Pro Tips For Packing Your Onboard Cupboards
Are your boat cupboards bare? Are your staples stale? Any good, safe boater knows it is best practice to keep dry goods onboard at all times, perhaps now more than ever. But let’s face it, are we realistically ever going to eat all that top ramen?
Previously, on most long-range boat journeys, the canned goods were seen as a last resort – to eat only after all of our fresh food got gobbled up. Or they existed merely in case of an unexpected turn of events or emergency. However, in recent days our need for stockpiling has become more prevalent. Yet that doesn’t mean our reserves have to be lacking in the taste department! Today, there are so many options out there for cupboard-worthy, healthy boat food that can store well and taste great.
Here are a few ideas to spice up the flavor department in your galley for the long road ahead.
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Warm, comforting, easy to reheat and full of possibilities, soup will always be a necessity on your live-aboard boat. Probably the most common go-to canned good there is, yet it might be time to ditch your canned chicken noodle for some fresher flavors. Pacifica makes some great boxed soups which are lighter-weight when you’re trying not to overload your boat for safety and fuel efficiency reasons (our favorite is the roasted red pepper tomato bisque).
For something more exotic, Amy’s, the famous organic brand, has a Tom Kha Phak (thai coconut soup) that will certainly spice up your shelf and make you feel like you are in a faraway land (if you aren’t already there, that is.) For those of you craving something a bit more hearty, famed Californian Anderson’s split pea with bacon soup is the real thing, just like the restaurant. It’ll warm you up from the inside out and makes a great quarantine dinner.
SPICES AND SAUCES
Often overlooked as essentials (arguable fact – depends on how much you value flavor), add some pizzazz to your basic salt and pepper with these precious kitchen gems. Classic Old Bay may seem like an obvious choice, but be honest, do you have some in your galley right now? We all should, especially if we’re lucky enough to get a fresh catch while out at sea on an offshore fishing boat excursion.
Montreal Steak seasoning is another great option for spicing up your catch of the day. Harrissa, pesto, artichoke bruschetta, Justin’s vanilla almond butter, Frontera salsa, and real Tahini will also add a ton of flavor options to your staple profile, to put alongside jars of your favorite classic spaghetti sauce and condiments. Consider stocking up on regular or panko breadcrumbs for some heart-warming, traditional fish-and-chips. When properly stored dried breadcrumbs will keep for 8-10 months.
FRUITS AND VEGGIES
Ditch that corn syrup-y, underwhelming fruit cocktail with those maraschino cherries for some simple Dole Pineapple Slices in a can (bonus: they also happen to be great in pina coladas if the mood strikes you). Dried fruit is actually best to stock up on, particularly the organic dried mangos from Trader Joe’s. A lot of dried fruits and veggies can easily be rehydrated, which can be a blessing aboard once you run out of fresh groceries onboard.
Crispy organic sweet canned corn remains a classic staple that everyone can agree on. Sweet and robust canned carrots are surprisingly versatile and a delicious add on to a variety of dry good recipes. And don’t forget to spice up your regular stash of canned beans by adding a can or two of diced green chiles, or those famous canned chipotles in adobo sauce.
RICE AND PASTA
Many of us tend to have a big bag of Carolina white rice, and/or several packs of classic Barilla spaghetti or ziti on hand at all times. But, ever notice that those items seem to stay in the cupboard rather than ever getting eaten? They’re often our last resort – along with that jar of Prince pasta sauce. To add some variety, we love Near East garlic mediterranean couscous, mushroom wild rice pilaf, and spanish rice (don’t forget to add a can or two of diced tomatoes – which can liven up any recipe.) Add a bag of wide egg noodles, a more exciting pasta shape, like orecchiette or cavatelli, and some ready made polenta to your stores to go with your favorite pasta sauce to make things a little more exciting.
MEAT AND DAIRY
Probably the toughest areas for dry goods to replace the real thing are the meat and dairy department. If you like Spam, great, but unfortunately for the rest of us, our options are limited. Canned tuna and chicken (look for the kind that is packed in its own juices or water, vs oil/added preservatives) provide the healthiest alternatives. Try storing preserved lemon juice and olive oil for a simple fresh tuna salad, and Red Hot classic buffalo sauce can turn bland canned chicken into one of the most popular party dips ever made.
Because almond, soy, oat and other non-dairy milks have become so popular over the last few years, there are a plethora of fresh milk substitutes out there that come in lightweight cardboard boxes that can last a long time on your vessel. While many varieties are flavored and sweetened (there’s nothing quite like vanilla almond milk in coffee or cereal), make sure to keep some unsweetened plain options for cooking as an easy substitute for milk, cream, and butter in recipes.
For those of you that have ever eaten addictive goodies like Trader Joe’s Truffle Potato Chips, Parmesan Cheese Crisps, or those infamous Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, you are probably just as aware as we are of how easy it is to find delicious snack foods for your dry cupboard, but simultaneously how difficult it is to keep them around for when you need them. Our advice? Lock them up with the wine bottles if you have to – whatever it takes to keep you from gobbling up your reserves before it’s time.
Other, more health-conscious staples to consider are your favorite nuts – we recommend cashew halves and pieces – as they taste just as good as the whole varietal but are considerably lower in price. Peanuts and almonds are also a good idea for munching, and double as added crunch or flavor on top of a rice or noodle dish. Mary’s Gone Crackers has some great nutritious cracker options, which can go great with peanut or almond butter as well.
Nothing eases the anxiety of being stuck aboard like a bar of 85% cacao smooth dark chocolate – a must have comfort food for any sailor in it for the long haul. Brownie mixes often call for eggs, but with long-range trips and the recent surge in vegan options – coconut oil and almond milk can make a great substitute in many recipes. Comfort shortbread or gingersnaps are also great with a cup of tea or cognac, making those long nights holed up in the cabin much more cozy and enjoyable. Especially in times like today, it’s important to cherish the little things, and have plenty of sweet goodies on hand for the future.
Frequently Asked Questions About Provisioning:
What food should I bring on a boat?
You’ll want to bring as much fresh water as you can store, along with all the regular, essential staples (although some more sophisticated boats are equipped with compact, onboard marine seawater desalination “watermakers” that can safely convert seawater to drinking water). And as any experienced boater knows, it’s wise to bring dramamine (or another type of motion sickness medicine) to help prevent nausea between or after meals when the boat is moving.
How do you cook on a boat?
As we outlined above, it’s best to plan your meals ahead of time based on the capability of your ship’s galley, taking into consideration whether or not you have a microwave, stove, griddle, refrigerator, freezer, etc. You should also keep in mind space management when stocking up. If you’re planning to catch and eat fish, be ready to improvise given your catch of the day – and be sure to have backup options for those unlucky days (we all have them).
What snacks to bring on a boat?
Some of the staple boating snacks include trail mix, popcorn, granola bars, cured meats, nuts, dried fruits and frozen food such as hot dogs, microwavable TV dinners and packaged burritos.
Soft Storage SacksBoat design is all about the carefully conceived curves, so rarely will you find nice, neat square storage space. Using a container that has hard, angular edges can further reduce the volume of an already tight storage area. Opting for a soft sided bin or basket means the container can conform to the odd shape of the hold. In dry compartments, try a soft canvas or mesh bag. For potentially wet storage areas a sturdy roll-top, waterproof gear sack will keep goodies safe.
Collapsible ContainersWith the advent of silicon there are now a variety of collapsible storage bins on the market. These pieces are a handy addition, allowing the convenience of having many luxury items onboard without cluttering up cupboards. Full-sized bowls, measuring cups, salad spinners and washtubs all accordion down flat and can be stacked and stowed in small spaces when not in use.
Folding Tables and ChairsOften times common areas on a boat are multi-use. The cockpit, for instance, needs to be a functional space while underway but it is a favorite hangout spot when on anchor. Having a folding table, whether it is a built in or completely removable, allows you to enjoy a meal under the stars as well as make room for crew to work while the boat is moving. Folding chairs stow easily but accommodate extra guests around the table. The salty, marine environment is harsh, quickly corroding items that may last years on dry land. When buying folding tables and chairs check that the hinges are durable, and the item is made out of high quality stainless, aluminum or plastic.
HooksThere is always a spot on the wall, a strange-shaped nook or a cupboard door that could be utilized for storage simply by adding a hook. Hang keys, bags, hats and other everyday items on a hook for quick access. Adding a few hooks in the head makes for a spot to hang a dry towel, and a hook by each bunk is a great spot for an in case of emergency, easy to reach flashlight. If permanently affixing a hook with screws is undesirable, look for heavy duty 3M removable hooks that don’t require tools and won’t damage surfaces.
HammocksPopular on boats since boats started floating, small hammocks are a terrific way to store items such as clothing and blankets when not in use. Usually made out of netting these hammocks make the most out of empty spaces. Taking up very little room when not in use they expand and accommodate any shaped items, stowing them safely in a conveniently reached spot. Many people also use net hammocks in the galley to store fresh fruit and vegetables instead of taking up precious fridge space. Net hammocks do allow for more airflow around your produce but softer fruit such as peaches, pears and summer squash may be cut or damaged by the thin net strings.
Hanging OrganizersUsually partitioned and designed for use in a closet to store items such as shoes these handy organizers are great on a boat. Pretty enough to be hung within sight they make a great spot to store towels in the head, a place to stow soft toys in a kid’s cabin or hung in a closet to keep clothing tidy. Hanging organizers are also a neat way to keep the crew items corralled while underway. Simply colour cod or number each nook and every crew person can have a place to put small items when not in use.
Overhead BagsTrying to maximize storage space means making use of every available nook and cranny, including the ones directly overhead. There are purpose-made bags on the market like the “T-Bag” that are designed to attach to the underside of a t-top or bimini. Large enough to store items like life jackets and safety equipment that are needed in the cockpit, they provide a spot to stow gear out of the weather but within easy reach. If there is head room down below utilizing overhead nets or bags is also a cleaver way to stow light weight items like bed linens or clothing.
Hanging PocketsWhether it’s on a rail, the wall or over a door, a hanging pocket is a handy way to keep things tidy. Used to keep lines in the cockpit from being dangerously underfoot, the anchor rode from becoming tangled on the bow or a pair of binoculars within reach of the helmsman. Made out of canvas or a weatherized mesh, hanging pockets come in a variety of colors and sizes. Turn the back of a sliding door into a wall of pockets to store shoes, sunscreen, gloves, even fishing lures. Placed in the head, pockets can instantly organize crew toiletries and be a spot to hold precious jewelry items while showering or swimming. Use a hanging pocket in the galley to make frequently reached for condiments, snacks or coffee mugs easily accessible. There are never too many hanging pockets on a boat.
PillowsAt first glance a pillow doesn’t seem like it belongs in this list, after all pillows can take up a lot of space. However, making a pillow do double duty turns it into a super space saver. Stuff pillow cases with extra or unused bedding, clothes or towels to keep the cabin tidy and give people a soft spot to lean. Choosing pillow cases that accent the décor of the boat will ensure that even the most discerning guest won’t guess your secret storage solution.
VelcroHeavy duty or industrial Velcro is an easy way to keep small items from sliding around while underway. Self-adhesive and customizable to any shape Velcro pads can be stuck by the helm to keep small gadgets within sight of the captain or used to secure delicate items down below. Velcro can also be used on vertical surfaces, keeping décor items like photos firmly in place. Strong enough to keep overhead panels stuck in place or chair backs in proper position Velcro is a heavy hitter when it comes to storage solutions onboard.
Vacuum BagsNeed to compress large items like bedding or store seasonal clothes? Vacuum bags to the rescue. Buying provisions in bulk but want to preserve the freshness of half your order? Vacuum bags to the rescue. Need to ensure that items like flares and the emergency medical kit in the ditch bag are waterproof? Vacuum bags to the rescue. Available in sizes ranging from 8” x 10” to suitcase-sized, vacuum bags are an amazing, and extremely versatile, storage solution. Vacuum bags not only compress items by removing air but also seals them in a heavy-duty air-tight, and waterproof, bag. When opened the items like clothes and bedding are dryer-fresh. Foodstuffs that are vacuum packed are not only free of bugs and moisture but removing air prevents spoilage and extends potential shelf time. For the avid fishermen a vacuum packer is the quickest and easiest way to portion and preserve the days catch. Items frozen in vacuum packed bags are less prone to freezer burn.
Magnetic StripsPerhaps one of the best storage solutions for the galley a magnetic strip is both handy and unobtrusive. Mounted on a bulkhead a magnetic strip is the best way to keep knives out of harms way. Strong enough to keep items secure in a rough seaway magnetic strips are also a convenient place to stow a pair of scissors or a bottle opener. Mount one in the cockpit and keep fishing lures from becoming tangled or falling underfoot, not to mention keep the fileting knife ready for action. Some magnetics strips are sold with a selection of metal canisters which provide a convenient way to sort spices in the galley or keep small items like nuts and bolts tidy in the tool kit.
Bungee CordsUsed to gather and hang lines in a storage hold, tie down odd shaped equipment or keep canvas from flapping in a breeze bungee cords, or shock cords, are indispensable on a boat. One stretched around a storage bin or long a wall makes a spot to tuck flip flops. Use a bungee to hang a roll of paper towel or create a spot to hang sunglasses so they won’t get scratched. Stretch a bungee cord overhead to make an instant clothes line to dry a wet towel after a swim. Fasten a length of shock cord along a wall at regular intervals to create a custom storage solution for hand tools like screwdrivers or a spatula in the galley. A bungee cord never stays idle on a boat.
Hanging Glass Racks & Cup HooksOnce only found in your favorite local pub, hanging racks are now common place on boats. Used to store drinking glasses these simple metal racks install under cabinets or overheads and add a touch of class to any boat. Hanging stemware not only frees up precious cupboard space but delicate glassware is stored safely in an easy to reach spot. Cup hooks are traditionally mounted on the underside of a shelf or cupboard and are a way to store more durable items like coffee mugs.
Nesting Pots and DishesCupboard space in the galley can quickly get taken over by dishes and cookware. One easy way to maximize galley storage is to invest in dishes that neatly stack and pots that nest inside one another. No need to break the bank at the chandlery, although there are lots of thoughtful products available there. Simply keep storage in mind when you are choosing pots and pans - make sure they stack together neatly, avoid long handles on pans and lids, look for a pot and pan that are the same diameter so one lid can be used on two items. For dishes choose low profile plates and make sure they are small enough to fit inside the cupboard, many galley storage areas are narrower than a typical dinner plate.
Charging StationsIt seems impossible to live without handheld gadgets these days, and it doesn’t take long before there is a tangle of cords clogging up the counter next to the nearest outlet. To avoid an unsightly mess, and to charge as many devices as possible at once consider installing a dedicated charging station. Designed to hold multiple devices while tastefully hiding all those USB cords, charging stations are a cleaver way to stay charged up and clutter free. For an even more boat friendly solution, turn a drawer into a charging station. The stack of devices will be out of sight and won’t fall off the counter while the boat is in motion.
Custom Built OptionsSometimes the best option is one that is tailored to your specific needs, especially when it comes to getting the most out of storage space on a boat. Tables that fold against a bulkhead walls, a sofa that conceals a built-in fridge, a lift away counter top that hides the onboard bar. If you are in the market for a new boat, then exploring what custom storage options each design offer could buy you a few more square feet of usable space. And, for those who are already boat owners, custom modifications can mean the difference between boating in chaos or living clutter-free.
Think Outside the BoatThere has been a trend in recent years to downsize and declutter, to live with less and do more. With an increasing number of people choosing to live in small spaces there are more products and storage ideas for those spaces. Yes, there are a few more obstacles on a boat- items have to be secured for sea and often need to be waterproof – but don’t get stuck at the local marine store. Many of the storage ideas used by RV-ers and Tiny Home owners are perfect fits for boat storage as well, you just have to think outside the boat./>
Here are a few tried and tested Space Saving Storage Solutions to make stowing your boat a pleasure rather...