By: Heidi Vail
Recently, one of my daughters asked my advice regarding the food for their road trip. They rented a camping van and planned to hit the road for two weeks. I, being a seasoned camper and road tripper (we travel with our Jeep and Airstream Sport), was happy to give my two cents!
For some people, part of the fun camping experience is preparing the meals. Others: not so much. Over the years we have realized that less is more when it comes to the meal prep. I prep for meals ahead of time to make it more convenient on the road or at the campsite.
There are simple things you can do ahead of time for daily meals like: slicing tomatoes and onions for deli sandwiches, pre-grill vegetables like eggplant, peppers, squash for vegetarian sandwiches, slice the cucumbers, celery sticks, and carrots for a quick snack with dip, pre-cook the ground beef for the tacos or goulash, pre-cook the bacon and crumbled sausage so it’s easy to add to a breakfast burrito or add to a sandwich, pre-boil macaroni or pasta. The list goes on and on – the more you do ahead, with your at home kitchen conveniences, the easier it is with a little or no kitchen.
Here are some easy grab-n-go camping breakfast ideas for your trip: Hard boiled eggs (of course precooked and peeled), bacon strips, muffins, oatmeal cups - just boil water add to cup, granola or other cold cereal, yogurt, carton shelf stable milk (to save on cold space), fresh fruit like cherries, bananas, strawberries, blueberries.
For a hot breakfast, keep it simple: carton of liquid eggs for scrambled eggs, then add the crumbled precooked bacon, shredded cheese, and salsa: roll in tortillas for burritos or fold for breakfast tacos. Believe it or not, canned spam is good sliced and fried. You can get cups of pancake mix, then just add water and pour on griddle with syrup and fresh berries. Other helpful hints: use tub butter and put oil in squirt bottles for ease.
Easy lunch ideas: peanut butter and jelly is shelf stable, deli meats and cheese for sandwiches (pre-cut veggies already done!), use extra burger or dog buns and sliced bread, bag tuna kits, pre-made or canned ham spread, egg salad from leftover boiled eggs are also a good leftover usage option for lunch.
Easy dinner ideas: take a store bought rotisserie chicken, eat cold chicken one night and then shred the chicken that’s left and put it in a Ziploc bag for another night. Then toss the chicken in a pan to heat, then add precooked penne, jar pesto, parmesan cheese, and pepper flakes.
If you’re a grilling fan: dinner size hot dogs with canned chili for chili dogs, Italian Sausages, brats, or the chicken sausages are all easy to grill. Any of these you can eat in a bun or slice. Another easy grilling idea: take the 5 oz frozen chicken breasts; they are thin and easy to grill for chicken sandwiches. Add slices of precooked bacon, pepper jack cheese, tomato, avocado and lettuce!
One pot meals are also a crowd pleaser while camping, both for the cook AND the crew: pre-browned hamburger or turkey mixed with precooked macaroni, cheese, can of tomatoes with green chilies and pack of taco seasoning. Beef stew is another easy one pot meal. Chicken or vegetarian chili, soups, premade at home and frozen in quart size Ziplocs can be heated in boiling water for less mess.
And of course to accompany these dinners: bagged salads are easy and a good veggie option. You can shake the dressing and toppings all in the same bag; no bowl needed.
For healthy, easy snack options, whole fruits, grapes, cherries, protein snacks like cubes cheese and meats (cubes of turkey and ham are good: ask the deli counter to cut ½” thick slices so you can cube), nuts, trail mix, protein bars. Don’t forget the dips to go with the vegetables: hummus, guacamole, ranch, and/or salsa with chips.
And our favorite part of the day: desserts! Some twists on some old favorites: S’mores of course, but use marshmallow whip to dip strawberries in and toast. You can make campfire pies with a pie press, white bread and pie filling, Nutella, bananas.
One thing to remember: be mindful of how much cold space you have for cold items. Keep your food in separate ice chest from beverages. Ice packs are a great way to start with, and then buy ice as needed. Open the ice chests as seldom as possible; air is not your iced chest’s friend!
The only equipment you’ll need: small propane grill, coffeepot/kettle (to boil water - I use instant packets for coffee when camping), fry pan, pot, tongs for grilling, long handled spoon, sharp knife, cutting board, spatula, scrubber, sponge and dish soap, pop up basin to wash in, a plate, bowl, mug, fork spoon knife for each person, paper towels/TP, Ziploc bags for leftovers, trash bags, hot pad, dish towels, a plastic table cover, 2 gallon water bottles with the spout are easy, roll up table is handy for outdoor food prep.
For toiletries, keep it simple: personal body wipes (to clean yourself with), wash cloth, comb – all in an easy to grab waterproof hanging bag to take to shower or creek. I try to keep my personal towel separate from others (be sure to dry completely before you stuff it away). And last but not least, don’t forget your shower flip flops!
During this time of less travel and restricted hotels, many of us are venturing out into the camping world to escape somehow while still being mindful of crowds and germs. Hopefully these tips helped those that haven’t camped and are willing to try it!