I’ve had several requests to do a post on camping food. For many people, this is their favorite part of camping. For me, it is not. I would rather spend our time out hiking or relaxing, and I strive to minimize the amount of time preparing meals. I am also happy to grab pre-packaged convenience foods to make that happen.
If this sounds like you, then please read ahead! If it does not, then please take my methods and advice with a grain of salt.
When I plan for our camping trips, I generally rotate through the same recipes. I strive for easy, filling, and minimal prep time. I try to do as much prep work as possible at home, but I do usually pack a sharp knife and cutting board. My husband and I share the cooking responsibilities. When we camp with friends, we find that generally it’s easier just to let each family handle their own food, especially if there are picky children or food allergies/specific diets involved. One exception is when my best friend and I go camping with our children – we prefer to cook every meal together. We cook our meals using a double-burner camp stove as well as hot coals from our campfire, and these recipes will reflect that. You might also consider grilling, for another option.
We used to do big breakfasts, but I have abandoned that in favor of something simple. For one, I found raw eggs difficult to pack (though there are solutions). For two, I am not a morning person so by the time I got up and moving it was almost lunchtime before we ate breakfast. You might want a hearty breakfast if you’re going to do some intense hiking, but for our needs it wasn’t necessary.
Here are some ideas of things I will bring for our breakfasts – adjust as needed for your tastes!
- hard boiled eggs
- granola bars
- muffins (make at home before the trip)
- instant oatmeal packets (you’ll need to boil water for this, but it’s especially good for chilly mornings)
- hot chocolate or coffee (I don’t drink coffee so I have no idea what making that entails)
- orange juice
For more ideas, check out this link.
Our lunch menu will change depending on our plans for the day. Sometimes we plan to be out exploring or hiking, so we’ll pack an easy lunch like sandwiches. Sometimes we’ll plan to be at our campsite, so we’ll take the time to cook. We also pack extra of the lunch sides to use as snacks during the afternoons.
- sandwiches (we like peanut butter and jelly, but for variety you could also do pre-made tuna salad or chicken salad)
- chips or pretzels
- fruits and raw vegetables
- trail mix (or nuts and raisins separately)
- apple sauce
- baked beans (quick and easy if you bring a can)
- hot dogs (can cook in a pan or on a roasting stick over the fire)
- tacos in a bag (either need to cook taco meat or warm up pre-cooked meat)
- soup (great for chilly days – I warm up canned soup, but you could also reheat homemade soup)
- get creative with a pie iron!
We generally treat dinner as our main meal, but it would be easy to switch dinner and lunch if that works better for you. We don’t usually use the fire to cook for lunch, so any tin foil packet meals are planned for dinner. Some of these meals (especially the packets) take a long time to cook, so we try to be conscious of our time when planning our meals.
Tin foil packets: You can wrap food in foil and put in the coals of the fire to cook. This is a fun way to have dinner, and we usually plan to do this at least once. Here are some great tips for how to make dinner in foil packets, along with a few recipes.
- hobos (we make them with hamburger meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, salt, and pepper)
- lemon and herb salmon packs (salmon is a bit of a luxury for us, but this one was really good… we haven’t made it since having kids though)
- chicken sandwiches
- chicken and rice (I usually get the boxes of seasoned rice)
- cooked vegetables
- spaghetti (make sure you have a pot big enough)
- roasted corn on the cob
- baked potatoes
- sloppy joes
- s’mores for dessert
Putting it all together
When planning for our camping trip, I use an Excel spreadsheet to organize our food. Generally, we have 2 of each meal for a normal weekend trip. I make a list of all the food ingredients, then all the staples (like salt and pepper), and then all the utensils needed. Sometimes when you’re used to cooking in your kitchen you can forget the little things you need (like an extra plate or a can opener – can you tell I speak from experience?), so this step is important.
When I make my food list, I divide it between dry goods and foods that need to go into the cooler. I also repackage things as much as possible to only bring what we plan to consume. (The exception for this would be snack foods, like a bag of chips.) I try to prepare as much food ahead of time as possible.
It sounds complicated but it really isn’t. We’ve found as we’ve gotten in the groove of camping, we keep it simple and don’t stress too much about the meals.