06 November 2012

Raft-up: Step Away from the Broccoli

This month, the raft-up bloggers grapple with that oh-so-necessary aspect of the cruising life, provisioning. And a funny thing happened on the way to my writing about it: we changed our lives--for the better, me suspects.

When I volunteered to report in for Team JOY on this month's topic, I planned from the outset for it to be another in our inexhaustible series of hapless cruiser articles wherein I illustrate with a profundity of wit that we have no clue what we're doing. But alas, at times even I tire of our chronic ineptitude. And then there is my poor beloved who has with great forbearance waited for me to get over my need to confess publicly all our inadequacies. She needn't worry; there could hardly be enough time for that in just one circumnavigation.

If it weren't for the avocados, the others probably wouldn't stand a chance.
In light of wanting more admirable facts to work with, I posed a question to both of us recently. As a prelude to what was bound to be yet another rotely assembled grocery--er, provisioning list, I asked us to think back over the previous week's meals. "Forget what we bought to eat," I said "what did we really eat. Cause that's what we'll eat again this week and next and the week after. That's who we are". In truth (there I go again), it's who we've been singly and collectively since birth.

When we looked at our eating habits, they came up uneven at best. Yet for the decade we've spent together, we've done the same thing time and time again. It's clearly a road-to-hell situation, I now finally realize. We buy groceries, sometimes with a menu plan, sometimes without, but in either case, we shop for a couple who likes full, three-course meals AND likes to prepare them. We are undoubtedly the former and just as undoubtedly not the latter. "Hate" is too strong a word, but neither of us gets any enjoyment out of cooking and cleaning up is tantamount to punishment. Still, we have unquestioningly brought all these foodstuffs home as if someone there were happy to receive them.For the first one, maybe even two days, we follow the menu plan, if there is one. Otherwise, we cobble together meals out of what we've bought. Beyond this very short time horizon, we lose focus. We eat out, have leftovers (from having previously eaten out), order pizza, make popcorn, or less.The fresh vegetables are always the first to fall victim to our utter lack of culinary discipline. Meat will go next if we've thawed some or refrained from freezing it. If we'd ever taken an honest look at what we were doing, we'd have built in a waste factor for each load of groceries purchased. "How many pounds of green beans should we buy to throw out three weeks from now?"We are good at making high-protein salads with canned chicken or tuna and some kind of bean, often with Janemade sprouts (she's also recently taken up yogurt making as a hobby which has precisely doubled our breakfast options from one to two); we're reliable sandwich makers when we have bread; Jane makes pots of chili or stew which feed us repeatedly and we can usually manage pasta and some sort of sauce possibly even with a simple side salad. Anything more involved than these occurs on a whim-only basis. I might get in the mood to grill some steaks or poach a salmon. If I ever caught another fish it might inspire, or would at least surely obligate me to prepare it. But two nights a week minimum we just won't want to bother with any of it, not even heating something up.
Whether that leaves us eating out when possible or eating cases of spaghetti and meatballs when not it is preferable by far to putting forth a concentrated effort at meal making and failing to muster enough energy to accomplish it, regardless. Better to have a carrot, a few slices of lunch meat, or a handful of cookies and be satisfied with it, than...well, there is no "than" other than not being satisfied with it.

The effect of our conversation on our grocery list was dramatic: vegetable selections were limited to those appropriate for salads and sandwiches; more salty snacks; more lunch meats and cheeses. We don't claim to have a healthy diet. It (almost) goes without saying that if we had onboard children we'd have to do much better. Our new provisioning philosophy, as it evolves, is intended to accomplish only two ends. Most importantly, to cut down on the amount of food that goes to waste and subsequently, to feel less guilty about not doing more of what we have no interest in doing in the first place.

email us if you run out of egg whites. We can help.
In fairness though, I must report that while we are challenged by the more run-of-the-mill aspect of provisioning, the part which is really no different from grocery shopping for anyone, we have excelled at the other part, the month long ocean-crossing part. Our dry stores are more than adequate to feed us well. We often remark upon how many cans of powdered egg whites we'll have left to donate to a food bank when we're done. We've enough powdered milk to keep us in yogurt until we meet the descendants of the original yogurt makers. Pounds and pounds of beans and pounds and pounds of sprouting seeds take up all sorts of storage spaces, most of which we can find at a moment's notice. Then there are the sundries like toothpaste and hair color, dental floss and body wash. Our hygiene and beauty regimens will continue unperturbed by even the vastest expanse of ocean. And last, but certainly not least, we will, no matter how many years we live at sea, never, never, NEVER run out of boat grade toilet paper.

Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist


  1. I even like the term "Provisionally Challenged" in reference to your post! Your humor is great, it really made light of the plight we all experience when trying to prepare for the "Armageddon" in our minds!;)

  2. Thanks, Jessica. We are genuinely envious of folks who do not equate provisioning spreadsheets with a form of self-induced torture. The bottom line is that we view getting to wrap ourselves around the planet an unbelievable gift which we can't bear to squander by spending time trying to force ourselves into a mold that just doesn't fit. Put another way, there are people in this world who don't get to eat peanut butter for weeks on end.