#44 How to use meal prep for camping

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Figuring out the best way to meal prep for camping can be fun, but also stressful. You’re likely far away from home (and even civilization) so a quick run to the store or a restaurant can’t happen, and you’re cooking with limited equipment. In today’s post I’m sharing all my best tips and tricks for making camping cooking fun and not stressful!

Got a camping trip coming up? Stressed out of your mind about just keeping your kids alive during the trip (not to mention all the cooking and food? Meal prep is my best friend when it comes to camping so I don't have to cook amount the dirt and "great outdoors"  Figure out how to meal prep for camping with this handy guide with a free printable menu.
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Hey everyone, I’ve got a family cabin trip coming up in a few weeks and I’m in charge of the food!

meal prep your camping trip

As I put together my menu, I thought it might be helpful to you guys to see how we’re planning and preparing to make cooking for a camping trip as simple as possible.

The key, is choosing a good menu that works with your activities (instead of against them…more on that later)

…and preparing as much ahead as possible.

Planning and preparing will be your best friend. I can think of loads of camping trips when we’re still waiting on potatoes to cook starving at 8:30 PM.

There was another time that we wandered around campsite to campsite to find lighter fluid because we forgot ours.

So in this post I’m attempting to share what we’ve learned and what you can think about as you plan your menu for your next camping trip.

Meal planning for your camping trip

Let’s start with your meal plan.

I said earlier that you want your meal plan to work with any activities you have planned.

We’ve found that it works best to work your menu around your planned activities (not the other way around).

I also recommend this for regular meal planning as well. Make a menu that works for the life you have, not the one you wish you had.

Anyway, so here’s some examples of how we are doing this so you can get an idea.

Our first night at the cabin we are heading up after work. Most people are taking off a few hours early, but we won’t get there until around 5 pm.

Now, could we do a big dutch oven dinner?

Sure we could…but that might be stressful after a long day at work.

So instead we’re doing hot dogs, corn on the cob, watermelon, and chips.

The hot dogs work great because everyone will make their own over the fire so if some people get up later than others it’s no big deal, dinner will be ready whenever they want it.

Another first night idea could be a foil pack dinner of some kind (you could even have everyone bring their own!) that they throw on the fire as soon as they get there and it’s done.

Another way we’re working around our activities is by having big breakfasts and dinners, and smaller lunches. We tend to head out hiking and exploring during the day so having a meal that you can quickly throw together (or even pack) works well during the day, and the larger meals work well for when we’re hanging out at camp in the early mornings and evenings.

How to meal prep for your camping trip

One of the hardest parts about cooking and camping is trying to prepare your foods in a less than ideal cooking environment.

Chopping veggies among the dirt, just isn’t all that fun, not to mention it’s going to take you at least twice as long to do things without your regular routines and equipment.

I’ve learned that for our camping food to be successful, I need to do as much ahead as possible.

You still want your food to taste good and freshly cooked, but a lot of the prep-work can be done ahead so you can just throw things together at meal time and no one will have any idea you’ve done so much work ahead.

I’ve created a complete guide for a 2-day camping trip complete with the recipes that we’re using, what you can do ahead, and what you can outsource to other people here. It’s a must-have for making your next camping trip a breeze.

If you want a done-for-you menu and guide for outdoor cooking, this is it, you won’t need anything else!

FREE Guide to meal prep for camping here!

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If you’re feeling ambitious though and want to plan your own menu, I’m also going to dig into the principles I used when I created my guide, and show you what kinds of things you should consider doing ahead using whatever recipes you have.

I’m going to go ahead and split the prep up between breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner to keep things organized.

How to prep ahead for breakfast

Things I love to prep ahead:

Eggs-I would definitely cook eggs fresh, but cracked eggs are safe to use for 2-4 days (plenty of time for a camping trip!) So I will be cracking my eggs in advance and storing them in an airtight container before we use them. To keep things organized, label the container with how many eggs are in it and the recipe you will be using it for.

Sausage Links-Do you have a hard time cooking sausage just right? It can be hard to get them fully cooked in the middle without burning the outside. The solution to this is also a super helpful meal prep tip. Boil them first, and then brown them. Sausage is the best cooked this way. So for the trip I’ll boil them and then all we’ll have to do is reheat!

Ground Sausage-

Pancakes/Biscuits/etc…-I definitely want a fresh pancake off the campchef while I’m camping, but there’s still something I can do to prep ahead. Homemade mixes are really helpful for camping and I will be measuring out all my dry ingredients in advance to make cooking faster for both my biscuits and pancakes. I’m not digging a lot into desserts in this episode, but I also like to bring cobbler mixes already made as well.

Veggies- I will do as little chopping while camping as possible. I’ll chop onions, peppers, potatoes, basically everything in advance.

If using potatoes, they can be stored in water for about 24 hours so keep that in mind with your planning and make sure you are planning to use them within 24 hours if you choose to chop them in advance.

One last note on veggies, some veggies I will not just chop but also cook in advance. Sauteed onions and peppers will last for several days in the fridge so if I’ve got a dutch oven breakfast that calls for sauteed veggies I may do this in advance as well.

How to prep ahead for lunch

Things I love to prep ahead:

Veggies-If you’re making sandwiches, bring your veggies chopped. A few exceptions would be tomatoes or avocados which have a shorter shelf-life once chopped, but things like peppers, lettuce, onions, etc…will be fine chopped in advance. You could even put together whole sandwiches in advance, just leave off any sauces so they last until you need them.

Salads-Salads are so easy to prep in advance. Just be sure to keep all the pre-chopped ingredients separate and then assemble them all together with the dressing the day of. Some salads you can prep all the way in advance (like this cowboy caviar that tastes better the second day, though you’ll want to leave the avocados out if you choose to use them)

Fruit- I actually really like whole fruit options for camping, things like apples, bananas, oranges that people can grab and eat without any prep. But many fruits can also be chopped in advance, even apples can be pre-chopped if you give them a coating of lemon juice and a little water to prevent oxidation.

Sauces-If you want some fancy sauces for your sandwiches (I’m bringing a balsamic glaze and a honey-mustard sauce) bring them already made!

Desserts-Remember, I said we’re keeping lunch simple. If you want a dessert for lunch, I find it easiest to bring up some already cooked cookies or something similar that will require no work.

Snacks for your camping trip

I’ll be honest, cooking for camping is a lot of work, so generally speaking I’m going to bring simple or storebought snacks.

I may choose to make a yummy salsa (cowboy caviar and pineapple salsa are my favorites) to share between meals, or maybe even a batch of granola bars (these ones from remedial eating are my absolute favorites, scroll to the bottom for the recipe)

I also like to bring fresh fruits and veggies for snacking, and you could consider making little ranch cups to go with some fresh veggies.

Generally I like to keep the snacks during the day relatively healthy and whole since there will be lots of activity (especially for the active kids) and maybe will bring some of my favorite treats for the evenings…can you say sour patch watermelons anyone?

How to meal prep your camping dinner

Dinner is the big one.

A lot of the principles I use for dinner are repeats from the other things we’ve talked about, but I’ll share what I think is unique.

Sauces/Marinades-Dutch oven cooking makes for some tender and delicious chicken, so I’m definitely cooking it fresh and not meal prepping it. But you can make any sauces you will use in your dutch oven in advance, or if you’re marinating your chicken you can make that in advance as well (you can even bring your chicken marinating.

Breads-Using a dutch oven for breads can be really fun, but the idea of getting yeast to rise and kneading dough without a mixer isn’t super fun to me, so if I want to try a bread I will probably use my parbaking method and brown the rolls in the dutch oven.

Rice/Grains-Generally you wouldn’t think of rice as camping fare, but this year I’m going for fried rice instead of my usual potatoes in the dutch oven. Fried rice is meant to use day-old, cold rice, so it’s perfect for prepping ahead!

Bacon-I mention this because it’s common in dutch oven potatoes. For breakfast, I would cook bacon fresh, but if I’m using it as an ingredient I’d totally bring it cooked!

Useful equipment for cooking while camping

I tried to keep the recipes/methods in this post pretty basic using minimal ingredients, but you will need a few things to make cooking and meal prep for camping possible. Here’s what we use a lot!

Dutch Ovens-We use for eggs, breakfast casseroles, breads, potatoes, etc…

Camp Chef-Use for pancakes, bacon, sausage, etc…

Campfire Grill-Use for grilling corn, pizza, meat, hot dogs

Roasting Sticks-Hot dogs and smores, YUM!

Remember, if you want all of this information plus recipes in a handy downloadable guide, get that here!

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I hope this post/episode has made cooking for your camping trip seem fun and less daunting, and I hope by preparing in advance you can enjoy company instead of stressing about the next meal.

Next week we are talking about an idea I like to call tools vs solutions. It’s a good, thought-provoking episode that will dig into why we get so frustrated at meal time. You won’t want to miss it!

Until next time, happy planning.

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