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Easy food ideas for extended camping trips?


Wabi Sabi
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I'm planning two extended (10-15 day) camping trips: one in August, one in October. Both trips will be road trips visiting national parks with 2-3 nights in each park before moving onto the next. 

Generally when we camp I like to prepare as many foods as possible at home and bring a cooler packed full of things that simply need to be reheated or eaten cold like pasta salads. I prefer not to do a lot of actual cooking because I find that it takes so long to prepare and clean up afterwards, especially when you're having to haul water and heat it up one pot at a time to clean dishes. However, for both of these upcoming trips we'll have to start out with just enough food for the first couple of days, then stop at grocery stores along the way to restock as needed. 

Suggestions for things that will be easy, fast, not require too much preparation, be low-mess, and provide a little variety?  There are only so many hotdogs, sandwiches and potato chips that a person can eat on a longer trip, plus we can't count on always being able to build a fire in areas with burn restrictions, so it will mostly need to be things we can heat up on our Coleman stove. 
 

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That's how I camp.

 

One thing is to try disposable dishes (biodegradable and/or burn able types) and use disposable water bottles (one each day or two per person) instead of cups for cold liquids. This limits your dishes to mostly cookware, which is a lot more manageable.

 

At that point, I find normal simple cooking really easy. One-skillet meals are great (like hamburger helper, or variations with quick rice and canned add-ins). Meat in a skillet with one side in another pot makes sense too (say, chicken breasts with cooked green beans on the side, or pork chops with boiled potatoes, or pre-made meatballs with corn on the cob). I serve those with non-hot sides too, like salad or finger veggies.

 

My basic approach is, 'cook a meat, what else have I got?' rather than having s plan or a recipe for any particular meal. As long as I've got a packet of meat for each supper, and a variety of extras, I'm good.

 

Cold sliced supper meats are often the basis for the following lunch.

 

A good plan is to always have one hot meal that is entirely non- perishable as a backup plan for not getting your groceries in the day you thought you would. For me, that's a canned ham, a can of crushed pineapple, a bag of 5-minute brown rice, and usually a can of corn. I also pack canned soups for occasional hot lunches in rainy days.

 

It's a good idea to think of canned or other non-perishables having a bigger role than usual. It's nice to have enough produce, but it's not nice to interrupt your trip for a mandatory grocery stop because you have no produce today, and you don't have other choices. Canned fruit is always welcome. Certian canned veg taste great right out of the can too (whole mushrooms, baby corn cobs) or can be made into a quick 'salad' (ie corn nibblets). Pickles are your friends too.

Edited by bolt.
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Soups of all sorts, canned or powdered.

 

Fruit, raw veggies, cheese, crackers, lunchmeat, olives, hard boiled eggs,  hummus etc.-->easy to lay out for a lunchtime nibble tray type thing. If you store them in take and toss containers, you can just take the lids off to serve.

 

Instant oatmeal for hot breakfast; quick breads and other pastries, and fruit and yogurt cups are all easy no dishes-options as alternatives, and the instant hot cereal only needs hot water which you can also use for cocoa and coffee in the morning. Things like raisins and nuts can be added to plain instant oatmeal if you aren't a fan of pre-flavored/sugary packets. Cold cereal doesn't take much dishes either, you just need to keep milk in your cooler.

 

Trail mix to keep them going between meals. Much cheaper to make a bulk quantity yourself.

 

Sandwich stuff of course--buy different fillings, though, not always the same kind of lunchmeat. 

 

A big batch of scrambled eggs with ham/veggies/bacon/whatever in wrapped in tortillas for breakfast burritos. Only dirties one pan and a cutting board, you can give out the burritos wrapped in napkins or foil so no plates. Raw Scrambled eggs by the carton take up less space in a cooler, or intact eggs coated in lard will last quite a while at ambient temperatures if cooler space is at a premium.

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Tuna packed in pouches is fabulous for camping! You can make sandwiches/wraps out of it, add it to scrambled eggs, or make the family some Tuna Helper.  Also makes a great protein-filled snack mixed with some kind of mayo/dressing and scooped up with crackers.  The pouches don't require a can opener and taste fresher.  The flavored tuna is not great though.

 

Make a batch of your favorite pulled/shredded meat at home, and freeze it into a solid block.  Then add that to your cooler as an ice block.  The day it is thawed is the day you use the meat and you can decide from there how you want to use it.  Eat it warmed up with some beans on the side, or use it as a filling for tacos, sandwiches, etc.  

 

Eggs can be cracked and beaten and then frozen in freezer bags to be used however you desire.  Use quart freezer bags for individual portions, gallon freezer bags for freezing a carton at a time.

 

Ground meat can be browned ahead of time and frozen.

 

I'm a big fan of freezing everything possible to make the cooler nice and cold before camping.  Our meals are dictated by what order the meats thaw in throughout the week. 

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One of our favorite meals is to do "packets". What this entails is taking a serving of chicken breast or ham, and placing it in the center of a large piece of foil, layering with onions, baby carrots, red potatoes or fingerlings cut into large chunks, and a couple of slices of red pepper, spritzing with a spray bottle of olive oil and a sprtiz of water as well because the moisture helps it cook and stay nice, and topping off with steak seasoning. We roll up the packets, and throw them into the bed of coals of our campfire. We leave them for about an hour, and then fish them out with a long hot dog cooking fork (we have those ones with the wooden handles from the camping section of Walmart), let them cool enough that we can open them without getting burned, and top off with sour cream.

 

YUM, YUM! It is a favorite camp meal and we do it more than once when we are gone for more than three days.

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So, no campfire and grocery shopping every 3 days, right? I would look for items that create a one meal dish. Think stir-fry ish.   Buy thinly sliced cut up chicken/beef, add a frozen bag of veggies and some type of bottled sauce. I don't normally cook that way at home but it's worked when there's no campfire and the trip is too long to precook chicken/beef.

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One of our favorite meals is to do "packets". What this entails is taking a serving of chicken breast or ham, and placing it in the center of a large piece of foil, layering with onions, baby carrots, red potatoes or fingerlings cut into large chunks, and a couple of slices of red pepper, spritzing with a spray bottle of olive oil and a sprtiz of water as well because the moisture helps it cook and stay nice, and topping off with steak seasoning. We roll up the packets, and throw them into the bed of coals of our campfire. We leave them for about an hour, and then fish them out with a long hot dog cooking fork (we have those ones with the wooden handles from the camping section of Walmart), let them cool enough that we can open them without getting burned, and top off with sour cream.

 

YUM, YUM! It is a favorite camp meal and we do it more than once when we are gone for more than three days.

 

:iagree:

 

There are endless varieties of packet meals.  You could substitute frozen pre-fab burgers for the chicken and/or frozen vegetables for the fresh.   Google 'foil packet meals' or 'tin foil camping recipes' for more ideas.

 

Foil wrapped ember baked potatoes are good too and have almost no clean-up.

 

On your grocery shopping days pick up a ready to eat meal - hot roasted chicken and one or two sides from the deli counter, takeout pizza, sushi, whatever your family likes. Eat that for your next meal.

 

Serve a green salad at the next lunch or dinner after - either from salad bar or bags of mixed greens to which you add protein – meat, cheese, beans, or nuts and dressing.  If you can store them, you could also get pickled or deviled eggs, mayo-based salads or other sides from the deli counter.

 

For your remaining meals, buy a few frozen items to use in the next day or two and shelf-stable foods for a few days beyond that.

 

Soups/stews – get canned or cartoned, that way all you need to do is heat and eat.  If you want to do a bit more work you could make (sp)ham and green bean soup.  Dump 2 cans green beans into pot, add 1 can potatoes, add more water if needed.  Cube Spam, canned ham, or thick sliced ham lunch meat, add it to pot, heat thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper.

 

Bean nachos – dump cans of  pinto beans or kidney beans into pot, heat then serve over torilla chips or corn chips, add salsa and cheese.  If your family wants meat, use canned chili instead of beans.

 

Pancakes – get the just add water mixes.

 

If you have pie irons, you can make pie iron pizza and other warm sandwiches.  

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I don't know if this is necessarily convenient because it does involve bringing eggs, but I thought this sounded like a fun and easy meal that we are planning to try this summer when we go camping.  You throw an egg or two into an individual zip lock bag (one for each person), add a little cheese, bacon bits, or whatever else you might normally like in an omelet, and then squeeze the bag in your hand to mix it.  Toss the bags into a big pot of boiling water until the egg is cooked through, and voila!  --individual omelets in-a-bag!  

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Following up on the dehydrator idea, since I keep a lot of dehydrated fruits and vegetables around, it is really easy to pack for meals and takes very little space. The only caveat is that you shouldn't do mushrooms. They do not reconstitute well, and have an odd texture. Though we are a family of mushroom aholics, I have been unable to get my family and self to embrace reconstituted shrooms.

 

I also usually shred salad greens and store in a baggie in the camp refrigerator. My family will eat salads at lunch topped off with boiled eggs which I also make up ahead of time, and those lovely dehydrated grape tomatoes and red pappers. Bottle of salad dressing, and if they've got granola bars in their pockets for later, they are good to go.

 

My philosophy on camping is that usually for the mom, it isn't a vacation, just the same work but change of location and more fresh air. So anything that can be done to make it quicker, easier, and less detailed is GOOD.

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