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The Waki Way .co.uk - Living full-time in a motor home

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LIVING IN A MOTOR HOME: FAQ's

We always seem to get asked the same questions about living somewhat off grid in a motor home, to which the answers seem to spark a dozen more questions! So (to give our voices a rest!) here's the answers to our most frequently asked questions...

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Food Hygiene in the Wild

No-one needs food poisoning on their holiday, and especially not when you're camping in the wilderness with no bathroom nearby! But come on, a little dirt never hurt anyone! Right? Unfortunately it most certainly has, and it just takes the one bacterium in the wrong place at the wrong time and, well - I'm sure you get the picture! :/

Humans, animals, water, and even soil is naturally teeming with bacteria and that's OK. I don't wish to scaremonger as in fact our planets ecosystem and even our bodies simply wouldn't work without it! There also seems to be a great deal of allergy problems occurring nowadays blamed on this age of clean but that doesn't mean we should ignore hygiene where our food is concerned as it can quickly become an extremely serious situation.

Yes both myself and Ryan have suffered the ravages of food poisoning in the past, unfortunately more than once, and it's often really difficult to pinpoint the culprit leaving you extremely mistrustful for a good while afterwards! Thankfully neither instance was during a trip away...

 

The good news is we just need a little knowledge and a few simple steps to keep ourselves and our travelling companions safe and well. See below for our tips to maintaining top food hygiene with limited resources; Think Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill!

 image courtesy of Viacheslav Blizniuk FreeDigitalPhotos.Netimage courtesy of Viacheslav Blizniuk FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

1. Clean. Will you have adequate hand washing facilities available when preparing your food? Will you be hiking and relieving yourself in the wilds before eating lunch? A squirt of alcohol gel is NOT a complete solution, its strong chemical smell and freshness can lull you into a false sense of security as many people are unaware that it does not kill all types of bacteria - good old soap and hot water is by far the best way of cleaning your hands. Above all, when you do get to wash your hands make sure you do it right! See below for the NHS recommended hand washing technique to make sure you get to all of your hands' surface and eliminate the nasties lurking there. We recommend using a bowl as a make-shift sink with clean hot water and biodegradable castile soap. Do also consider the safety of your water source. It's not a good idea rinsing your hands or utensils in questionable water - it's fair enough to use river water to get the worst of the dirt off but make sure that you rinse properly in some clean and preferably hot water afterwards. Always bring more water than you think you'll need and if you have to travel light make sure you have either water purification tablets and/or a good survival filter. See our recommended page for our favourite biodegradable cleaning and water safety products.

2. Separate. Avoid cross contamination by using separate utensils for handling, preparing, and transporting raw meat and your salad or bread etc. Either label them for purpose or have different coloured sets so you don't accidentally mix them up. Ideally have your meal preparation thoroughly planned so as to chop and prepare all of the non cook items before your knife touches ANY raw meat before switching back to anything else, even if cleaned in between. You must also consider that sometimes plastic tubs or clingfilm can leak during transit and you don't want raw meat juices leaking onto your salad so double bag everything, perhaps even have a meat-only cooler bag. Remember to still think 'separate' when washing up afterwards too, you don't want to rinse your drinking cup in a raw meat solution so wash the risky things last if you have limited hot water available!

3. Cook. Cooking temperatures of 75°C or above are effective in destroying almost all types of bacteria however, cooking temperatures below this level are also effective provided that the food is held at these temperatures for a suitable time period like the pasteurisation process. Hot holding  of temperatures above 63°C will control the multiplication of bacteria in hot food. Cooling food should be cooled as quickly as possible and then refrigerated, this will limit the growth of any bacteria or germination of spores that may be present. For thicker cuts of meat like chicken and sausages use a meat thermometer - a quick probe completely takes away the guesswork in whether the meat is safe or not without the mess of cutting into one. They barely take up any space and are currently cheaper than a box of Immodium! Also be aware that Staph. A, like many other species, also creates a great deal of toxins whilst multiplying that are not destroyed by heat and so can still cause food poisoning once cooked well, so the best plan to avoiding food poisoning is to discourage the growth of bacteria in the first place. 

 

4. Chill. Consider how your food will be stored. Will you have refrigeration available the whole time or will your food be stewing in a picnic bag for hours on the beach or in your tent? In ideal conditions bacteria can grow and divide every 20 minutes, meaning one single bacterium can multiply into more than eight million cells in less than 24 hours! According to the Food Agency a temperature of 8°C or below is effective in controlling the multiplication of most bacteria in perishable food. It is recommended practice to operate refrigerators and chills at 5°C or below where possible. Ice packs are invaluable and a lot of campsites have a communal freezer available so you can have a switch system in place for your cooler box. When the ones in your cooler have thawed swap them with the spare set in the freezer and so on. Some cooler boxes have 12v refrigeration so will maintain a good low temperature with the help of a car battery!

A fridge thermometer is an extremely cheap and simple way to see for sure if your food is being stored safely. You can also turn the other items in your cooler into edible ice packs on a hike; freeze your water and juice drinks and they will keep your food cool all morning. By lunchtime they should have thawed enough to enjoy a refreshing drink with your picnic and all you have to carry home is the empty containers!

image from keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

5. Reduce the risk in the first place. The best option for the risky meat like chicken is to actually cook it through before you travel, this way the raw meat bacteria risk is removed altogether and the food will keep for much longer than it would have raw. You can also deal with the washing of hands and equipment somewhere with better facilities and thus don't have to bring/purify the extra water. We have some great marinade recipes for chicken and fish to inject some awesome flavours while it cooks, simply finish off on the BBQ when you're ready to eat! The pre-preparation idea can also be applied to the rest of the meals' ingredients for reducing weight and waste, for instance why bring the whole onion along and have to peel and chop it in the wild when you can do that at home and leave the waste behind?

 

6. Lastly, remember that it's not always meat that's the risky item - root vegetables have been responsible in the past for E.Coli outbreaks due to it naturally occurring in soil which is why it is recommended to wash fruit, veg, and salad leaves thoroughly - not least because they may have also been sprayed with pesticides etc (read why we've gone Organic here). Also be aware that certain allergens can cause severe reactions in some people which can turn into a medical emergency very quickly (again not something you want happening in the wilds!) so be aware of your group members' individual needs and keep risky items well separated or better still, remove them altogether.

 

 

I hope you found this article useful, let us know what you do to stay safe (and any good food poisoning horror stories you might have, it's always rather oddly a popular subject!) in the comments below...

 

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About us:

My name is Sarah and in 2011 my husband Ryan and I decided to buy and re-fit an old motor home - we named it Waki and now live in it full time in the UK!

We live neither on or off-grid, rather somewhere in between, and are not the first and I dare say not the last to choose this way of life... read more>> 

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