10 helpful tips for planning your camping meals

Camping is a great way to get away from all the rush and stress of life, the slow pace; the fresh air and open spaces all do so much good for the soul. If you are visiting South Africa then camping should definitely be on your bucket list! But planning the perfect camping trip and the camping meals that go with it can be A real challenge, especially when it comes to planning the food for the trip. If you are anything like me you simply go to the supermarket and start picking stuff you think will come in handy or will be yummy on the trip…the result being a blown budget, an over-packed car (mostly food) and a lot of wasted food, some of which even goes off because you (I) forgot how hot camping can get.

Camping meals can be tricky to plan for, especially if you have to cook over a fire. Here are some easy tricks and tips that will help you plan your camping meals easily.

On our latest camping trip to the Cederberg Mountains, however, I decided to take a completely different approach to the camping food thing. I started by checking where in the Cederberg we would be camping. Would it be in a chalet or in a camping site in a tent? Luckily we stayed in a chalet for 3 of the 5 nights of our trip. This meant I had access to a fridge and a stove and kettle, which also meant I could cook stuff I was more familiar with. No more half cooked potatoes..YAY!  (Needless to say I am not the best camping chef you will ever meet.)

I then began planning a menu of camping meals for each day. My camping menu was nothing extravagant and I planned on using leftovers for lunch. I then factored in some fresh fruit and veggies and snack food and some junk food and then created a list of the food I would need for the camping trip. I stuck to the shopping list rigidly while shopping.

The results were amazing. We came in under budget, had plenty of space in the car, ate very well with little effort and didn’t waste a thing.  Score!

So here are a few of the things I did to achieve this.

#1 Look at all your options in the super market

Before you even start thinking about your camping menu take a slow walk around the supermarket and really look at the options available. You may have to consider cooking things you will never usually cook at home, like canned biryani or canned lentils, but things like these can be a delicious base for a camping meal. When looking around consider things that will need little or no cooking, or even dehydrated things that will just need hot water, like couscous.

#2 Find fruit and vegetables that don’t need a fridge.

It’s essential to get in good fruits and vegetables in when camping, just like any other day, but if the camping spot you chose takes hours of driving to get to then soft fruits and vegetables like cucumber won’t last very long on the camping trip. The easy solution is to pick fruits and vegetables that don’t need to be kept in the fridge. These will include: tomatoes, onions, peppers, pumpkins, potatoes, citruses, apples and bananas (buy these while they are still green so they last longer).

#3 Freeze meat before leaving for the trip.

If you are a meat eater but you are worried about it going off before you even get to cook it, try freezing it a couple of nights  before you leave for the trip. Keeping the cooked and frozen meat in the freezer bag with ice will ensure that it lasts for as long as possible.

You can also consider canned meats like tuna for the rest of the nights.

#4 Plan the menu out in as much detail as possible

Once you know what ingredients you can take, you can begin working on your camping menu. Remember that you can use the basics and mix them together in different ways to create a sense of variety. Playing around with spicing and flavouring also helps. I found some really great camping food ideas on www.freshoffthegrid.com/one-pot-camping-meals as well as travel start

#5 Have 2 lazy meals ready

For those days when you are just too tired to put all that effort into cooking something from scratch over a camp fire, it’s always good to have a couple of back up meals that require no more than opening a couple of cans. Personally I loved the combination of vegetable biryani and tuna, it was easy and filling and tasted really good.

#6 Use leftovers wisely

I like using the leftovers as lunch for the next day, and this is especially effective when you are camping. Doing this on our camping trip meant that I didn’t have to actually make lunch, but still got something yummy to eat the next day, it also meant that we didn’t throw away much food. But the best part of using leftovers for lunch was that we ate something different every evening. This kept the camping menu from getting boring very quick.

#7 Be wise with your snacks

I found that while camping I was almost always snackish. Maybe it was because we were moving and hiking all the time, but whatever the reason I found that having snacks with decent bulk and taste helped fill that little gap until meal time. Apples worked very well but oranges would work well too. If you enjoy raw vegetables then carrots and celery would work in the same way.

#8 Consider using dried foods

Using dehydrated and dry foods can really make a difference when it comes to preparing your camping meals, both in terms of effort and time as well as for the taste of each meal. Think in terms of eating muesli for breakfast and using powdered milk or powdered soy milk instead of fresh milk. Just take a small whisk along so you can mix the powdered milk with a bit of water and you are good to go.

But you don’t need to stop at breakfast, smash works well with almost any camping meal as does couscous. Add a little bit of hot water and you have your carb for the evening meal.  You can even get really creative and take along some spicing to flavour the couscous or smash. I like using a bit of good quality vegetable stock powder when I make couscous.

#9 Make a shopping list and stick to it

When you are shopping for your camping trip it’s so tempting to start reaching for new and exciting things that we think may work with our camping menu, but if you want to stick to your budget and space limitations, not to mention your carefully planned camping meals then you will need to practice an unfair amount of self-control while shopping. Walking past all those delicious looking extras might not feel too good when you are in the shop, it will all pay off several times over afterwards: once when you check out and see how much you actually saved; a second time when you pack the car and realise you actually have more space than you thought you would have; a third time when you are preparing the camping meals and don’t have to put any thought at all into it (because you already planned the camping menu out long before the trip); and a final time when you realise you don’t have to throw too much away at the end of the trip.

Having a camping menu and sticking to it is really an empowering and liberating feeling.

#10 Use spices and seasoning to change the camping meals

If you are cooking chicken the same way for 3 nights in a row it may become quite monotonous and you may start regretting having such a rigid camping meal plan. Avoid boredom by using different spices and cooking the chicken in a different way each time. You can marinade and cook it directly over the fire one night, then wrap it in foil with a slice of lemon and some garlic for the second night, and make a casserole for the third night. You can use pretty much the same ingredients for three nights in a row, but the way you put them together and the spices you use will add variety. I love the barbecue spice by Robertson and I put it on everything, but you can combine different spices to create your own taste.

I never thought I would say this but after discovering this method of preparing for a camping trip and planning what camping food we would take and camping meals we would eat, I am now a confident camping chief.

 Did you find this article helpful? Do you have any other adventures you want to know more about? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share or pin this article. Sharing is caring.

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