I have overnight trips from March to November, but the pace really picks up May to September. Climbing trips typically feature an approach hike with a full pack loaded with clothes, sleeping bags, tents, stoves, ropes, and climbing equipment - and food and water! And as often as not we're climbing long days with all of this stuff too. So food needs to pack small, be easy to prepare, high in calories, and TASTE GOOD. And I need to spend minimum time in the grocery store and doing advanced prep.
The menu I use averages 800gm (1.8 lbs) and 2800 calories per day:
Most of my trips aren't longer than a week, and don't feature rest days in the schedule. With a full day of hiking, climbing or skiing ahead of me, breakfast needs to be simple, quick, and enough to get going. I like to keep it simple with two packets of instant oatmeal, and a cup of coffee. A lot of brands have too much sugar for me, but I've settled on a couple of favorites from Trader Joes. One packet works ok for an overnight trip, but if its a longer trip or a cold spring ski tour, I'll have two.
On a longer trip or with a bigger group, I'll bring a bag of granola (preferably with fruit) and powdered milk. With cold water its cereal and with hot water its hot cereal. Is I'm really geeking out on space and weight I'll actually taking a measuring cup and measure out the servings, and spoon powdered milk into a small ziplock bag.
Tea drinkers have it easy. I'm a coffee drinker, and the only thing worse than having to pee more is a caffeine-withdrawal headache. So coffee is good. I don't typically drink Starbucks - the beans are too often scorched, the espresso machines are weak - but the instant Starbucks Via sachets are fantastic. Bring as many as you need.
Lunch is a harder affair. Taking an actual lunch stop for an hour at noon is a rarity - instead, lunch is a constant stream of snacks eaten every hour or so, at rest breaks or convenient spots on a climb. What I eat completely depends on the trip and the objective, ranging from cold pizza; cheese, salami, and crackers; to a collection of bars, chews, and gels. The bigger the day, the simpler the food becomes. On a one-day ascent of Mt Baker's North Ridge last year, I had a gel every hour, a bar every other hour, and a candy bar to celebrate the summit. In contrast I often carry a simple baguette sandwich and apple from my local deli on day-climbs. I'm also a big fan of dried mango and bananas.
For standard operating days, I budget six snacks. If each snack is 200-250 calories (equivalent to one Snickers), then that adds up to 1200-1500 calories. Not bad.
Dinner is the most complicated affair. I most often see folks bring freeze dried food, which is fine for the occasional trip, but not for me. Often, the calorie count is only 250-400 per serving, so that's 800 calories, max, per bag - not near enough on days where you will be burning 3000, easily. The best use of freeze dried, I found, is a "just-in-case" meal if you're trying to do a big day and end up getting stuck spending another night out. Go for the spiciest sounding one you can find (they're pretty tame to my tastes).
I use dinner as an opportunity to get re-hydrated, so dinner turns into a long affair of teas, soups, hot apple ciders, and hot chocolates. Cup-a-soups and especially instant miso soup are great appetizers.
My favorite meals are single-pot affairs. My favorite dish doesn't even involve cooking. Cooking is nice on longer backpacking trips, or in a basecamp scene, but for climbing trips the simpler the better. It also keeps food residue out of the pot I'm using to melt snow with. That taste of marinara sauce will last forever.
And every dinner deserves desert. My favorites are chocolate-covered caramels (or caramel-filled chocolates), licorice, and soft-baked chocolate chip cookies!