Food while camping can really make or break a camping trip. It’s easy to forget components or end up spending way too much time on meals, taking away from the fun time! Here are some tips that have made all the difference for us!
Keep it simple!
My husband and I find great joy in food! Not just eating it, we love tackling tough recipes and making the “best” something. But camping isn’t the time for gourmet cooking or a giant smorgasbord. Keep it simple by sticking to dishes that are familiar and camping friendly. Consider how many dishes it will take to prepare the meal. The fewer the dishes the less time will be spent on clean up later.
The biggest tip I can give you is to prep ahead and freeze! Not only does this cut down on time and dishes at the campsite but the frozen food also serves as ice for your cooler until it thaws out. I try to chop all my veggies and brown all my meat in advance. If I’m making spaghetti, I’ll brown the meat at home, freeze it and throw in a box of spaghetti and a jar of sauce. Voila! Easy meal. For breakfast, consider cooking up sausage and bacon at home and just rewarming it at camp.
Even if you have picky eaters, sticking to just one option per food group per meal will really help cut back the amount of food you’re bringing and the time to prep and clean up. Think through each meal one by one, what’s my carb, what’s my protein and what’s my fruit/veggie? If you’re only camping for a couple of nights, there’s no need to stress about everyone eating a perfectly balanced diet or getting their favorite item everytime.
Pick the Easiest Option
It’s easy to just think of your traditional fare from home when you’re packing for things like lunch or dinner but if you focus on easy, you’d be surprised how fast meals can be. For example, rather than planning on lunchmeat sandwiches which require bread, meat, cheese, mustard, mayo, etc. Plan on peanut butter sandwiches instead – bread, peanut butter and jelly (and only one of those is refrigerated, which makes it even better!) For breakfast, bacon is messy to cook and even messier to clean up. Consider using precooked sausage patties or links to save on clean up.
Disposable or Reusable? That is the question!
Without a doubt, you will spend less time on meal clean up if you use disposable dishes, silverware, cups and napkins but it does come with some trade-offs. First off, it’s not very environmentally friendly to be throwing away so many paper products. And if you’re camping somewhere where you have to haul all your garbage out with you, it can almost be as much hassle as washing dishes. Additionally, there is something really good for kids (and for adults) about reconnecting with the basic ways of living. Learning about washing dishes by hand, rinsing them and drying them, can be really good for everyone. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this question, it depends largely on the trip and your personal convictions. My rule of thumb is, if our camping party is 6 or less, we use real dishes. Any more than that, and I bust out the paper plates.
With all those guidelines in mind, I didn’t want to leave you hanging without any concrete meal suggestions so here goes!
- Pancakes and sausage: Pretty much what the name says. Use a mix for your pancakes and you can even consider mixing them in advance if you’ve got the cooler space. That way, you can just heat up the skillet and get going. Remember to purchase precooked sausage patties/links or precook them at home. Then you just have to warm them up in the skillet.
- Breakfast Burritos: Once again, cook crumbled sausage at home and freeze it in a Ziploc bag. Then grate cheese and freeze it separately. You may want to consider breaking your eggs at home and bringing them in their own container. Throw some salsa in the cooler and you’re ready to go! At the campsite, we love to wrap our tortillas in tin foil and either throw them in the fire or warm them over a spare burner.
- Breakfast Scramble: For a super easy, yet delicious breakfast scramble, check out the freezer section of your grocery store. You should find scramble kits in the breakfast section that already have peppers, onions, sausage and even potatoes. All you need to do is warm that up and add the eggs – YUM! If you prefer to avoid processed foods, you can prep all these components in advance (chop peppers and onions, brown sausage, boil potato chunks) so that making one from scratch is easy.
- Crudité Plate: I’m a sucker for cured meat and good cheese. Add an air of elegance to your camping trip by splurging on some special meat and cheese. Add some grapes and crackers or bread and you’ve got a yummy meal!
- Peanut Butter and Jelly: This classic is super easy to bring and to make. It takes up minimal space and usually most everyone will eat PB&J (of course, double check for peanut allergies). I always like to have carrots and hummus and some chips to go along with this meal.
- Pasta Salad: For a really easy, no prep meal, make pasta salad ahead of time. Pack it full of veggies and some protein and cheese then top it with a delicious dressing. All you need to do is dish it up when lunch time comes. You can also add some chips, crackers or nice bread.
- Hot Dogs: Some things are a match made in heaven and need no messing with. One of these ideas is camping and hot dogs. You can bring a variety of hotdogs and sausages (all precooked), buns, ketchup and mustard without much effort. To make cooking quick and easy, I highly recommend getting one of these grilling baskets. You can do over a dozen hotdogs in one fell swoop over the fire. Especially if you have little kids, the “one hotdog, one stick” method can take forever and lead to injury. Throw in some carrots or a jar of applesauce and you’re set!
- Spaghetti: As I’ve already mentioned, spaghetti is a great camping meal. I always brown my meat in advance and freeze it. Then I grab a can of sauce, a box of pasta and a can of green beans. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can pick up a loaf of French bread, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it. At camp, you slice up the bread, butter it, give it a shake of garlic salt and rewrap it in tin foil. Throw it on your spare burner, keep turning it and you’ll wind up with beautifully warmed through bread with melted butter and garlic flavor – yum!
- Haystacks: This is a little high maintenance but a crowd pleaser! In advance, brown up ground beef or turkey and season with taco seasoning. Then freeze it in a Ziploc bag. You’ll also need to grate cheese and chop up tomato, onion and lettuce. I also like to take a can of corn, toss it with olive oil and broil it in the oven until it gets slightly charred. Take all of these components and place them in individual bags. Lastly, pick up a bag of your favorite tortilla chips, a can of sliced olives, sour cream, salsa and guacamole. At the campsite, simply rewarm the meat and put out all the fixin’s. People love building their own haystacks and the leftovers can easily be used in eggs or breakfast burritos.
I know everyone has their favorite camping meals, these are just a few of ours. I’d love to hear how you handle eating while camping. Do you have any tricks? Any favorite recipes? Do you prefer to cook on a camp stove or over the open fire? I’m so excited to hear your experiences below!