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Let's say there are 2-3 people in a carriage (or van,boat, or anything with a similar size), constantly on the move, unable to hunt (because of reasons) and of course unable to stay in one place and have a farm. What food would be better for them to get the most nutrition they could carry (and grow the food for it, if the food they use isn't grass that's on the road) and how many calories really can they expect, without having to consider literally tons in "luggage"? I though perhaps land snails, or quails, but neither seems really feasible. Thanks in advance.

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    $\begingroup$ most advanced nomads are often pastoralists, living off livestock. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 19, 2020 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ What is with all the irrelevant top answers? Unless I am reading it wrong OP is asking for food choices, not the means to get them $\endgroup$
    – Layman
    Jun 20, 2020 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ Is there a time limit between possible refuges/replenishment/oases? You can survive off about 0.5 kg (dry foods) per person per day, if water is available on the go, so 600kg could last 3 people about a year, $\endgroup$ Jun 20, 2020 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Layman I think it's because you generally need to either make regular stops or you can get more food on the go ^^. Cars and horses fall in the first category, while boats fall in the second. The longest sustenance would be then to take food onboard + hunt/harvest for some more. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2021 at 17:51

10 Answers 10

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HERDS:

  • The obvious choice is to herd animals. This wouldn't work in the boat scenario, but even people who can't hunt can still bring goats along with them. Goats (or insert herd animal here) walk on their own with a little prodding, and produce milk directly and can be slaughtered for meat. Most wagons travel over rough enough terrain that they don't outpace a traveling herd. Yaks can be your transport animals, live off grass, produce milk, and can be slaughtered (but are limited in climate).
  • In your boat scenario, fishing and netting isn't exactly hunting, but may violate the preconditions. Tossing a net in the water and dragging it behind to catch fish is fairly passive, and can produce quite a bit of food. Based on all this great feedback, I'm adding that trained animals could be used to drive fish into nets to increase the harvest. The big take could be shared out with the animals as their cut - either as domesticated animals or as a symbiosis between species.
  • In both of these scenarios, it isn't a perfect diet, but it can produce extra that can be sold/traded for whatever else you need. Herding is a sustainable lifestyle all on it's own.
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    $\begingroup$ Dolphins are surprisingly friendly to small boats. While not themselves herd animals - more pack - they may help herd other animals toward your nets, like sheepdogs on land. $\endgroup$ Jun 20, 2020 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian Drummond Cool idea, I've never actually heard of people doing it, but if it worked, it would be an interesting symbiosis. River otters are used like this in India. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jun 20, 2020 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ OK I've never heard of it as such either, but this is fiction, right? Not fiction : Chinese river fishermen employ cormorants - raised from chicks and trained to fish. $\endgroup$ Jun 20, 2020 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus Dolphins do help people catch fish in some places. $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2020 at 2:34
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If they are unable to farm and hunt then they are left with trading for food: they can pay with money or barter some of their goods with food provided from the locals they meet during their wanderings.

It doesn't really matter what food it is, and it depends on the place they are at the moment. It can be cereals or legumes if they are crossing a farming area, it can be dried meat or fish if they find themselves in a more hunting/fishing region.

They won't be carrying with them more than a few days of stocks, and they can get info from the locals on the routes to prefer/avoid.

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  • $\begingroup$ Beat me to it. The only reasonable answer here is that they are buying or trading for sustenance. $\endgroup$
    – TCAT117
    Jun 19, 2020 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ They will probably be able to gather some of it but that's heavily dependent on seasons and knowledge $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Jun 19, 2020 at 23:43
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Foraging

It have been done by whole armies during ages. You don't have enough food for your army? well, just take what you need on local area. Wild animals runs, crops don't.

It can be devastating when a whole army does it, but if it's only 2-3 people, it can go more or less unnoticed. It can make you get troubles with local folk if you get caught though, but, well, you are nomad so reputation is not a big issue.

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    $\begingroup$ There's a reason why the Gypsies/Romani were historically widely hated across Europe, and this sort of behavior is a big part of it. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Jun 20, 2020 at 11:53
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Pemmican.

http://scoresurvival.com/pemmican-native-american-super-survival-food/

This is dried, preserved half fat, half meat with some dry fruit. It will keep a long time if dry. The linked article quotes 300 kcal / 62 grams which compares favorably to butter (my favorite high calorie density food) at 350 kcal / 50 grams and you wont get scurvy eating only pemmican. So if I eat 2100 kcal a day of pemmican (it is hard work, riding in the van!) that is about 500 gram or 1.1 lbs. Having 6 25kg bags of this stuff in the back of the van is not outrageous and that, and the love, and the beer will sustain me and my driver for half a year.

You could make this much pemmican with a couple of buffalo. Or if I were a farmer and I were on a nomad route I would make a bunch of pemmican when I slaughtered some animals and then sell it to the nomads when they showed up.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why would Pemmican prevent scurvy? Meat doesn’t contain Vitamin C. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Jun 20, 2020 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael some pemmican recipes include dried fruits. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Jun 20, 2020 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Ryan_L: Are vitamins really that long-term stable? At least for vegetables I thought they rapidly lost vitamins as soon as they are picked? According to this paper unsulfured dried fruit basically loses all its vitamins: ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.25.3.328 $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Jun 20, 2020 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael - apparently it depends on the fruit. In this old study sun dried peaches did just as well as fresh as regards preventing scurvy. ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.25.3.328. Or if you were specifically interested in preventing scurvy with your pemmican you could include scurvy grass or sorrel which I think is even better than fruit. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 20, 2020 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ If it is processed in a way involving cooking, pulping, exposing to air for drying etc. most of vitamin C won't survive. Which is why citrus was the staple fruit on ocean-going ships since it comes with durable packaging that keeps things fresh in it. That being said it is also abundant enough on land - some occasional berry picking, occasional greens and veggies, or animal products like eggs and liver will be enough to not even realize scurvy exists $\endgroup$
    – Layman
    Jun 21, 2020 at 18:03
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For a single family constantly on the move, you want nonperishable and energy-dense food. If they get to keep a herd, it is the best option since a living animal is as nonperishable as it gets. Otherwise, you want energy-dense low-moisture foods for your family. This means mainly fatty foods.

Your second best option is to render fatty meats to get rid of the moisture which would leave you with a good staple that can last for weeks to months if kept cool. Steppe nomads were known for storing meat like this as their winter staple.

Nuts are also a good option in the same niche although likely to be less abundant - high fat, good source of protein and micronutrients, low moisture especially if roasted and salted. Same goes for legumes if you can somehow forage for them.

As an alternative, you can carry around some flour to and trade for it time to time. At worst you can easily make hardtack with it or mix it with water for some porridge, make flatbread etc. It is nutrient, can be stored long enough and carbs are good to stay energetic if your nomads are active. It has been the human staple for millenia for a reason.

For lean meats that do not come with enough fat to fully cover it once rendered and cooled, which is the majority of what you will have if you do not have herd animals since small mammals, fish and poultry all fall under this, salt is your option. Salted and dried meat is also durable and a good staple.

Dairy products are also something your nomads can look into. Hard cheese is perfect but can end up possible to acquire only through trade, since takes quite a bit of effort to make. Same for butter you can render etc. You can make yogurt which can make any milk you find last for a few days longer than the hours it normally would without refrigeration. All you need is some tall flower or grass off the fields you know to be harmless for the bacteria on it.

Following these is dried fruit. You can easily forage or trade for it since it is abundant especially in the form of berries. Perfect for instant energy, calorie and micronutrient dense, although lacks in proteins and not really suitable to be a staple. Also if you are not an experienced forager some berries can be nasty.

Alcohol is the final thing to look into here. It can be a good byproduct from fruit juice you would get if you are drying fruit as pulp or even milk. If you are making it, you can trade it. If not, trading for some liquor time to time might be a good investment to keep the spirits high, not to mention some niche uses like as a disinfectant.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually fat is more energy dense than alcohol (ethanol). It has 7kcal per gram while fat has 9kcal per gram. I agree with the rest of your food suggestions, the only major problem I can see is lack of vitamin C. I can’t think of any solution, except obtaining and eating (citrus) fruits in large quantities whenever possible. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Jun 20, 2020 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the correction. Citrus is the best bet but any vegetables or berries, even eggs, liver etc. should be also sufficient to add some in a diet. Scurvy would be a bigger problem with absolute zero access to plants and nothing but hardtack and fish like on a ship as opposed to land $\endgroup$
    – Layman
    Jun 21, 2020 at 17:54
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Potatoes

Potatoes might be a good food for your nomads: they are nutrient-dense and contain lots of starch, they don’t need a lot of space to produce a lot of energy, they are easily sustainable, and they could be planted in a carriage.

That last point may seem odd, but home growers sometimes plant potato tubers in tall, tied off bags of soil to keep from having to do a lot of digging at harvest. Your nomads could hang bags of potatoes off the back of the wagon once they have enough leaves to photosynthesize, and start the plants from saved seed eyes in planter boxes inside the vehicle.

Health-wise, potatoes are starchy, so they are filling and good for keeping you going. You can only expect to get about 110 Calories from a single medium potato and it doesn’t fulfill all your dietary needs, so it would need to be supplemented by something else, but foraging or another answer would do that for your nomads.

On the other hand, you do have to cook them and make sure they don’t go green while you store them. That could be done by leaving them in the soil until you need to eat them. Another downside is that potatoes need soil that is rich in nutrients. But, if you have animals anywhere near the nomads, you have the beginnings of good fertilizer.

All in all, potatoes would be an excellent choice for the nomads to consider.

Sources:

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milk or dairy product mostly like butter, yogurt, cheese, milk candy/milk cake, and milk wine (ayrag or kumis and kefir, they are considered as alcohol upon googling it) outside of meat from domestic animal (since you eliminate hunting) such as horse,cow or yak,goat,sheep they can move as a pack with your nomad, depend on the climate or weather you can make dried or jerky meat, you can also drink the blood or make blood sausage.

for boat, fish, squid or octopus, or shrimp if you catch it during night, though base of my knowledge its far faster using harpoon or spear to catch fish rather than fishing rod (assuming the water is clear enough), assuming this is small boat unable to carry big catch using net, or go landing or sail near the shore to take nearby plant such as fruit or coconut for hydration and food, or finding clam near the shore.

if they cant even have the chance to land or come near shore they need to eat their fish, squid, octopus, shrimp RAW since you cant cook in the boat, unless this is modern boat which i has no knowledge about, but im more worried about water since you will depend on rain for that and you need to boil it to make sure you dont get sick.

as far as i know, two or three medium size fish is enough for a single person to keep going.

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  • $\begingroup$ What is milk candy? Like milk chocolate? $\endgroup$
    – William
    Jun 20, 2020 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @william like this and this to make it clearer, most of them is soft and chewy but some is hard like aaruul and this one though some considered it as cheese. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Jun 21, 2020 at 4:04
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Nomadic societies sustained themselves on mobile animals for millennia. Not for meat alone. Milk (and cheese, butter, yogurt), fur for warmth and meat upon euthanizing older ones. Fish, dried and salted lasted for months.

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In situations where you are on the go for long periods of time you need food that will keep most importantly. A good option for nutrition would be reduced soup as it can be eaten a bit like jerky and can be prepared as a way to keep stews made on the go when resources are available. keep in mind however they will still need water, both to make soup and to drink. now storing water on long voyages is tricky because it can become contaminated easy and so a viable option is to of course make grog, in other words bleach the water with enough alcohol that bacteria cant survive in it, and contrary to popular belief it doesn't have to be potent enough that they are drunk all the time. You can also just boil and recollect water to sterilize or keep in a hot metal container for long enough. some other good foods include: hard tack basically flour + water problem is it is low in nutrition and can become prone to weevils but will keep longer than traditional bread salted meats/jerky hard to make especially on the go with limited resources but basically the same as reduced soup in nutrition and keep-ability dried fruits and herbs this is less often used as a whole meal but some stuff to keep in mind especially because more can be gathered on the go

and don't forget you can always have a combination of the various foods for endeavoring!

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Piracy, pillage and plunder

They attack homesteads and small villages when it's dark, then grab what they can and gallop off into the night.

Also of course they can steal non-violently and surreptitiously.

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  • $\begingroup$ How does this answer the question? $\endgroup$
    – Idan
    May 11, 2021 at 0:29

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