It's important to state that I will be working up an appetite that will require 3-4,000 calories(female based average) a day, after which I will still be hungry. My main three food types that I have found to be critical for hiking are Fats, Proteins, and Carbs. Fats help keep your joints loosened, because as you hike longer your ligaments will get worn down; the extra fat helps keep them moving with ease. Proteins help keep your muscles from being eaten away as well as providing your body with enough energy. Carbs are great fillers and good basic items your body can digest and store. Although some may find this gross, it does relate to food, ... what you eat MUST come out sooner or later. Hiking to a point where 3-6,000 calories(gender based) means your body is extremely active and will be unable to both hike your daily mileage goal and digest complex meals. Either the digestion or mileage will have to take precedence which brings me to my generalized hiker groups... young, old, and ultralight. Younger thru-hikers tend to eat large amounts of junk food, swear on snickers, and carry deflated bags of potato chips. Large amounts of simple carbs and gallons of sugar are easily digested and give them the boost of energy they are use to, it also... allows them to meet their mileage goals. Older hiker's need to pay extreme amounts of attention to their body as it is no longer in that amazing 20-30 year old bounce-back age, not to mention their mileage average is lower than a younger individual. Hence they spend large amounts of time compiling food data within excel sheets, spend countless dollars on expensive ready mixes and meals with high vitamin and mineral content, and mentally try to avoid the hiking aspect as a side affect that shows their trail nerves. The third group is the ultra-light hiker who owns a dehydrator and will attempt to hike "stove less" by relying on bars and cold, re-hydrate foods(usually beans).
I am a young 20-30 year old hiker that plans to bounce around the trail. I have tried to account for protein, fat and carbs. using easy to find cheap foods while avoiding the junk food I do not eat on a regular basis(indulging once a month).
Both oatmeal and mashed potatoes are easy to buy in bulk, prepare, store, and mail. I will make different flavored bags for each food drop. I will be buying oatmeal by the cylinder, food processing it, adding sugar, dried milk, and wheat germ. Right now my flavor ideas for oatmeal are: blueberries, strawberries, cinnamon and raisin, almond, apple, brown sugar, and pecan. With the mashed potatoes my base with contain sea salt and butter buds. My flavor ideas are: italian, spicy, cheese, chicken bullion, beef bullion, gravy, dehydrated cream of mushroom packet, and bacon. With the mashed potatoes I will probably be adding a packet of tuna for added protein every few nights. Included in my food box will be a protein shake mix for everyday, as well as an array of other drinkable items: dried milk, tea, hot chocolate, coffee, and apple cider to be dispersed among the boxes. My snacks will be a variety of gorp, granola, energy bars, candy bars, chips, and fresh produce. The gorp, granola, and energy bars will be planned ahead of time, the candy bars, chips, and fresh produce will be bought on a craving to craving basis. Lunch will also be bought on a craving basis in town, but will mostly consist of peanut butter and tortillas, tuna and cheese, pepperoni/summer sausage and crackers, and/or fresh produce. My goal: if the town consists of a post office and a gas station I can get by on peanut butter and a bag of bread, and if town has a giant supermarket I won't be spending in excess of $20.
Also included in my food box are my daily multi-vitamins, vitamin B supplements, calcium chews, maybe flax oil.
Another key item to consider is there is only so much space available in my backpack, so much weight or extra packaging I am comfortable carrying, and so much time I am comfortable waiting for my food to finish cooking. (jsyk: this rules out cans of soup.)