Swift

Recommended Pantry Stuffers for a Bahamas Cruise

by Matt, Chief Provisioning Officer, and Scientific Culinary Explorations Team Leader
Shroud Cay, Exumas
May 23, 2018

While roaming our dwindling pantry supplies, and panicking about the dwindling amount of coffee on board, I thought it might be helpful to future Bahamas-bound travelers to post what we use a lot of and what we wish we’d bought more of before we left.

Ask any cruiser what you should provision, and the number one answer is always a resounding, “Beer!” Here’s a reality check for you: I can find a beer on nearly every island I step on. Finding whole bean coffee, on the other hand, requires a quantum infinite improbability drive. I’m more likely to become a confused sperm whale in space or a pot of petunias than I am to find fresh whole-bean coffee on these islands. I can hear the beer drinkers already uniting against me: “But it’s so expensive,” and “They don’t have my Coors Lite!”. Kalik is pretty good. It is more expensive here, but so is everything else. Also, we find coconut rum widely available and more space effective :)

Of course, this question also gets to your individual style of cruising the islands. If you want to keep to your exact same favorite brands and your exact same diet, you're going to have to bring everything with you. We can get buy 1-2 months doing that, but we plan to be in the islands six months this year. By month three, pretty much everything has to be locally sourced. The brands aren't the same, and some things I just can't find. You can buy cheese nearly everywhere: it is usually a from bulk, block cut, mild yellow cheddar-y thing. Larger markets might have generic brand cheeses (like you would find in the US) that are good. In very nice markets you might find a wedge of parmesan or asiago. I don't think I've ever seen a brie or a Stilton. No matter what you find, it will cost more. We find it extremely difficult to eat healthy in the islands. What few fresh fruits and vegetables there are are very expensive, and it's a long time in between getting them. Dehydrated and freeze-dried options are very handy to have on board.

Where items are available from Amazon for provisioning, we’ve place affiliate links. We’re only linking to things we actually use, and like (and will buy again for next year’s trip!) If you purchase through this list, we get a few pennies to spend on Kaliks the next time we go ashore. Or maybe coffee…it’s a tough choice.
This was a good haul from a good store.
Nido
The powdered milk available the in the US is awful. It tastes horrible. I refuse to even cook with the stuff. Likewise with the UHT weirdo milk that needs no refrigeration. Nido is a Nestle product that is very popular in Latin America, and it is nothing at all like other powdered milk products. You can buy it in most US supermarkets and Wal-Mart, but it is usually on the ethnic aisle. We use this stuff every day for everything: floating cereal, creaming coffee and tea, and for baking up things like scones and pancakes. It is, no joke, for realz, just like regular milk. You can mix it up on demand a tablespoon at a time, or for more milky results, mix a quart at a time and leave in the fridge overnight. It makes great hot chocolates, too!

Powdered Eggs
These are pretty disgusting; I’ll be honest. They do not replace eggs and are only for baking. When mixed up and put into scones, pancakes, or egg bread recipes (like Challah) you can’t tell the difference. Also, keep in mind, you also cannot separate these to get whipped egg whites. So no souffl├ęs on this cruise, sorry.

Eggs are pretty easy to come by in the Bahamas, so we always buy eggs when we find them. Interesting tidbit: the eggs here are always imported from the US, usually Ohio. For all the chickens and roosters roaming these islands, you’d think they’d be selling local eggs. But they aren’t.

The egg powder allows us to save space and keep the fresh eggs for scrambled, fried, and over-easy deliciousness.

Chocolate Chips
You can buy Toll House and generic semi-sweet chocolate chips in the bigger stores, and they are only slightly more expensive than what you get back home. I like cooking with nice (Ghiradelli) bittersweet chocolate chips though, and I’ve never seen those here or anything like them. And this might be a good metaphor for shopping in the Bahamas: you can get chocolate chips, sure, but can you get high-end bittersweet chocolate chips? No, the more specific your tastes are, the worse your luck will be in the Bahamian markets.

Coffee
Coffee required. Alcohol optional.

We’re addicts, and we know it. I grind the beans every morning just before brewing to ensure maximum freshness and flavor. And I'm a bit of a snob about it, but then we all have our vices. When we're in the States I usually head over to the nearest Fresh Market and buy whatever is on sale in the bulk aisle. These are usually the best value we've found for the best quality coffee. Out of what's available online, I've been a fan of Trader Joe's Joe Coffee, Costa Rican Blendand Hawaii Kona coffee from Kauai Coffee Company.

Listen up coffee addicts: the Bahamas are a coffee desert. While bigger markets will usually have a few offerings like Folgers, Maxwell House, and maybe if you are really lucky, a Starbucks or Dunkin’ bag of grounds. Don’t even bother looking for whole beans. I also wouldn’t ask how long these have been on that market shelf.

There is one beautiful exception: the Hope Town Coffee Shop has fresh-roasted, whole beans for sale. They make a fantastic cup; I recommend buying their entire stock when in Hope Town.

And just for the record, I love my Aeropress coffee maker.

Tea
Since the Bahamians don’t seem to drink coffee, they must be drinking tea, right? They do have a lot more tea selection in the stores when compared to coffee, but if you (like us) prefer loose leaf, delicious teas you will be out of luck again. Most stores carry Twinnings bags and a few other brands.

We love these loose-leaf teas from Harney and Sons. The Paris flavor is over-the-top amazing-sauce, and we always keep an English Breakfast and Earl Grey on hand. For a special summer treat on board, try the Caribe over ice. Added boater bonus: the tins don’t rust and are great for storing little things in the toolbox!

Crystallized Ginger
I’ve only recently become a fan of crystallized ginger. Not only is it great to munch on if a rolly anchorage has you feeling queasy, but it’s also great to cook with! I’ve recently started baking it into gingery scones or putting some small pieces in with steeping green tea. It also makes a mean ginger simple syrup, which floats nicely in a gin bath over ice.

You can find fresh ginger hands in the bigger supermarkets in the Bahamas, but this stores better, and I use it for different things.

Harmony House Veggies
The first year we bought the pantry stuffer selection of fruits and veggies. Now, we pick and choose.
These jars of dehydrated veggies have helped us when stocks of the good stuff are low. If you can mix and match with fresh ingredients, you won’t know the dehydrated stuff is in there. Our favorites: bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, carrots, cabbage, spinach, potatoes, broccoli. Ones we will not repeat because we just didn’t like them (i.e., not recommended) peas, green beans, and corn.

Harmony House Soups
We were gifted these soups by family who bought them for a hurricane kit. They then decided they'd rather die of starvation than eat these things, so we were pleasantly surprised when they were pretty good. So far we’ve had the Mama Mia Italian Veggie, Greek Lentil with Quinoa, Split Pea, and Southwest Bean Chili. They are tasty, easy to store, and much easier to manage than tinned soups. Healthier and lower sodium too.

Freeze Dried Fruit (as many as you can afford!)
The problem with a lot of these fruit items is that, like Pringles, “once you pop you can’t stop." They make such a delicious snack. I once devoured a bag of Trader Joe’s dried mango slices in like a minute flat. Just amazing. For the record, we are talking about fruit only, unsweetened, raw fruit here, no sugar added candies. Add to muffins, scones, muesli cereal, drinks, syrups, whatever. If you do find fresh fruit in the Bahamas, it is rare and expensive. These bags fill in the gaps and make it, so we have fruit on hand for random recipes and treats. Our favorites to have around: strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, mango, and papaya. Both the Harmony House and the Trader Joe’s brands are great.

Natural Soaps

We think a lot about the soaps we use on board, and we avoid antibacterial triclosan and other harmful chemicals. Not only are natural soaps better for the environment but they also help Matt, who gets bad eczema on his hands from harsh soaps. These types of soaps are generally harder to find in the Bahamas, so we stock up before we leave. We like the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day brand as well as the Trader Joe’s brand products, both from Amazon. 

Spice Blends, Curry Pastes, and Sauce Packets
You've probably noticed that we like to cook exotic food. Our spice cabinet is pretty full and I think it needs to be out here. While we did discover an amazing Asian Grocery with pre-cooked Thai curries in Marsh Harbour this year, for the most part there just aren't any international style restaurants. Here are a few items that we keep on board all the time (not just for the Bahamas) to enable us to cook Indian, Thai, and Chinese meals quickly.

• Whole Cumin and Coriander Seed. Keeps nearly forever whole, and grinds easy for recipes. Have whole seeds also allows for toasting the seeds prior to grinding, yum! Great for Indian and Mexican dishes.

Garam Masala spice blend makes Indian meals a cinch. Also, we recommend keeping ground turmeric and chili powder aboard. That's about all you need to stock your Indian cabinet. 

• Thai curry packets of your choice. At the Asian Grocery, we discovered tinned curry pastes by Maesri in massaman and pananag...simply amazing. Just mix with coconut milk and simmer with your choice of meats and veggies. Passage Foods Simmer Sauce pouches are awesome too.

Garlic Chili and Sweet Chili sauces. Probably available here at the larger markets, but easier just to keep aboard. Of course, add to the list rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and fish sauce. 

Other Miscellaneous Items
We've found popcorn in a few random and unexpected places, but Lucy gets panicked when the supply gets low!
Popcorn kernels. Lucy loves popcorn, we make it on the stovetop for movie nights.
Coconut milk powder. Useful for making the Thai curries above and a few other things. We don't use enough to warrant keeping tins of the stuff around.
• Powdered Heavy Cream. This isn’t a true replacement for cream, but it works well in recipes. It does not whip, which was a big disappointment for us.
Quinoa, or any other "specialty" grain or flour you like to use. These are hard to find in quantity in the islands, and when you do find them they are very expensive.

What's the one grocery item you can't live without? 

You Might Also Like

3 comments

  1. Oh man, what a great post! I wish I had gotten to read something like this when I was trying to stock up for the Bahamas last fall. I miss fruit!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't mind that weirdo UHT milk, but then I'm a bit of a weirdo. Good tip on the coconut milk powder - I'll have to try some.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I’m glad I don’t drink coffee, or beer. But, I love coconut rum! UHT milk is what I grew up with in Belgium and the only milk I ever bought while cruising. Mark is allergic to cow milk, so finding alternatives like soy, oat or almond milk was hard. We’d certainly stock up on that whenever we found it.

    You guys sure manage not to give up on your food preferences and choices. While we barely bought anything in the Bahamas during our five months there, further down the island chain our US provisions dwindled rapidly. We usually bought local goods to keep our expenses low and never or rarely purchased imported products.

    ReplyDelete

Flickr Images