Campsite meals are one of the most memorable aspects of any camping trip and if one meal is a disaster you will never hear the end of it. The key is to avoid spending half the day in the camp kitchen but still deliver a meal that everyone will love. Pre-planning and pre-prep are necessary to buy more time for doing what you came for “Camping”.
There are two methods for meal planning, the ration method and the recipe method. The recipe method is best for smaller groups. It is easier to feed your camping crew. The ration method is best if you have a very large group or need to be mobile.
An efficient and fun way to plan your menu is to gather up all your favorite recipes and make a daily menu centered around your planned activities not worrying about space or supply restrictions. For example if you are planning some hiking, sandwiches will do the trick. If you plan to stay close to the site you can afford some more elaborate meals. Plan for a variety of situations. This allows you to be fixable once you hit the site. You don’t have to follow your menu to the tee. Mix it up, be spontaneous and have fun.
Once you have your menu, figure out what supplies you will need, then depending on your space and weight requirements adjust your menu and/or your equipment accordingly. Otherwise just creating the menu can be a real challenge. Our goal here is to have fun. This method for meal planning is an easy way to figure out what supplies you will need without a lot of size and weight calculations. There are plenty of complicated formulas you can use for meal planning and in some circumstance like backpacking or extended trips these are essential, but for the average campsite certainty not necessary. If you forget or overlook something, most campgrounds either have a store on site or within a short driving distance. You might kick yourself for having to spend twice what something is worth but you won’t starve.
When planning your menu include plenty of fresh water, high-energy snacks and trail foods like fresh fruit, beef jerky and granola. Stay away from things like chips, soda and cookies unless you plan on sitting around the campsite wishing you had a TV to watch. Outdoor activities require a lot of energy and burn a lot of calories. The best way to plan healthy meals is to use the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid. Keep in mind appetites will be up so plan accordingly. Click on the link above to visit the USDA’s site.
Do as much pre planning and pre prep as possible. I use a lot of zip lock bags, cutting up and cooking as much as I can before I get to the site. Use a cooler to keep your perishables like milk, condiments and fresh vegetables. I use powdered milk in all my camp recipes because it is convenient to carry and easy to convert your recipe to fresh milk if you have it. I usually use fresh milk for the first few days then go to the powdered milk after we have run out. At least that is the plan. My daughter loves to drink milk and always throws a fit whenever we run out of fresh. I often find myself reentering society in exchange for a little peace and quiet.
The nice thing about the recipe menu planning method is most home recipes can be converted to outdoor recipes with very little effort. Many recipes are equally delicious at home or out on the campsite. Pre planning is a major tip so you don’t have to compromise on taste.