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Grocery store options
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Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Grocery store options on 11/13/2006 12:57:52 MST Print View

Hello. New to this forum, and hoping you might havae some useful thoughts for me.

On long (a few weeks to a few months) trips in the past, I've prepared most of my food beforehand. So I had access to a kitchen, oven, raw ingredients, excel spreadheets to figure out calories and fat ratios, etc...

My next trip (starting this June) will be 9 months long. I don't think I can prepare 9 months of food in advance. This means I'll probably have to go to grocery stores in the larger towns and cities on the way, quickly buy all my food for the next month or two, and send it all off in the mail to my resupply points. And I'm poor.

So, I need suggestions for stuff that's easily found in any grocery store, doesn't require any pre-trip preparation, is cheap, and will make an adequate long-term backpacking diet.

If more info helps, this expedition will take me from Seattle to the first Aleutian Island, and will extend through winter. Some resupply points are large (e.g. Vancouver, Anchorage, Juneau), but I'll also need to find food in much smaller towns.

trip website below:

Edited by mckittre on 11/13/2006 12:59:44 MST.

Paul Wozniak

Locale: Midwest
Re: Grocery options, SEE THIS LINK! on 11/13/2006 14:49:05 MST Print View

For duration, Ray Jardine swears by corn pasta for energy. Corn anything seems to give a real kick in the pants.

Your link reads like an adventure novel. THANK YOU!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Grocery store options on 11/14/2006 09:16:01 MST Print View

Just realize that being poor won't make it easy up in BC and Alaska :-( Farther north you go, the more it will cost you.
Since you do have experience in planning, have you considered getting a Food Vac sealer and using it to do a lot of prep? That way you could get a lot of food ready, and only have to buy food you crave as you travel? That might work better than being up north and realizing that you'll have to spend $5 for something that costs $1 in Seattle.

Paul Wozniak

Locale: Midwest
Unbelievable website!! on 11/14/2006 13:15:40 MST Print View

3 panels up on this thread Erin has posted a link to his website. There are hours of exciting trip reports and truly exceptional photos. Parts read like a book.

Spend a half hour (or more) digging deep into Erin's link and you'll be glad you did.

Kudos Erin. You may be poor in the pocketbook but there are other ways to measure wealth.

Seems to me your trips may be worthy of commercial sponsors.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Unbelievable website!! on 11/14/2006 14:10:53 MST Print View

Agree about her impressive site, and the more impressive journeys detailed there.

Erin, you might want to track down and review some thru-hiker web journals. Thruhikers frequently have to hitch into small towns for resupply from whatever "food" is available, as well as gorge themselves at local restaurants to recharge. Many of the journals I've read offer good insignts at making the best of a poor selection.

The general approach seems to be to carry enough food to survive on the trail, then deal with their carb deficits in town. Without steady resupply boxes it's the only option (that, and fishing, etc. along the way).

Anybody running a business in Seattle that relies on solar power surely can deal with a little shopping adversity ;-)

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Grocery store options on 11/14/2006 15:09:15 MST Print View


Based solely on what I've read in this thread, let me suggest that you try shipping your home-prep'd foods to the northern, more expensive, end of the trail and use your cash to resupply locally in the south where there are probably more and larger stores in which to do so.

You'll still wind up having to buy locally (and expensively) in the north, but it will be minimal and probably unexpectedly. There's always the possibility that you're somewhere so remote that there's no reliable mail service and you are forced to buy locally in order to resupply.

Wandering Bob

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
mailing food on 11/14/2006 15:33:59 MST Print View

Thanks for your thoughts (and the compliments on my website).

In the past, I have prepared and mailed all of my food ahead to post offices. And it looks like I'll probably be stuck with doing a lot of that again. It just seems a bit more daunting when it's over 2 million calories worth, and has to keep 9 months. Not to mention the need for some nice folks willing to keep a pile of boxes in their basement and then go out and mail them for me.

Bob, your idea of splitting the difference and making more food for the end of the trip sounds pretty good. U.S. mail is actually quite reliable even to the tiniest towns. And it would save me from experiences like hungrily wandering around the grocery store in Port Heiden, Alaska, looking for the lowest price per calorie food (which turned out to be Betty Crocker frosting).

Unfortunately, mail to small towns is also pretty expensive.

I am actually looking for sponsors for this trip, which will hopefully help some with the being poor problem. But while free packrafts and socks are great, I can't eat them. So cheap food is still a really high priority.


Edited by mckittre on 11/14/2006 15:35:15 MST.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: mailing food on 11/14/2006 17:49:30 MST Print View

Flat Rate boxes could be your friend for shipping to AK :-) You can cram a lot into a FL 1 or 2. They cost $8.10 to ship-and you can buy the stamps ahead of time to help your friends.

Reginald Donaldson
(worth) - MLife

Locale: Wind River Range
Mail options on 11/16/2006 22:41:15 MST Print View

It is common for canoe expeditions in the Canadian Far North to mail themselves supplies in care of the Northern Stores. I see no reason why you could not use their services.

For you history buffs, the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Company merged to form the Northern Stores.

The Northern Stores are similiar to a Walmart/general store minus the low price tags. I have seen 4 apples go for $8.00, a quart of ice cream for $12 and 64 ounces of fruit punch for around $10 (all Canadian).

Most outfitters located near airstrips will be willing to help you. Many haul freight to augment their income.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
making prep easier on 12/03/2006 17:57:44 MST Print View


One thing you could do to make food prep easier is dry leftovers such as pasta sauce and such.

As many others mentioned, mailing isn't a big deal, however, I might suggest a couple of extra "emergency meals" just in case one of the packages gets damaged along the way or a vacuum seal fails.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Grocery store options on 12/03/2006 19:03:56 MST Print View

Stuff you can always find in a grocery store:

Powdered milk.
Olive Oil.
Various pasta sauce mixes.

I like making pesto in a zip-loc bag. You can almost always find all the ingredients you need, even at very small grocery stores -- sometimes even in gas station mini marts. Pasta and pesto and cheese are even a complete protein. it can also be way cheap.

Most goodsized grocery stores (and you'll be close to them all the way to Port Hardy on the north end of Vancouver Island, and then again at larger towns like Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Juneau, Valdez, Anchorage, and Soldotna), you can usually find various cous-cous and taboili meals from companies like Fantastic Foods, Near East, and Casbah like you'd find in Seattle.

I'd also consider trying to use UPS instead of various postal services. Generally I've found UPS to be substantially cheaper (sometimes half the price) and you can pick up packages even when the post office is closed. It probably is worth a phone call to someone at UPS explaining what you are trying to do. They would also be a great sponsor for you.

In a paranoid era of homeland security, it would probably be wise to assume that shipping large quantities of food over an international border, even one as laid-back as the Canada-Alaska frontier, might be a big hassle. It wouldn't hurt to do a bit of research on that topic as well.

I suspect that Canada Post would be more expensive than USPS. My canadian friends usually insist it is also much less reliable too.

Edited by david_bonn on 12/03/2006 19:05:07 MST.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: Grocery store options on 12/03/2006 23:20:54 MST Print View

Hi Erin,

Buying food in villages is no big deal. Dick Griffith skied solo from Unalakleet all the way to Hudson Bay over a number of trips and bought food in villages the whole way. In particular his biggest leg -- when he was 63 years old -- was Unalakleet to Barrow, 900 miles in 63 days -- and he lived on what he found in villages. He also did it without counting calories on Excel spreadsheets.

You and Hig can easily find what you need in SE Alaska towns. You can also send stuff from big towns to small villages as you go. For example, send from Anchorage to the next town out, or from Yauktat to Cape Yakataga.

As resourceful as the two of you are, it seems like buying food along the way would be consistent with the style of travel you prefer. It seems that carrying cash might be safer than sending food that goes bad or doesn't show up.

Also, you probably see your trip as a collection of pieces. Each piece can be broken into sub pieces that may or may not require much resupply.

Ketchikan to Anchorage can easily be done with resupplies in Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau and Gustavus, Yakutat, Cordova, and you know the rest. Each of the legs can be done with local shopping. SE towns are more like Talkeetna, Glenallen, Homer and Seldovia than they are like Pt Heiden or other AK Pen villages or Kaktovik or Arctic Village.


Edited by romandial on 12/03/2006 23:34:46 MST.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: Grocery store options on 12/03/2006 23:42:55 MST Print View

David Bonn's list is good

but Alaska stores often have
Pilot Biscuits
mashed Potatoes
candy bars
cream of wheat
brown sugar
red pepper
black pepper
top ramen
somebody to buy smoked salmon from

Same food the locals eat, but just buy the dry stuff. Eventually you will know what you like and how much you like -- just like you do at home now -- without recourse to calorie counting or spreadsheets or seal a meals.

Ketchikan, Petersburg, Juneau, Wrangell, Yakutat, and Cordova will have everything that Talkeetna or Homer have:dried fruit, nuts, crackers, cheese (dry this at low heat in oven).

Also, it seems like Hig will find friends everywhere he goes and they may give you some access to ovens and other things in these towns to pack/prepare your food.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: Grocery store options on 12/07/2006 13:37:11 MST Print View

Roman - good to know that the SE towns are easier than the AK peninsula towns. I've been to Ketchikan, and of course Juneau won't be a problem, but haven't been to the others. And of course I already know Southcentral is easy.

Having never been out longer than a few months, I have no idea how much food we'll need at the end, so flexibility will certainly be necessary.

As far as counting calories... You've got a few years on us estimating food amounts. I've been terribly hungry enough times on trips that I like making at least a rough count (which can be done in the grocery store - excel not necessary).

Resupplying at large towns and sending stuff to some of the smaller ones was my original plan, and it might turn out to be the best one.

But I think I'm still a little leery from being in the Port Heiden grocery store in 2001 when the only thing we could afford to feed ourselves was Betty Crocker frosting.
And we'll hit the same problem this time, going down the Alaska Peninsula in the winter. We won't hit any large towns after Anchorage, really.

And I have almost no info on some of the smaller places in Canada, so I'll need to look into that.

I wonder if we'll be able to stomach pilot bread after 9 months?

I'm sure we will be able to find some nice folks to let us use an oven in at least some spots. Crazy walkers can be a big piece of news in a little town, and sometimes people invite us in for the chance at some first hand observations.


Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Canada on 12/07/2006 16:37:52 MST Print View

Erin, If you need info you might want to contact my friends Greg and Krystal at (Harper Street Publishing). They produce a German magazine for the region and are a wealth of info. Send me a PM with your email address and I can put you in touch with them.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: Grocery store options on 12/07/2006 22:19:27 MST Print View

AK Pen in winter!! Serious hard core -- only grumpy bears left then and bad, bad weather. Did you try the NGS Expeditions Council for a grant? Or Malden Mills? Then you could pay for some pilot drops out there. King Salmon willl have more than betty crocker frosting (sounds pretty good to me!)....youc ould mail to Pt Heiden and Chignik Lagoon buttherun to Cold Bay looks pretty empty.

But if anyone can do it, it's you and Hig.