By TWS resident Nutritionist Quincey Cummings
Living aboard a small floating home encourages you to look differently at the things you eat but also at the ingredients you purchase. Together with our salty contributors, we have compiled a list of dry-food and pantry staples that will make living off-grid more wholesome, affordable, and sustainable.
Amaranth has been eaten for centuries and was a staple food for the ancient Mayans and Aztecs of Central America. It’s a tiny seed that cooks up much like quinoa or rice and has a creamy porridge-like texture and sweet, earthy flavor. Amaranth is highly nutritious, with remarkably high protein content, 25% more fiber than whole wheat, and provides more absorbable calcium than dairy products. It’s low-allergen and gluten-free. The cooking ratio is 2 1/2 - 3 cups water to 1 cup amaranth, depending on how creamy you want the end texture to be.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw, unpasteurized ACV has a wonderful, tangy flavor that is also very good for digestion. It's classed as fermented food and offers much of the same gut health and probiotic benefits as kombucha. ACV can help with stimulating digestive juices when enjoyed in a salad dressing or in warm water and a pre-meal beverage, priming the body to break down and assimilate more nutrients.
Most commonly used as a leavening agent in baking, bicarbonate soda (or baking soda) has many health and household uses. It can help alleviate mild indigestion by adding a small amount to a glass of warm water. It is a mild abrasive that can be mixed with water to make a simple DIY Toothpaste and can also be used to create a DIY Plastic Free Natural Deodorant because of its ability to absorb odors while remaining gentle on the skin.
Even though it is generally considered a grain for culinary purposes, like rice, buckwheat is actually a seed and has more nutritional qualities than other seeds. It is also gluten-free, which is a bit confusing given the name buck “wheat.” Buckwheat is delicious, versatile, and a great source of protein. It is high in flavonoids like quercetin, which can help protect the heart, balance blood sugar, and reduce inflammation. The effects on vascular health and blood flow may contribute to better fitness and recovery from workouts. It makes a hearty porridge and is great when added to soups. It cooks up much like rice, with a 1:1.5 groat-to-water ratio, or 1:2 for a more porridge-like consistency.
Buckwheat Noodles (Soba noodles)
An amazing source of plant-based protein and is also naturally gluten-free. With a delicious full-bodied nutty flavor, it also contains plenty of antioxidants, minerals including zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamins such as B1, C, and E. These noodles are delicious with any Asian-inspired meal or in soups!
Cacao Powder (raw)
The raw variety is made by cold-pressing the unroasted beans, meaning that you don’t lose any of the fabulous health benefits from this superfood. Loaded with nutrients and enzymes, this ingredient can be used to make hot chocolates, chocolate sauces (like our Tahini Chocolate Sauce), and puddings as well as raw treats. It is also great added to smoothies for a boost of antioxidants!
Cashews are another versatile ingredient that we always have on hand in the galley. Raw cashews contain a host of vitamins and minerals, including copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin K, and oleic acid. Together these nutrients promote bone strength, improve cognitive function and memory, lower blood pressure, help protect against UV damage, heart disease, and cancer. There is evidence to show that certain fats found in cashews can even have a mood-boosting effect!
Many of our Wholesome Sailors use raw cashews that have been soaked overnight before blending them into milk, sauces, spreads, and even Plant-based Cream Cheese, creating a smooth creamy flavor.
This is a cereal-based food consisting of semolina, wheat flour, and salt. It is packed with riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate & thiamine and is believed to have originated in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia and is a staple in North Africa. It is incredibly easy to prepare, adding 125ml of cold water to 100 gm of couscous and let sit for 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. The ideal carbohydrate for a meal whilst underway.
When mixed with water (or other liquid) chia seeds soak up the liquid making them gelatinous and more nutritious (more “bioavailable”). Chia seeds are high in complete protein, containing all nine “essential” amino acids. It’s also one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids that are critical for heart health. Soaked chia seeds make a good egg replacement for plant-based baking too!
Is a soy-free, gluten-free, MSG-free sweet sauce similar to Kecap Manis, soy sauce, or tamari. It is made from fermented coconut blossom nectar and salt. Coconut aminos add an umami flavor to sauces and marinades, much like soy sauce, but tastes a bit sweeter due to the natural sweetness of coconut. It has about 300% less sodium than traditional soy sauce, making it a healthful alternative for those with high blood pressure or heart health concerns.
Such a versatile ingredient for adding good quality bulk too so many meals; in breakfast bowls, snacks, curries, cakes, slices, to name but a few. Coconut also boasts many health benefits, mainly due to its high level of lauric acid, an anti-fungal, anti-viral compound thought to be helpful for gut health and immunity. We always add a few kilos of dried coconut flakes to our bulk food order, made from only shredded coconut flesh that has been dried.
With its high smoke point, coconut oil can be used at high temperatures without becoming unstable and; losing its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. Many of our Wholesome Sailors use coconut oil for both savory and sweet cooking, as it adds that distinct tropical flair to any dish. When possible, buy virgin coconut oil (other terms include “raw” or unrefined”) to get the most health benefits and best flavor.
Coconut Milk Powder
Storing enough canned liquid coconut milk/cream is highly weigh inefficient, so for those who still want to have some smooth and creamy coconut goodness at sea seek out this convenient way to use coconut milk, in its dehydrated form.
Is it obvious that coconut is classified as a functional food and listed as the most nutritional of all fruits!? Wholesome Sailors use it in many forms!
Pre-made curry pastes are great for quick, easy dinners and underway cooking. Many curry pastes come in glass jars or individual packets and don't need refrigeration until after opening. Check ingredients, look for products that only use real spices, veggies, and oil. Add curry paste to coconut milk for a flavorful sauce for sautéed veggies, meats, chickpeas, or tofu.
These plump juicy dates are super sweet, making them an ideal substitute for refined sugar in your baking, as well as in smoothies, and raw treats. They are nature’s candy but also a source of quick energy carbohydrates and loads of B vitamins, especially folate, and trace minerals like selenium and zinc that support the immune system. Dates have a special type of fiber called Beta-D-Glucan, which lowers the body's absorption of cholesterol and glucose, helping to balance blood sugar and energy. This fiber also helps add moisture and bulk to stool, resulting in better bowel movements :)
Dates are the perfect sticky base and sweetener for raw treats, check out our Night Watch Adventure Bites for inspiration!
When you have been at sea for more than a few weeks having a few dried fruits can be a welcomed addition to breakfast bowls, pancake toppings as well as fridge cakes, and raw treats. Check out which varieties are grown locally within your current cruising grounds. Some standouts include; dried banana, figs, apricots, pears, mango, papaya, goji berries, currants, blueberries, oranges, limes & lemons (great for sundowner cocktails). Through the dehydration process fruits often retain most of the nutritional contents but also offer a more concentrated flavor. Look for products that don’t have added sugar.
Similar to chia seeds, crushed flaxseeds can be mixed with water to create a plant-based egg replacement and this is precisely the reason we used them in our Plant-based Banana Pancakes, not to mention their incredibly high content of omega-3 fatty acids. To make one flax "egg", mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water, mix, and let coagulate for 5 minutes.
Hemp has a bad reputation as being an illegal narcotic, given they are the seeds from the Cannabis sativa plant. However, these seeds do not contain THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis but instead is one of the most nutritious substances on earth. Hemp seed contains all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids that our bodies need, which makes it a perfect protein supplement. No other single source provides such a complete protein in a form that is so easily digested and absorbed by the body.
Buying honey in bulk from the area you are cruising in is a great way to naturally acclimatize the body to the region's pollen, helping reduce seasonal/regional allergies. Honey possesses anti-microbial properties which boost immune function and can even be used topically on wounds. Honey is a source of quick carbohydrate and great for supporting an active lifestyle and is rich in riboflavin, B6, and also the minerals iron and manganese which all support energy. The variety of flavor and color of honey is due to the different types of flowering plants that the bees visit. Generally the darker the honey the greater the number of antioxidants. Another great thing about honey? It never spoils! Keep your honey at room temperature, as this helps with viscosity and better flavor. Use it to naturally sweeten teas, coffee, sweets, and sauces!
Typically found in the tropics this versatile fruit can be consumed both in its unripened state (young) or ripe when it is at its sweetest. The ripe sweet fruit can be eaten straight from the husk and has a similar flavor to ‘Juicy Fruit’ chewing gum and can quickly fill your galley with a syrupy tropical fragrance. It is the young fruit has quickly become one of our favorites because of its versatility, it makes for a great plant-based meat substitute in curries, on tacos, or even as pulled “pork” burgers and tends to be great at soaking up all the flavors of a dish. Even if you aren’t currently cruising the tropics Jackfruit is becoming more popular in the canned section at your local supermarket.
Kombu (Dried Kelp)
Kombu can be found at many Asian grocery stores. It is used as an umami flavoring for soups, rice, and other grains. Like other seaweeds, kombu is one of the highest plant-based sources of calcium, as well as iodine, which is important for energy and thyroid function. Keeping dried seaweeds on hand can help boost nutrient intake when your fresh veggie stores run low. Pro Tip - When cooking dried beans or lentils, adding a strip of kombu will help break down certain fibers, making vitamins and minerals more absorbable and reducing uncomfortable digestive issues like bloating and gas.
Rather than heavy canned lentil varieties why not try quick-cooking split lentils like split red lentils or split moong dahl. The Puy lentils also tend to be fairly quick-cooking after a few hours of soaking too. The added bonus of Puy lentils is they can also be sprouted easily too, see our guide to Sprouting on the High Seas.
Lentils are high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. They are very filling and among the world’s most health-promoting foods!
The general rule for cooking lentils is a ratio of 3:1, water to lentils. Don’t forget to rinse or soak lentils before cooking to remove dirt, reduce cooking time, remove some of the complex sugars that can sometimes produce flatulence that is associated with legumes.
From the same family as lentils, these little legumes of powder can be easily sprouted, boiled, blended, or pounded. Mung beans are rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber, making them great for blood sugar balance and hunger satiation. Like all legumes, mung beans are fantastic for heart health! They are a good source of vitamins B6 and folate, both of which are important for lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. To check out how you can begin your very own sprouted garden aboard check out our ‘how to guide’ HERE.
There is a wide range of dried mushrooms on offer these days, particularly if you seek out an Asian grocer. Dried mushrooms are packed full of nutrients and can add a rich flavor to many dishes. You can expect plenty of fiber, potassium, a range of B vitamins, vitamin D and they also contain the most protein than any other vegetable.
To prepare, soak for at least 10 minutes before adding them to your dish, but don’t discard the liquid as this makes for a great savory flavor-booster to soups, grains, or other dishes.
Nuts & Seeds
A healthy source of good fats, dietary fiber, and a range of vitamins and minerals.
Sure, some seeds and nuts can be pricey but a few more cost-effective seeds include sunflower seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds, almonds, and peanuts. Some bulk food distributors also offer the broken nuts at a reduced rate which can make it far more achievable to purchase cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts, whilst also reducing food waste. For nut milks, granolas, and blended raw treats these broken nuts are perfect.
Nut & Seed Butters
Nut and seed butter come in many varieties and can add great flavor, healthy fats, and protein to toasts, bliss balls, porridge, smoothies, and sauces. Look for products that have only two ingredients - nuts/seeds and sea salt. Avoid any added sugar or oils. It is best to buy in glass jars when possible alternatively try making your own. Blending raw or roasted nuts in a high-speed blender until a smooth consistency is found- this may take a few minutes- so pick a day when solar production is high and you have surplus energy in your batteries!
Nutritional Yeast Flakes
Nutritional yeast is a form of deactivated yeast meaning that it won’t rise or bubble like regular bakers yeast or brewers yeast. It has a savory almost cheesy flavor which we add to many dishes to create that smooth moreish flavor. It is high in some B-complex vitamins and is often fortified with vitamin B12, making this a great additive for those who choose to avoid red meat. It is also a complete protein, low in fat & sodium, gluten & sugar-free, and contains a good source of iron. See our Plant-based Cream Cheese recipe to enjoy a hearty serving.
A staple in any galley, they are a filling grain containing more soluble fiber (beta-glucan) than any other grain and can help with high cholesterol levels. Oats also contain a source of protein, manganese, vitamin B1, magnesium, antioxidants and are a good source of complex carbohydrates.
There is a bit of conflicting information about whether oats contain gluten. It seems that oats are typically naturally gluten-free but they can be contaminated in the milling process. Those with severe celiac disease can also have a reaction to the protein in oats called avenin, which can produce a gluten-like reaction in the body. While oats most often do not cause a reaction for people with intolerances or sensitivity to gluten, always treat these with caution and do what works for you. With so many alternatives on the market these days you are rarely stuck for choice. Why not try quinoa flakes, buckwheat (contrary to the name, is actually gluten-free!), or amaranth for your morning porridge.
While sometimes hard to find bulk unpackaging pasta there is an increasing array of large packeted pasta options in supermarkets these days. We have been diving into a few of the alternative flour pastas, like rice, chickpea, or edamame blends which have as much as 42gm of protein per 100gm and are gluten-free. Even simple whole wheat durum pasta can have as much as 12gm protein per 100gm pasta.
Regular pasta is also considered a complex carbohydrate and generally has a low GI, is low in saturated fat and sodium, and still contains protein, minerals, and B vitamins.
For those who don’t have a great deal of freezer space, dried peas can be a great alternative. High in phytonutrients, protein, vitamin A & K, B complex minerals, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, and fiber, once soaked these green legumes are a powerhouse that can be added to many dishes.
If you are looking for a light and crunchy afternoon snack, popcorn is a cheap and easy whole food that is ideal for the live aboard life. If bought in bulk its robust un-popped state takes up minimal space, has no packaging, and can be flavored to suit the occasion. Some popular flavor combos include; salt, rosemary & chili, salt & pepper, Sumac, nutritional yeast, and garlic powder, or as a sweet treat might be coconut oil & honey or miso caramel.
Although considered a grain, culinarily speaking, quinoa is actually a seed of a plant closely related to beets and spinach. Quinoa is high in protein and fiber, a combination that is highly satisfying for hunger. It's also high on the mineral magnesium, which has hundreds of important roles in total body function! It comes in many different colors, and you can often buy in pretty blends. It has a nutty flavor that is versatile in sweet or savory dishes. Try enjoying it in place of rice with curries, or as the base to a sweet morning porridge. It’s important to rinse dry quinoa thoroughly before cooking. This will remove the bitter taste and a toxic phytochemical called saponin, which can cause irritation in the digestive and respiratory systems. The cooking ratio is 2:1 water to quinoa.
It wouldn’t be a dry store provisioning shopping list without some rice. The varieties of rice are endless; explore some alternatives to find which one you enjoy most. The five main types of rice include; long-grain, medium-grain, short-grain, wild, and brown.
The general rule for cooking rice is a ratio of 2:1, water to rice. Any time that you can leave rice soaking in water will also reduce its overall cooking time. For unprocessed forms of rice like brown or wild rice, soaking will also increase its nutritional value, check out our Guide to Sprouting article to learn more.
A healthy-looking spice cupboard can brighten up even the most basic of meals. If available, seek out buying spices in bulk and in their full form (eg seeds, pods, or dried). They often store for longer and can be ground when required with still plenty of full-bodied flavor. It is important to keep spices well sealed and protected from moisture. Glass jars and lids work best for storage.
Our Wholesome Sailors tend to use the following often;
Bay Leaves, Cajun, Cardamom Pods, Caraway seeds, Cayenne, Chinese Five Spice, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin, Curry powder, Italian Herbs, Garamasarla, Mixed Spice, Nutmeg, Paprika, Peppercorns, Star Anise, Sea Salt, Sumac, Turmeric. Support us with our affiliate link at Mountain Rose Herbs.
Sprouting seeds (and legumes) are among the most nutrient-dense foods, providing concentrated amounts of vitamins and minerals. Dry seeds can last for years until you are ready to sprout them, allowing the long-distance sailor access to the freshest vegetables, conveniently packaged and dormant in their protective seeds. There are many types of seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes that can be sprouted, including mung beans, lentils, almonds, broccoli, radish, microgreens, and alfalfa. Store seeds in a dry, dark, and cool environment until you are ready to begin sprouting. Within a few days of watering, you will have your very own tiny garden of delicious sprouts!
Read HERE for tips for growing your own sprout garden on the high seas!
Tahini is a smooth paste made from sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are high in plant-based protein, B vitamins, and minerals like magnesium, iron, calcium, and zinc. Sesame seeds are shown to help with digestion, nourish skin cells, and increase blood circulation.
Tahini is a critical ingredient for creamy, delicious hummus, like our Beet Hummus. Select a brand where the only ingredient is sesame seeds (and maybe salt!). Store in the fridge after opening.
Tamarind is a fruit high in antioxidants, including beta-carotene. It has been used by many cultures to relieve constipation, since the combo of high fiber, potassium, and tartaric acid. Its tart and tangy flavor is what makes our Provision-friendly Pad Thai a standout.
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
TVP is a soy by-product made from soy flour. It is a great source of complete protein and is high in fiber, an excellent alternative to meat especially since it requires no refrigeration and can be stored for months.
Its texture lends itself perfectly to vegan Bolognese. Before cooking, cover with water and soak for 10 minutes. The TVP will absorb most of the water, but if there is any water remaining add this to your cooking too so you don’t miss out on any nutrients.
Simply made from ground vanilla beans, its aroma and taste are far superior to extracts and essences. If you are looking to reduce your refined sugar intake, vanilla powder in conjunction with cinnamon makes for a great substitute, naturally sweetening bakes, smoothies, pancakes, and treats without the need for extra sugar.
Choosing to buy many of these ingredients in bulk will not only reduce your overall provisioning costs but will increase your freedom with versatile ingredients that enjoy a long shelf life, as well as reduce the need for heavy tinned foods, maximize the storage space for dry ingredients and reduce unnecessary food packaging.
Quincey is a holistic nutritionist and co-captain aboard her Kelly Peterson 46, Esprit. She spent much of her childhood in Southeast Asia and she's had the great fortune to travel to many countries. Her culinary tastes reflect a fusion of worldly cuisines. She holds a degree in Nutrition and Human Development and is a certified Nutritionist. She delights in sharing two of her greatest passions; sailing and great food! Her desire is to inspire other cruisers to nourish themselves every day with delicious meals they can create in small, moving spaces.
Together with her partner they liveaboard and cruise the Southern California coast and the Channel Islands, with plans to venture further south and into the Trade Winds.
You can find more delicious, cruising-friendly recipes on her Galley Blog www.FairwindsNutrition.me