Learn how you can reduce your food waste when heading into the woods

Summertime screams camping and just because the end of August is upon us, it doesn’t mean summer is over quite yet. There’s plenty of time to get out into nature and connect with the landscape around us.

When I think of camping, I always think of hot dogs and marshmallows, but as I dive deeper into my zero-waste and sustainability journey, I’ve realized how many times I’ve left a camping trip feeling groggy, while also having produced a ton of waste from all of the packaged foods. Their ingredients don’t exactly have us feeling one with nature, and they definitely don’t encourage a “leave the space the way you found it” mentality.

I sat down and chatted with Her Wellness Design nutritionist Lisa Larochelle about her recent experience with portaging through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. I was so in awe of her process of drying and preparing all of her own foods to create the most lightweight and zero-waste camping experience for herself and her partner.

Her Wellness DesignHer Wellness DesignWhen you’re backcountry camping, you don’t have the luxury of a cooler, which makes it trickier to keep food for a long period of time. “Portaging” also means that you’re not only carrying your pack and all of your essentials, but you’re also lugging a water craft with you, so having minimal weight added to your person is the goal here.

Lisa—who is already a big fan of cooking—took this challenge to heart and decided to dry all of her vegetables and other foods into a variety of soup mixes. She filled a bowl with rice, dried peas, corn, kale, and tomato sauce—which crumbles like paper when dried—and then added all of her spices to the mix. This way, when she got to her camp site, all she had to do was boil water and throw in everything from her Mason jar.

The best part of this process is that as soon as she was done with the meals, her pack became lighter for the trek back. It also made it easier to not leave any traces around the campsite from open food or garbage which could attract bears, raccoons, or other wildlife.

“You don’t want to bring a lot,” Lisa suggests, as she ended up filling an entire bag with soup mix. “Once you rehydrate it, it’s more food than you think!” If you do end up having leftovers, you’d have to burn them because you can’t store and take them with you, which creates unnecessary food waste.

Lisa says that it was actually easier to prepare all of her own meals than she thought it would be, as four days of meals only took her about a day to prepare. She set her oven to 200 degrees F, had it on throughout the day, and as one meal was dehydrating, she’d prepare the next mix to go in.

By packing all of these goodies in Mason jars or reusable silicone bags, campers are able to not only reduce their waste while out in nature, but also minimize the intake of those packaged foods, which can be loaded with sodium and sugars.

This practice can be applied to any type of camping, not just backcountry camping or portaging, as it’s important to keep our waste low when entering these natural areas, preventing litter, and leaving sites exactly as we found them.

granolaHer Wellness DesignLisa’s shares her favourite recipe—her chocolate granola—which you can find on her website here. Even though she’s been back from her trip for a couple of weeks, Lisa says she’s still making oatmeal every day and sprinkling this granola on top. It makes for a fantastic sweet snack to replenish the energy spent on the trails, while keeping your waste, sugars, and processed food intake down.