The most common mistake is to buy way too much food, giving in to our ancient fear of starvation.
Except for some people of course, like the 5 merry men going shopping supplies for an Atlantic crossing just after finishing a hearty meal at a restaurant. Not very hungry, but eager to get the boring task over with and continue celebrating the upcoming adventure at a bar, they decided that it would be plenty sufficient to survive the entire journey on breakfast cereals. They liked cereals and needed to lose weight anyway they agreed. So they sailed away with the hull full of cereals and beers. It shouldn´t have taken them many days to start remembering all the nice chorizos and cheeses they´d left behind at the supermarket. (They survived the crossing however and probably lost some weight too.)
This might be preventive, but rapids the spoilage of the produce considerably. The washing and scrubbing removes the natural protection of the fruit and vegetables. We unpacked everything on shore, left behind the cardboard boxes and most plastics, but other then that just took on everything unwashed. Instead, we made sure to store everything in airtight plastic bins or airy baskets with lids. We have luckily enough been spared of roaches and vermin yet.
We stored potatoes, onions and garlic in the bilge, this being a cool and dark storage. We stored oranges, limes and lemons, grapefruits and other citrus fruits in straw baskets with lids. Potatoes, onions and oranges kept through the entire trip. Especially the oranges became only sweeter when exposed to the sun. We cut them in quarters and had them with sugar as a late night snack and substitute for sodas. At home, we are not even very keen on oranges, but - for some reason - they were a real treat on the ocean.
When storing cans, remember to mark each can with a permanent marker pen. The rolling of the boat peels of the labels fast and you´ll end up with sardines for desert instead of the sweet pears intended. Finally, try to store everything in consideration to the weight for a smooth ride. Heavy stuff center and deep down.
Fresh produce, dairies, meats and staples
A rule of thumb is that the tougher the fruit or veggie in it´s structure (eggplants, zucchinis, hard cabbage, melons, pineapples) the longer the storage time.
Apples, pears, soft fruit and veggies such as grapes, cherries, berries, salad greens and the like spoiled after only a couple of days. Tomatoes, apricots, peaches and such are therefore better brought on dried or canned. You could however buy fresh green tomatoes. They´ll ripen within a week. Fresh chili peppers and Jalapeno keeps well in an open, airy area.
Check through the produce once in a while and always get rid of the spoiling ones immediately.
It is common to watch yachts sailing of on the ocean with a large stock of green bananas tied to the mast. The bananas will ripe fast enough though and has all to be consumed within the next few days.
Egg keeps for the entire trip (20-30 days) if stored at room temperature at the supermarket. That goes for most produce. Buy it not chilled whenever possible. We stored the egg in their own cardboard boxes as the only exception to the rule to never bring cardboard boxes on board. The egg didn´t break even at high sea.
We hung cured ham and sausages below deck. We brought cured bacon and a few other meats and kept them in airtight plastic boxes. Always store meat separately from dairy and produce even if you are not Jewish. They´re right. You´ll agree at the first odors after a week or so. We consumed the bacon and other perishables first, leaving the sausages and cured ham to the end of the trip.
We kept cheeses, margarine and even butter in plastic boxes at room temperature. They kept around 10-14 days. Parmesan keeps even longer, especially grated. Cooking oil kept excellent, especially virgin olive oil.
Pasta in all shapes and sizes is always a good bet, rice, couscous and other staples all keeps well. Again though, keep well sealed in plastic containers against leaks and vermin.
Get canned meats if you like them, like Spam (except we won´t be over for dinner) or corned beef.
Jam and peanut butter for the Americans. We had no use for canned veggies - but if you are British you might disagree. French people will probably need some canned pate aux fois or Canard.
Bring spices, don´t forget sugar, salt, ketchup, stock powders, instant coffee, tea and such. Bring some powder soup or instant meals if you like (although we never used ours). They can still be good for the initial days of the crossing, when seasickness might refrain everyone from both cooking and eating.
Bring all the drinks that you like, yet never forget large amounts of fresh drinking water. Remember that beer will get frothy quickly.Bread
We brought fresh bred for the first week, stored in large straw basket. For the latter days, we brought hard bread and that half-baked pain riche that you can get at some places. Those semi-dough’s keep around 3 weeks, are sold in plastics, ready to bake about 10 minutes in the oven. They provided us with fresh baked bread each breakfast!
If you like baking, it should be easy to buy the ready-made bread mixes and make your own bread. We did not use a pressure cooker, but have been told that it is excellent for this purpose
For breakfast we had a wonderful honey that we bought in Tenerife - with a piece of the honeycomb still in it! Eggs, sardines with onions, cheese and fruit.
We actually even found a great canned duck in its own sauce and had it with dumpling (powder) and red cabbage (jar) - the east European style! Sardines are healthy and we prepared them in many varieties for lunch and snacks. We brought nuts, chips, cookies and candy for late night watches.
You´ll learn quickly though. Assemble everything tightly while performing different tasks, and keep flying knifes in their storage in order not to get stabbed at a sudden wave.
There are usually grips mounted on the stovetop for the pots, which is really helpful. Some people tie in to the stove - we preferred not to in order to keep a free escape in case of hot water accidents. We just held the pot if necessary, keeping a safe distance towards the side of the stove. The stove should however be kept in place by a hook when not in use, in order to prevent crashing back and forth in high waves.
We also had pieces of wood cut and fitted over the stove top and sink top, this providing us with a nice, U-shaped work area in the galley. Large frying pans are practical, either woks or paella pans. Bring a spare, smaller frying pan for the morning eggs.
It is common to bring plastic tableware. It´s light and durable. We brought some ceramics too, for festive occasions, and ended up using them for breakfast and dinners on the entire sail. The plastics instead were great for lunch and late night watches. Get plenty kitchen- and toilet rolls, detergent, dish soap and spray cleaners. Insecticides just in case, the roach hotels are said to work well, as well as plain boric acid (get it home at you local pharmacy). Pour it as is, or roll to a paste with flower and place at dark, hidden roach-escapes.
We used up two gas bottles on the Atlantic passage. The bottle standards differ between Europe and US, you might have to change between them. The bottles will get filled at the Marinas. Store them on deck and don´t forget to shut down the main gas switch when not in use.
That´s when the cookbook came handy. First, the book said, we needed to establish whether this was a flat fish or a round fish. It looked kind of both flat and round to us. Then we needed to cut the fish belly starting at the anal point (wherever that was) and avoid the gall bladder (whichever this was).
Well, in a couple of hours or so we had some awesome fresh fillets cut out, seasoned and consumed. It was a feast. We never caught another fish again although we tried, except for the occasional poor flying fish stranded dead on our deck in the mornings. These are said to be great fried for breakfast - we can´t really agree though, to us they are quite bony with a slight petroleum after taste.
Finally, remember that more great wars have been lost due to poor feeding of the men than actual defeat to the enemy. Bring nibbles in plenty and take the time to cook well.
But try not to over-store. When hungry at the ocean, even a simple meal such as pasta with raw, yellow onions and tomato ketchup will taste just great.