I need foods that don't need refrigeration or cooking for one week.
July 28, 2016 12:50 PM   Subscribe

For the next week, I'm staying in a house with people I would rather not see. I have a private sink, but no hot plate or garbage disposal. I need meal and snack ideas.
posted by Triumphant Muzak to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Buy an electric kettle and make ramen-type 'just-add-hot-water' meals. Fruit and granola bars, jerky, powdered milk to make bowls of cereal. Instant coffee. Use a plastic grocery bag for garbage and dispose of when less people are home.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 12:57 PM on July 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Granola. Fruit. Bread. Peanut butter and jelly. Cereal. Protein bars....

I mean, anything that's shelf-stable should be fine, especially for a week. Get single serving packets for things that would go bad after opening. We even have shelf-stable hummus packets here at work.
posted by xingcat at 1:00 PM on July 28, 2016

Nuts are very filling. An electric kettle will also let you do couscous.
posted by smirkette at 1:00 PM on July 28, 2016

How easy would it be for you to get a cooler? Will you have a store nearby for easy access to bags of ice?

If not, I suggest classic shelf-stable, high-calorie foods like beef jerky, trail mix, nuts, protein bars or even candy. Some fruits and vegetables (apples, oranges, bananas, avocados) do great without refrigeration.

If you have a cooler, cheese and salami with crackers is a satisfying meal.
posted by kate blank at 1:01 PM on July 28, 2016

Tuna fish and crackers. If you like mayo with your tuna, you can often find individual packets at grocery store salad bars that don't need to be refrigerated.
posted by treachery, faith, and the great river at 1:03 PM on July 28, 2016

I'm not sure where you are, but I have seen these little lunch packs (small cardboard box) with three or four items - generally some kind of salami, crackers, fruit/nut mix, and cheese or hummus spread. I think they're called picnic to go or something, and I first saw them at Target, but I even saw them at the airport yesterday.
posted by needlegrrl at 1:03 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

nthing kettle. If you are okay with Indian food, you can generally find shelf-stable plastic or foil-plastic packets of various dhals and curries and rice that can be brought up to temperature in hot water, and you could probably wangle something either in the sink or a heat-resistant jug.
posted by holgate at 1:06 PM on July 28, 2016

Get a loaf or two of nice bread, maybe something crusty and wheaty.
Eat it with any of the following: hummus, avocado, nut butter, a fancy jar of fruit preserves, olive oil, tinned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines), fruit (apple, pear, banana, or fig) & honey, salt & pepper, onion jam. Pour yourself a glass of wine while you're at it.

Also classic pantry staples like nuts, dried fruit (I like dates and figs), crackers, jerky, canned/boxed soup.
posted by sondern at 1:10 PM on July 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Kettle opens up the world to you.
posted by Cosine at 1:13 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

My gift to you: an introduction to a slim, useful volume called The Storm Gourmet.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:18 PM on July 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Forgot to mention specifically that it's written for folks without refrigeration and without heating sources. Spotted it in a friend's weekend place recently and was tempted to steal it.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:20 PM on July 28, 2016

All right, here is your grocery list :-)

Box of cereal
Juice box sizes of rice milk, almond milk etc.
Muffin mix (make these ahead and pack in a sealable container)
Jar or peanut butter
Loaf of nice bread, box of nice crackers
Bag of carrots (real carrots, unlike baby carrots, do not need to be refrigerated)
Apples, pears, peaches and other fruit
Other prepared snack foods if you want them (granola bars, energy bars, cookies etc)
Shelf-stable hummus packets and tuna packets or cans
A pack or two of ramen

And from the bulk food store:

Buy-by-the-handful raisins, craisins, pumpkin seeds, nuts or seeds
A little bit of rolled oats if you want the muesli breakfast
Dry couscous


See if you can steal a few packets of salad dressing from a restaurant before your trip. Then you'll have a dip for the carrots.

Breakfast: Cereal and milk, trail mix to eat on the go of dry cereal and bulk food goodies, crackers with hummus and peanut butter, muesli with oats, bulk food goodies and milk (make this in a bowl and let sit for half an hour or so, stir and eat). Or a fruit salad if you feel like chopping one up, with a handful of nuts on the side.

Snacks: Carrot sticks (I am assuming you can bring a knife with you) and dip if you can get some salad dressing packets. A piece of fruit, or a fruit cup, applesauce cup or something if you are lazy. Other snack foods such as granola bars, energy bars, crackers or cookies and so on.

Lunch: Hummus or peanut butter with crackers. A peanut butter sandwich and an apple (slice the apple and arrange it nicely; cut one of the slices very thinly and put it in the sandwich for crunch). Raisins can also be nice in a PB sandwich, especially if you bring wraps too. A hummus and veggie sandwich (slice the carrot very thinly; bring a pepper too if you want; it will keep until you slice it, and then should be eaten in a day).

Dinner: Couscous can be reconstituted with hot tap water, as can ramen (but it may need to sit awhile; drain it and discard the flavour packet). Top either of these with the tuna or whatever veggies.
posted by ficbot at 1:21 PM on July 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

As long as it's not wiltingly hot, there are fresh vegetables that are pretty sturdy on the counter. Tomatoes, cabbage, kale, snap/sweet peas, carrots, radishes, avocados, red/green peppers (get those mini ones so you don't have any sitting around already cut, as they fall apart pretty quickly after that), corn, and for the first day or two broccoli/cauliflower/celery. Then there's bananas (make sure a few of them are still green at the start so they last), stone fruit, apples, mango. Just get the smallest ones, so you're not having to commit to an entire enormous apple once you've cut it.

You could actually eat pretty well on sturdy green salads with fruit (fresh + dried) and root vegetables and nuts and can/pouch meat.

I personally would be okay eating a not-very-sweet vinaigrette that sat out (or one mixed up with no sweet component, and then single servings mixed with honey just before application), but there are also packets for that stuff. Still, little bottles of vinegar, soy sauce, sriracha, olive oil, plus a couple of favorite dried spices and a couple lemons or limes, will make room-temp stuff like soup or pouch meals taste a little richer.

Don't waste any money on berries. They're so overripe by the time they hit stores, they'll grow a beard in 4 hours on the counter.

If you're not going to eat fresh food at all, you WILL need to bring a fiber supplement.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:23 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're going to be doctoring ready-to-eat foods or eating fresh foods, do make sure you bring maybe a multi-pack of Gladware and a few zip-locs along with a cutting board, knife, peeler, all the usual eating utensils. You're not going to be storing a ton of food, but you might require a couple of bowls, for example, to prep and mix all the components for fancied-up soup or a salad. And if you need to hide this food, it might be easier if you have containers.

Bring several small trash bags (or gallon zip-tops, if you're going to have to pack your trash back out with you).

You can make cold-brew tea, or kool-aid/crystal light, or use water enhancer drops, if you like to drink anything other than water.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:32 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Some good suggestions so far. I'm not going to buy a kettle for a one-week situation.
posted by Triumphant Muzak at 1:40 PM on July 28, 2016

Stock up on canned goods (and remember to bring a can opener, as I found out!) Before refrigeration was commonplace, people got most of their perishables in cans.
Canned fish, canned chicken, canned green beans, etc. I even found single serving bread in cans!
Try this: 1 can rinsed black beans, 1 can drained yellow corn, l can (or foil packet) salmon, add a little olive oil, salt, and a twist of fresh lemon. There are lots of "salads" you can "cook" by assembling ingredients from cans.
"Kipper snacks" are canned herring fillets. When I bring them on trips, I include a heavy duty ziplock bag to put the empty tin in, as they do smell quite "fishy" (though not as much as sardines).

There is a brand of Indian food in foil packets, sometimes called "Tasty Bite." Pre-cooked, you can eat it out of the pouch.

Eggs can be stored at room temp for quite a while before they go bad; a lot of countries don't refrigerate eggs at all. You can make really nice scrambled eggs in a microwave (they turn out fluffy, not rubbery like you would expect). Beat 2 eggs in a coffee mug with a little bit of plain water, then microwave for 30 seconds. Continue microwaving at 10 second intervals until cooked.

Lots of fruits and veg will keep for days without refrigeration. Apples and oranges, carrots, zucchini and celery (which are all good for dipping in peanut/almond butter).

Piling on to the electric kettle recommendation. There are lots of dried soups, oatmeal, etc that are "just add boiling water."

If you go the mini-cooler route, bring 2 of those plastic freezer packs. Sneak out at night and rotate them between your cooler and the freezer. You can pick up a cheap soft-sided mini-cooler that just looks like an inconspicuous bag.

When I had to wash dishes in a "bathroom" mini sink in a tiny room, I found that larger salad bowls were very difficult to wash, as they didn't fit in the basin under the spout. So, I bought a cheap "hair washing wand" from a dollar store, which attached to the spout and allowed me to better wash and rinse my dishes.
posted by ethical_caligula at 1:40 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Summer sausage does not need to be refrigerated.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:11 PM on July 28, 2016

Just popping in to say you might ask around for someone to lend you an electric kettle. They are the type of item people have lying around and don't always use regularly. As mentioned above, the gopicnic line of shelf-stable meals would offer some nice variety.
posted by LKWorking at 2:19 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Plenty of choices for MRE's ("heater meals"). There's even glatt kosher Vegetarian.
posted by Sophont at 2:24 PM on July 28, 2016

Coffee can be cold brewed.
posted by effluvia at 3:03 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe hit up a camping supplies store to pick up food made for people who don't have access to the usual prep equipment. Bring plastic bags for waste and take all of it out with you when you leave

Food that hasn't been listed yet:
- Anything that wouldn't last the week, but will last a couple days Cheese and some vegetables might be included here.
- Mock duck comes in a can and doesn't need to be cooked
- Some prepacked meals might be warm enough to eat after soaking in hot water, if they don't actually require cooking and your water is hot enough
- Pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpeas, trail mix
- Make on-the-spot vinaigrettes and add flavor to food with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and champagne vinegar, which don't have to be refrigerated
- Canned drinks (like carbonated water) might taste okay without refrigeration and they can add variety to your palette
posted by ramenopres at 3:08 PM on July 28, 2016

Goodwill/second-hand stores are a cheap source of kettles. I got mine for $1.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 3:28 PM on July 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

flour tortillas, peanut butter and honey. Add a big box of diet coke and you have my shameful but delicious, damn-near-unperishable happy place.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:51 PM on July 28, 2016

Without knowing more about the situation, I would recommend against tuna.

Tuna, and many other canned fish like sardines, has a very strong odor. Strong enough that in many houses other people in the house would be able to smell it. This would make it much more likely to lead to conflict with other people in the house than other food options. I'd go with canned chicken instead.

Of course, depending on the circumstances it might not matter if the other people notice strong odors coming from your room. I think I'd still avoid eating tuna in a room I was going to be stuck in for a week unless it had really good ventilation though.

Also, consider what you will do with your trash. If you aren't leaving the room to take it out, it's going to smell pretty bad. You could use gallon ziploc bags for the trash from each meal.
posted by yohko at 5:24 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went on a week-long backpacking trip and we brought powdered milk and some powdered cheese to make our pastas and oatmeals and such have a little richer texture.

And last year we had our kitchen redone so we had to wash dishes for a family of six in the bathroom sink. It made me very aware of the bulk of large bowls, and how hard they are to get under the faucet! As a result, if I was in your shoes, I have a soft silicone bowl that's intended for backpackers which would make this a lot easier (because I can turn it inside out to wash, and just crush in my hand). If you can't find flexible dishes or small ones, consider buying a bulk pack of paper plates and using a couple per meal and then throwing them out. It's wasteful, but not *that* bad for like twenty meals.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:10 AM on July 29, 2016

Eggs can be stored at room temp for quite a while before they go bad; a lot of countries don't refrigerate eggs at all

If you're in the US, do not try to eat eggs that haven't been refrigerated for a week unless you want a bad case of food poisoning. Other countries are able to leave eggs unrefrigerated because they don't wash them; in the US, we do, so they need to be refrigerated.
posted by holborne at 7:03 AM on July 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just a heads up, don't forget to buy some paper plates and bowls and utensils and garbage bags. Even with a small sink, washing up is not fun-- you'd be surprised how much residue is left over, too. It can easily clog your sink, and its very hard to wash.

Rethink the kettle thing; you can get one at goodwill for cheap or borrow one. A full week of snacks and no hot food is really really trying after a while. You can also use it for couscous as others have said, noodles, and instant powdered soups. You can also make your own stir-through 'stir fry' type noodles with hot water-- get a bowl with a lid, a square of dried noodles, pour the boiling water into it until the noodles are cooked, then drain all the water out. Add some soy sauce and some stir-fry ready made sauce of choice-- hoisin, honey soy garlic, sriracha, whatever. They even sell stir fry sauce. Stir the sauce through the damp drained noodles. Sometimes I add onion flakes or dehydrated peas or corn to the boiling water. Sometimes I'll add an egg after I drain the water out; the residual heat cooks it. I like it for warmer days when I don't really feel like having a soup but I want something quick and easy.

Obviously fruit: Apples seem to last a really long time, same with mandarin oranges. Pears last less than both, same with bananas. Berries don't last. For raw veges, If its super fresh, a full head of napa cabbage should last 3-4 days. Napa cabbage is great to tear off and add to noodle soups. It'll wilt just the right amount. As for other raw veges, celery has staying power, carrot will last a couple of days, and most salad greens don't tend to last very long unless its a whole head of lettuce and the head is very fresh. Iceberg works better than romaine, Endives, Radicchio and Red cabbage work well too, very leafy-- 'soft' leaf type greens not as much. Pull off whole leaves and rinse, add some ready-made salad dressing and maybe a pouch of snack olives and you have a salad. You may even be able to add some cherry tomatoes but they usually last about 4-5 days max, unless you get very unripe ones.

Also snack-pack style puddings don't need refrigeration. There are also cold ready meals that they sell, like this one. They are really trying after a while, but the tuna pasta one is nice. They are 100% ready to eat from the can, it comes with its own salad dressing, seasoning, and teeny fork. No refrigerating or heating needed.
posted by Dimes at 9:25 AM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

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