Simple and easy meals to keep your campers happy

simple-and-easy-meals

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.

Breakfast!

Breakfasts

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
  • yogurt
  • granola bars
  • muffins (make at home before the trip)
  • fruit
  • 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)
  • milk
  • orange juice

For more ideas, check out this link.

Paul cuts up dinner

Lunches

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!

Get more lunch ideas here.

Dinner!

Dinners

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)

Regular dinners:

  • hamburgers
  • 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
  • chili
  • s’mores for dessert

For more camping dinner ideas, click here.

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.

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Camping gear: cast iron pie irons

Breakfast

I gave a down-low of all the camping supplies we pack, but there are lots more things out there!

One popular item that our friends love but we don’t have are pie irons. (Also known as camp cookers, as well as mountain pies, pudgie pies, hobo pies, pie sham or toasties.) These are nifty and versatile utensils that have a cooking compartment made of two pieces of metal hooked by a hinge, with wooden-handled metal rods to make maneuvering easy. You put the food in the compartment and close it, nestle it right in the coals for cooking. You could also use just one side as a small skillet.

Square-Pie-iron

Pie irons are generally made from aluminum or cast iron, but my friends prefer the cast iron ones. (And it seems from my research, it’s the general public consensus as well.) You can read more about the pros and cons here. The images above show the traditional square ones, but they also come in different sizes as well as shapes (round and rectangular). This page has a good list of types of pie irons offered by one company (Rome), though I’m sure you can find similar products by other companies.

What kinds of food can you make with a pie iron? Here are some ideas passed on to me by my friend, Jason. He says the trick is to not overfill the cookers.

  • pie (canned pie filling between slices of white bread)
  • pizza (pizza sauce, cheese, and pepperoni between slices of bread)
  • camp potatoes (potatoes, spices, and maybe a little cheese)
  • grilled cheese (two slices of bread with cheese)
  • biscuit or sweet roll (uncooked refrigerated biscuit or sweet roll)

Once you load the food, you put it into the fire until it’s done (golden brown on both sides). If you branch out into the other shapes and sizes of pie irons offered, that will expand even further the types of food you can cook. (Like waffles!)

cast-iron-campfire-square-sandwich-pie-iron-for-grilled-cheese

Here are some other websites I found with recipes. (Note – I have not tried any of them!)

With a little creativity, you could use the pie iron for almost any individual sized meal while you’re camping. There is a bit of a learning curve, so be patient as you experiment for the exact placement in the coals and length of time needed to cook properly. These probably aren’t good tools for younger children as they can be very hot, but for older children it can be a fun way for them to cook their own meals.

Bon appetit!

Image sources:
Pie iron with sandwich source here
Pie irons in fire source here

Food for camping – eating real food

I have been meaning to get a “Camping food” post up, but haven’t gotten around to writing it yet. In the meantime, check out my friend Elizabeth’s post about eating real food while camping.

You’re going camping, and you want to eat real food, not food from a box with funky ingredients, and you don’t want to spend a small fortune on already prepared commercial camping food for the family. What to do?

  • First, realize that with a cooler and some dry ice, just about any food you would like to take along becomes a real possibility.
  • Second, prep your foods as much as possible.
  • Third, enjoy real food, instead of coming home feeling bloated and icky from eating a weekend of junk food (s’mores are an obvious exception, yum!).

Read the rest of the post here.