Before starting this blog I asked around for what people’s biggest gripes about camp cooking were. I received many varied responses, but one of the most frequent was cost. Understandably, cost can be a major concern for many climbers, especially those of us on long road trips or who are simply trying to cut costs. I am a graduate of a farm-to-table culinary program and have long held the notion that not only is it less costly from a dollars and cents perspective to eat whole foods, but also from a health cost. But, I have seen so many climbers open a box of some dried food mix, add it to a pot of water, and have a meal. It seemed like a good way to go on the cheap, so I decided to test this theory out by comparing Rice-a-Roni Spanish Rice mix, with my recipe for Spanish Rice. I wasn’t really sure which way this was going to end up and the results even surprised me.
First let me say that I did make the Rice-A-Roni per the instructions by adding ground beef and canned tomatoes, which most closely emulated my recipe. Let’s assume for this experiment that the climbers have a cooler, water and capacity to carry a can of tomatoes (and a can opener!). I bought the mix on sale and used the sale price in my calculations.
Off to the store I went this morning to purchase the Spanish Rice mix and to get prices on ground beef, canned tomatoes, rice, green peppers and onion. Then I went to work comparing the packaged versus homemade meal. Surprisingly, these two meals take the same amount of time to prepare (20-30 minutes).
The table above clearly shows that, if purely concerned about cost, you might do well to make your own. In fact, you could add a can of beans to the homemade version for another $0.99 and the cost per serving would be $1.03, still less than the premixed version. And, do you think the homemade version is more filling and nutritious? You betcha! Take a look at the nutritional comparison below:
The above numbers are based on 1 cup servings. It’s important to note that the Rice-A-Roni meal makes 4 cups, and the homemade ends up with 6 cups, thus more food. As a whole, however, you will see that the homemade Spanish Rice, has fewer calories, fat, sodium, sugars, & carbohydrates. It would appear to be the healthier, and more cost effective option. We did a blind taste test and the homemade version won, hands down! Downsides are that prep time is a bit longer and there will be 2 more dishes to clean (your knife and cutting board). You can save time by mixing the seasoning and pre-chopping your veggies at home before your trip.
Until next time, just some food for thought!