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Ration Planning NOLS Style

12 days of food using the NOLS ration planning system.

At least, for me, rationing is a pain. On one hand, you can plan every meal for every day, and then go out an buy the ingredients that you need, or, one the other hand, you can buy bulk food and put together specific meals each day when you’re out in the woods. I’ve always fell into the first camp, I’d go to the store, buy enough oatmeal for each morning, enough Lipton dinners for each evening, and peanut butter and bagels for lunch and candy and granola bars for snacks, and enough mix for gorp, plus hot cocoa and maybe some sports drink mix. After all these years, this plan has gotten old on me, so for my trip across the BWCA, I decided to ration slightly different. I decided to buy in bulk and make my meals from the resulting ingredients.

12 days of food using the NOLS ration planning system.
12 days of food using the NOLS ration planning system.

I planned twelve to thirteen days of paddling, but ended up spending only nine days completing the trip. Living in a small town with two big grocery stores and one Co-op, buying the food is actually more difficult than it sounds, and as it turns out, much more expensive than I anticipated. For almost all that I had to go out and buy, which didn’t include sugar, flour, cornmeal, hot cocoa, and a few other items, it cost over $100. I guess I should have driven two hours to a big town to get a price break. Even with gas at $2.90 a gallon, I’d have probably come out ahead. Moral of the story, plan ahead on bulk food buying.

Anyway, for this planning I used NOLS Rationing system based on 2 pounds per person per day for food. Claudia Pearson outlines this in the Nols Cookery book.

This is my bulk list:

Breakfast

  • 1 pound Oatmeal
  • 1/2 pound Couscous
  • 1 pound Grape Nuts
  • 1 pound Fry Bread
  • 5 ounces Hash Browns

Dinner

  • 1/2 pound Instant Beans
  • 1 pound Pasta
  • 1 pound Rice
  • 1/2 pound Falafel
  • 1/2 pound Instant Potatoes
  • 1/2 pound Ramen noodles
  • 3 Lipton dinners (Just in case)
  • 1/2 pound Hummus

Cheese

  • 1 pound Sharp Cedar

Trail Foods

  • 2 ounces Sunflower Seeds
  • 8 ounces Mixed Nuts
  • 12 ounces Dried Fruit
  • 5 ounces Raisins
  • 2 ounces Corn Nuts
  • 14 ounces M&Ms
  • 4 ounces Goldfish
  • 22 Granola bars
  • 11 ounces Crackers

Baking Goods

  • 1/2 pound Sugar (50/50 white and brown)
  • 3 ounce Cornmeal
  • 8 ounce Flour

Drinks

  • 6 servings of Tang
  • 6 servings of Crystal Light Lemonade
  • 12 Tea bags

Soups, Bases, Deserts

  • 2 ounces of Jell-O Pudding
  • 6 beef Boulin cubes
  • 1/2 pounds Cups of Soup
  • 11 ounces Cheesecake
  • 5 Pasta Sauces (alfedo, 2 x pesto, chili, spaghetti)

Milk, Margarine, Cocoa

  • 1/2 pound Powdered Milk
  • 12 ounces Margarine
  • 10 ounces Cocoa

Meats

  • 1 pound Tuna
  • 1/2 pound Summer Sausage
  • 1/2 pound Pepperoni

Because I finished three to four days early, I had some left over food. This is the list of leftovers:

Leftovers

  • 5 ounces Raisins (Used none.)
  • 1/2 pound Couscous (Used none.)
  • 1/2 pound Falafel (Used none.)
  • 4 ounces Fry Bread
  • 6 ounces Pasta
  • 5 ounces Hash Browns (Used none.)
  • 3 ounces Grape Nuts
  • 4 ounces Milk
  • 5 ounces Sugar
  • 5 ounces instant Potatoes
  • 10 Flour and Cornmeal (Used none.)
  • 4 ounces Rice
  • 2.5 ounces Sunflower seeds
  • 3 packs of Pasta Sauce
  • 6 ounces cups of soup
  • 2 ounces pudding (Used none.)
  • 4.6 ounces of hot choc
  • 6 servings of Tang (Used none.)
  • 6 servings of Lemonade (Used none.)

This comes out at just over five pounds of food, which means that at 2 pounds of food a day, this would give me two and a half days of food, but because I knew I was ahead, I ate bigger meals towards the end of the trip. So, two pounds per person per day would seem to be the right amount of food.

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There are a few changes that I’d make, I had planned on using the flour and cornmeal to make tortillas for the falafel, but with the high mileage days that I paddled from 7:30 to 5:30 almost every day, I didn’t really have the energy or time to prepare the tortillas before sunset. I think I would substitute out all the baking goods, except some of the sugar, which got used on Grape Nuts and in Cinnamon and Sugar for the fry bread. The baking food weight, I’d move to snack and lunch food. Margarine should be cut in half, and I didn’t list my spice kit above, but I would take only the oil, olive oil, cinnamon and sugar mix, and the hot sauce next time. And I’m not sure what I was thinking about when I decided Couscous and Raisins for breakfast, because I’m not a fan of either, so they didn’t get eaten – Grape Nuts would have been fine.

The meal making went very easily, except a mess up with making Mac & cheese from cheese blocks. I didn’t let the cheese melt enough so it was more like Mac and cheese chucks. Reminded me of the dinner that Lieutenant Henry was eating before he was hit by a mortar shell in Hemingway’s Farewell To Arms.

Overall, I like meal planning this way. It’s much easier than planning each day’s menus, and I ate better on this trip than most of my other trips. Certainly, I ate better than the North Men leaving Grand Portage for the northland who were issued rations of corn and fat for the journey home. The book mentioned above outlines this plan nicely, and I highly recommend buying the book just to learn this system.

One comment

  • […] Ration Planning NOLS StyleI’ve always fell into the first camp, I’d go to the store, buy enough oatmeal for each morning, enough Lipton dinners for each evening, and peanut butter and bagels for lunch and candy and granola bars for snacks, and enough mix for gorp, plus hot cocoa and maybe some sports drink mix. […]

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