You’ve just spent the last 12 months preparing for the big trip, through the Simpson then north to the cape to fish for Barra. The fourby has had its big service, new tyres and the camper trailer is all ready to go. The day of the trip has finally arrived and it is all systems go with the fridge packed to the brim with all the essentials-dairy, meat, beer and a few veggies thrown in for good measure for the first week away from civilisation. The first camp is some hours away and an early start is a necessity for a good start, the muddies hum under the load of your fully packed truck and trailer as you leave in the wee hours.
The first day of travel is always a bit stressful, did you lock the doors, turn off the gas, organise the mail; then there’s the camp packing, did I pack the right clothes, did we get the beer and other mundane objects.
Several stops along the way let you explore new spots that you have always talked about or seen and the kids always need a dozen toilet stops, seems strange that there is always a Macca’s around at that time. Mid afternoon sees you at the last township for fuel for a couple of days so you grab some fresh supplies and fuel up before hitting the dirt before a remote camp. Four hours of rough corrugated hell roads certainly are never expected on the first day of any ones travel plans, but these things are sent to test us and our equipment.
Pulling up late in camp is never fun, but at least you can set up pretty quick and get stuck into an ale then cook dinner. But then disaster has reared its ugly head! All those corrugations have thrown a spanner in the works. Broken containers and a swill of food mix at the base of the fridge- and its only day 1!
Every body has horror stories to tell, like the time little Billi got a juice out of the fridge and knocked the cream bottle over- and dad didn’t find it till that night-or- the time someone got the cheese out of the fridge and knocked the beetroot container over- and again it wasn’t discovered till the next morning.
There is a lot to be said with food containers these days. Get a group of campers around a campfire and everyone will have a different opinion on the best and the worst food containers available. Some will demand the cheap Chinese takeaway ones, others swear by brand name ones and then there’s the whole cryovack system.
By selecting the right containers wether it is for food or liquid makes the whole camping experience enjoyable and stress free, as there is nothing worse than after a long day in the seat opening up the fridge and finding a mixture of cream and indescribable food stuffs swilling around in the bottom of your fridge, even worse if all you own is an esky and the cheese has been floating around in the ice for the last 200km.
Obviously the best way to begin is to purchase a good quality fridge or ice box. Gone are the days where your esky will only keep ice for an hour, some of the better ones on the market will keep ice good for up to a claimed 10 day period. Think smarter and look at Iceboxes that have square corners as these make packing more efficient and will be less prone to movement, thus causing minimal rubbing between containers that lead to holes and cracks.
Most fridge manufactures sell a host of accessories that include food storage baskets which allow you to place ‘soft’ items in, like tomatoes, cheese, dips or even medications. These baskets sit across the top of the fridge keeping these items away from the more heavier and larger items at the bottom.
When purchasing containers to use for your next trip or even around the home there are several things to look for.
- Does it have a good seal around the lid ?
- Can I turn it up side down with out leaking ?
- Does it come in various sizes ?
- Will food stuffs get caught in the seal ?
- Will they stack properly ?
- Is it re-useable ?
- Are the lids just pushed on or do they have lock down tabs ?
By taking these things into consideration it is possible to keep food as fresh as can be for long periods of time. The good old cheap Chinese food containers do work a treat if they are stacked properly, the fridge is always full and kept secure in your fridge or esky. They are cheap to buy at local supermarkets, great for solid foods like cheese, ham or even last nights left over cooked snags, but put liquids in them and they will slop around, leak out and even if they get placed in ice slurry they can draw liquid back in- not nice. You can even use them in your dry food storage area to carry rice, bikkies, tea, coffee or the such, but be wary of them cracking -letting in dust, ants or even moisture rendering your food useless and tasteless.
There are a host of stackable, air tight containers available from big named chain stores to kitchen shops and even some fridge manufacturers offer deals with free packs of these containers. When looking at purchasing them look and see if the lids ‘lock’ into place with tabs. These ensure that moisture cannot escape in or out creating havoc towards other foods. Also look for the quality of the plastic.
Some are more rigid than others, using thicker plastic thus creating for a much stronger container that will be more user friendly. These ones won’t shatter if dropped, are dishwasher/microwave safe and take a beating from other the rigours of any out back road or hungry wild child. The cheaper thinner ones, even with lock down lids will absorb the liquid into itself after time, fill one with beetroot juice and you will see what I mean. This will create soft spots as they begin rubbing against other items in your fridge or esky and eventually break down, crack and will become a throw away item. Take advantage of using the same brand name containers as these ones will generally stack better and this will allow you to stack more efficiently, utilising the room you have set aside.
The other advantage of utilising your fridge/esky space to its potential by filling it up is it will allow your cooler to work more efficiently. The more ‘free’ space you have in your cooler the more your fridge compressor or ice is trying to cool down a void of air. A simple ‘trick’ is to drop a towel into a half empty fridge so that the compressor ‘thinks’ that the fridge is full, this allows for the motor to kick in less and it also stops the items inside to rattle and bump less as you rumble over those corrugations.
We like to use the Engel brand name containers for several reasons- durability, quality, stackable and for around $60 for a box of mixed sized containers it is value for money, and they even do a 2 litre drink container which again is designed to stack with their other containers in their range. Also for camping these containers are still very useful at home, we sometimes pre make meals with leftovers and put the containers straight into the freezer for later meals. Over the years we have travelled thousands of kilometres and have never experienced the dreaded container spill leakage due to el-cheapo containers. So buy once and buy right.
Pre planning your food stuffs isn't that hard, and if done correctly there wont be any tears over spilt milk.