We like to head away camping for weeks at a time, and that means doing some meal planning so we have good, healthy, tasty and some easy to prepare meals on hand.
We’ve got a number of meals that we all (or mostly all) enjoy, and we carry the ingredients for them, and cook a myriad of meals. I’ll get to what we cook often, but firstly wanted to start off with some common things that we do to make camping meals easier:
We plan meals, and then choose each morning
If we are going away for 3 weeks, Sarah will make a list of 21 dinners that we can eat, and we’ll take the ingredients for all of them, where possible. Then, each morning we will decide what we are going to have for dinner together, and we make it happen.
This allows us to choose food based around what we are doing in the day, and what we feel like. We don’t set a fixed menu in advance as things change, and you might not feel like that meal when the day arrives.
On days where we have limited travel, or we are kicking back at camp we’ll get the weber out, or do slow meals over the fire. Trying to do those meals when you get to the end of a busy day never ends well, especially when you have two young kids!
I’ve seen people plan exactly what they are going to eat each day, and it soon becomes a recipe for disaster with late arrivals to camp, you feeling like something else and the kids not being prepared for what you’ve made them.
We start off with meals that require fresh produce which will not keep well
Our go to plan for meals is to eat what will go off, or not keep too well first. For example, if Sarah brings food for nachos or tacos, we’ll generally bump them up the list to be eaten first as everyone knows your salad items don’t keep too well when travelling.
This means that meals which will last forever (potatoes, frozen meat, pasta sauce and so on) get kept until we’ve used most of our fresh produce, and then if we visit a shop and top up the cycle starts again.
Pre cooked meals are important to have in our freezer
There’s nothing better than pre cooked meals. We do a whole heap of items from pre made pasta sauce through to meat balls, soups, pre-marinated meat and so forth. Anything that allows you to whip together a meal in under 15 minutes is a life saver with two hungry, and often hangry kids at 5PM. We avoid using these unless there’s a need to, and keep them for busy days where we arrive at camp later on, or simply cannot be bothered cooking a significant meal.
It allows us some peace of mind, and we still get to have tasty, healthy food without waiting hours to make it!
We buy in bulk, and vacuum seal and freeze it
We’ve gotten into the habit of buying larger quantities of meat, and anything else that can be vacuum sealed, and we take the time to break it into meal sized quantities, and to label it, and put it away. Mince, chops, steak and whatever else it might be can then be bought much cheaper, and prepared in smaller packets for meals, ready to go.
It takes up far less space in your freezer, won’t spill anywhere, you have less rubbish to deal with when remote and makes for an easy way to have good food at hand.
You won’t find too much packet food in our pantry
We learnt pretty quickly that packet meals don’t go down to well for our family. We don’t really like it, and funny enough our kids completely hate it. Packet rice, pasta and other majorly processed meals are not something you’ll find much of in our pantry. We do keep some for emergencies and for when people really feel like that food, but we avoid it mainly.
You will find cans of spaghetti, baked beans, pasta sauce and that side of things, but rarely full meals.
We freeze a few loaves of bread
For a number of years, I would eat 10 pieces of bread a day, comfortably. I’d have two toasties for breakfast, and 3 for smoko, and then have a frozen meal for lunch. Our kids also love bread, and when you are travelling the only way to keep it is to freeze it.
We’ve found if you have it up the warmer end of the freezer it generally doesn’t freeze, and maintains a relatively fresh feel, which is great. We do toast it from time to time, and if we have bread generally this goes before having any wraps.
We buy fresh milk, then make powdered milk up as we go
For a long time, we were buying long life milk, which works just fine, but takes up a lot of space and weight, and can be a pain. Not long after getting our upright fridge, we moved to getting a bottle of fresh milk when in town, and if that runs out, we move to powdered milk that we make up with our water in the tanks. It’s a bit messier and annoying to do, but we’ve found it works really well, and avoids having to carry extensive amounts of long life milk.
As a family we can go through 5 – 7 litres a week for cereal, custard, hot drinks and so forth, and our days of carrying 30 litres of long life milk (which we did for one Kimberley trip) are long gone!
So, what meals do we often have when camping?
We’ve already covered a big chunk of this in our 50 easy camping meals post, but we are happy with simple meals that are tasty, healthy and most importantly that the kids like. Sarah isn’t a big fan of pasta, but they eat a heap of it, and we do a lot of meat and vegetables, or meat and mash.