tips or tricks?
posted by AgentRocket to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
I recommend crock pot cooking. Great for cooking in tight spaces and making real meals without having to invest a lot of time. It is just a week though, so you don't need to worry about spoilage or anything, you could prepare foods that would be good cold before you head out.

If you're going to be someplace where you can go ashore and start a fire, hobo packs are great, easy to customize, and don't take a lot of time.
posted by maleru at 2:00 PM on June 23, 2014

Dishes that have worked well for us while camping:

pre-marinated and frozen bulgogi (either from somewhere like Trader Joe's, a Korean market, or homemade). Pairs well with lettuce for wrapping, rice (we usually use instant) or even bread (we have made bulgogi-dogs with leftover hotdog buns
pre-made chili, frozen
chicken tenders frozen in their marinade (italian dressing works well for this for example)
italian sausage/kielbasa - freeze and bring an aluminum container you can boil them in beer in (or in a pot depending on the size of the stove).

I would probably also bring a bunch of relatively shelf-stable veggies like zucchini, asparagus, fresh green beans or peppers for grilling, or canned veggies if your family is ok with that.

keeping lunch simple - a bunch of cheeses and deli meats plus toppings.
posted by brilliantine at 2:01 PM on June 23, 2014

We never got so involved as to have a multi-day trip, but one of the staples of our boat trips when I was a kid (and car trips, too, actually) was crackers, sharp cheddar cheese, and a summer sausage. These things can be sliced easily on top of the cooler or in someone's lap, so don't require prep space, and are a far more substantial snack than a handful of cheetos or whatever.

And from personal family experience: do not bring dried fruit. You will want to bring dried fruit because it travels easily, but unless you're all good about policing each other's eating (and really good about keeping an eye on the kids), I can tell you that a trip in which you share a small boat toilet is THE WORST PLACE to eat an entire bag of apricots, and it is surprisingly easy to eat an entire bag of apricots.

Chicken salad is another easy bet if you bring pre-cooked chicken. Especially if you put grapes in it. For some reason, grapes in chicken salad always feels super summer boat picnic trip to me.
posted by phunniemee at 2:02 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do some crock pot oat meal for breakfast one morning. Delicious!!
posted by pearlybob at 2:25 PM on June 23, 2014

I would assign meals to each family, a mix of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Then I'd plan meals and snacks. That's what we do when camping. If you bring meat that's frozen, it should do fine in a houseboat fridge. There's probably a grill, so I'd plan to grill dinners, steak, chicken, maybe sausages/kielbasa, corn on the cob, baked potatoes. Salad stuff, like tomatoes and lettuce, doesn't always travel well, so plan that earlier in the trip. Coleslaw is easy and nutritious, later in the week, as well as fresh veggies, cut up and served with dressing as a dip.

If you plan pancakes, French toast, etc., just bring pancake mix, bread, eggs, milk, for that purpose, and mark it accordingly. People think it'll be a pain to make pancakes, but it's fun and easy, and nice meals are a big part of having fun, and are art of the entertainment. PB&J sandwiches for lunch are fine, *every* meal doesn't have to be special, but every meal shouldn't be ordinary. Consider bringing piecrust and fruit to make pie, or some other fun desserts.

Will you be fishing? Plan on catching some fish, but bring something to eat for that meal, in case you don't. Canned tuna and boxed mac & cheese is our traditional 'the fish got away' meal.
posted by theora55 at 3:02 PM on June 23, 2014

There are some well-rated cookbooks for boats that you could try: The Boat Galley Cookbook, Cruising Chef Cookbook (2nd ed.), and Cruising Cuisine. (Note: I haven't tried any of them.)
posted by bentley at 5:51 PM on June 23, 2014

We had a lot of fun with Cheez whiz in a can when we were house boating. And Pringles travel well. Crap food but it was an absolute kickback blast of a week.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:32 PM on June 23, 2014

Can't miss: Rather than buying ice for the cooler buy a case [or whatever] of water or juice and freeze it a couple of days beforehand. You get the cooling of frozen liquids but you also get to drink it as it slowly thaws.

Bags and blocks of ice are a huge fail for multi-day trips.

Cured meats, if that's in your diet are great. Salami and cheese and bread perfect for lunch or dinner. I've never had bad bacon.

You can make a shedload of things from bisquick and a little oil.

Eggs and cheese last longer than you think. Milk not so much.

[I worked for the Forest Service and we would go on ten day trips building trails. With no refrigeration. I've probably spent more than a year camping]

Don't overlook canned food. Cream corn, or pork and beans and especially mandarin oranges for dessert. Some of the most satisfying grub I ever had was made by Dinty Moore. The stew is just fine and the corned beef hash is goddamnit I want to go camping.

Everything tasted better outdoors.
posted by vapidave at 10:31 PM on June 23, 2014

Will you have shore power (110V), or only house batteries (12V)?
posted by humboldt32 at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2014

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