7 Camping Meal Tips for a Weekend of (Almost) No Cooking!
There’s something satisfying about eating delicious, healthy, and budget-friendly meals while camping.
And then there’s something even more satisfying about doing that with minimal time spent preparing and cleaning up from meals during your actual camping trip.
For us, the thought of camping brings expectations of spending time however we choose - relaxing, reading, playing, hiking, fishing, exploring, and escaping chores for a period of time.
Of course, some time is spent preparing meals, but we like to keep that to a minimum, leaving more room for what we came to do.
Over the years we’ve developed some patterns to help minimize time spent preparing food while at the campground.
Read on for 7 tips on freeing up more camping time while still enjoying tasty meals.
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1. Double a Recipe at Home for an Easy Make Ahead Camping Meal
After deciding what meal sounds enjoyable while camping, cook a double portion of it during the work week. You’ll have dinner made for that weeknight, and a premade portion ready to bring camping.
When the weekend rolls around all you’ll have to do is package up the leftovers to be reheated at the campsite. This is such an easy way to create make ahead camping meals with no extra work!
2. Bring Some Easy Camping Foods With Fewer Moving Parts
While camping, I feel better if we are still eating relatively healthy food (most of the time), and the fewer moving parts the better. Specific recipes and tips on this topic are all over the internet, but here are a few ideas:
Easy Camping Breakfast:
Easy Camping Lunch:
Tuna Packets- not bulky and no refrigeration required;
Sandwich Rounds- don’t smoosh as easily as bread, great for burgers & sandwiches
Easy Camping Dinner:
One Pot Meals (like lasagna or stir fry) - fewer moving parts and side dishes, can be a make ahead meal, only one pan to clean at your campsite;
Frozen Veggies- heat bags in boiling water, nothing to clean up at camp;
Packaged Salad Kits- this one is no money saver, but everything you need is there
3. Use a Meal Plan Template
Plan each meal in detail for the time you’ll be camping. Write down all the breakfasts, snacks, lunches, more snacks, dinners, drinks, and possibly more snacks. Include everything needed for every meal.
If you want a template to help you get organized, you can download mine for free.
Writing everything down can help you notice how you can easily use one ingredient or staple in multiple ways, sometimes resulting in less to haul around or keep cool.
Your detailed plan will also serve as a packing list when loading up.
*Note! Do not only write ‘coffee’ on your list! You will be highly disappointed when you wake up Saturday morning and all you have are coffee grounds! Consider how you will make the coffee, as well as any sweeteners or creamers you’ll want.
4. Meal Prep for an (almost) No Cooking Weekend of Camping
Remember that painstakingly detailed meal plan? Pull it back out and fill out the ‘to-do’ column. This next step will literally make you the happiest camper.
Scanning over each meal, jot down anything you can do at home in the days before leaving that will help expedite the actual cooking when at the campsite.
Some examples could be:
Slice the onion, tomato, peppers, etc
Cook bacon or breakfast sausage
Cook and/or marinate meat
Wash all fruits and veggies
Cut up ingredients to go in bag omelettes (add eggs just before leaving)
Premix any dry ingredients (if you plan to get fancy with pancakes or something). Also use a sharpie on the bag to record what wet ingredients need to be added when cooking.
Measure and combine spices in a baggie
Having the list there to reference throughout the week so you can do a little at a time when it fits in with what you’re already doing makes it less of a chore in the end.
You might cook the bacon at home during dinner one night if you’re already paying attention to chicken cooking on the stovetop.
Or you could go ahead and finish slicing the onion if you’re already handling it for a different meal.
And I promise, opening up your cooler or camping fridge and having every single thing ready to go will give you such a joyful feeling!
And it saves on cleanup while camping (no cutting board to wash, no grease filled pan from frying bacon)
5. Freeze Some Camping Meals Ahead
Freeze anything freezable ahead of time to extend the life of everything you’re trying to keep cold. This tip is especially helpful if using a cooler for the weekend.
It might not be wise to freeze your first evening’s meal though, as it likely won’t be thawed out when you’re ready for it!
6. Organize Your Camping Food
Having your food organized inside your cooler or fridge will save you time and potential frustration while camping.
It’s also more likely the food in your cooler will stay fresh longer if you aren’t holding it open for extended periods of time in search of something.
Things you know you’re eating last go on the bottom
Condiments or bottles in one area
Small rubbermaid with a lid for all things related to sandwiches (meat, cheese, sliced tomato and onion, etc)
First night’s meal on the top
Mesh bags* for produce
Dry foods together in a tote, or organized in like-item bags (camping snacks, ingredients for cooking, etc)
7: Bring Your Camping Meal Plan Along
You’ve used your meal plan to list groceries, create your to-do list related to all make ahead portions of meals, and pack food up to leave, but you’re not done with it yet!
I’ve learned to bring the meal plan with me to keep in the camp kitchen.
It is such a time saver to be able to consult a piece of paper when listing snack or drink options to family members, or to glance at it to recall what’s for dinner before throwing open the cooler or camping fridge. Having to dig through your kitchen area in search of you-don’t-know-exactly-what-but-you-know-you-have-it-somewhere-but-just-can’t-remember-what-it-is, well, that isn’t ideal.
Hopefully these seven tips can help you get organized for quick, easy, and healthy camping meals, allowing you to spend less time preparing food, cooking food, and cleaning up food - something that always takes longer when camping.
You’ll be able to spend more time doing whatever it is you most want to do - even if you’re the cook! What tips do you have to limit the amount of time spent preparing food while camping? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section!
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And don’t forget to download the printable meal plan template above if it’ll help you get organized before your next camping trip!
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