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Camping menus make the work of camping just a little less stressful. Similar to meal plans that you would create for your household that keep you organized and on a budget, a camping menu does the same thing.
Organize your meal plan. Free up some brain space. Use checklists to make sure you don’t forget key ingredients (or the tin foil).
Plan Your Trip and the Menu
Use the following tips to help you plan the camping menu for your next fun adventure.
If you are struggling with meal ideas you can check out our pre-made camping menus.
They include 3, 5, and 7-day meal plans, shopping lists, checklists for prep at home items, room for notes, and blank templates that you can fill in after reading the following planning tips!
1. What Type of Camping Trip is This?
What type of camping trip are you going on? Is it the type of trip where you hang out by the lake with your fishing pole and sip on lemonade? Or is it the type of camping trip where you wake up, chug your coffee, and run off into the mountains to explore all day?
Camping trips that involve a lot of leisure time will give you an opportunity to show off your gourmet camp cooking skills. You can cook over that hot campfire or grill and come up with masterpieces.
Adventure trips will leave little time for food prep. You want fast and nutritious meals that you can put together really fast. Pre-cooked items help with this.
2. What is the Weather Forecast?
Rain will happen. It always does. Even when the forecast looks beautifully clear.
Planning your camping menu based on the weather is a good idea. Hot weather will mean you want to eat more cooling foods (and include foods that do not perish as fast).
Cooler weather means having a menu that includes warming foods. Soups and stews. Hot dishes like roast and potatoes for dinner.
Check the forecast and plan your camping meals accordingly.
3. Plan Meals That Don’t Spoil Quickly
Camping food can be exactly the same as the food you eat at home. Although most of us love camping because you get to eat a few things that you normally wouldn’t indulge in at home on a regular basis (I’m looking at you S’mores!).
Pastas with jar sauce will keep until the end of the trip (or carry over to the next trip if you don’t get around to eating them).
Root vegetables will keep a long time as well. Carrots, potatoes, celery. They are all staple foods that you can pack and eat the whole trip. Foods like lettuce will wilt and go bad quicker. Eat those up first.
4. Eat Up the Perishables First!
When you plan your camping menu, plan to eat the foods that perish the fastest in the first few days. Before the ice melts.
Eat up the uncooked meats and the dairy that will go bad without refrigeration (or when the ice is gone).
Save cooked leftovers for quick lunches. Eat the hotdogs on day 3 or 4. Pre-cook meats so they will last a little longer.
5. Plan Quick Easy Meals Too
Cooking over the campfire is fun. Testing your cooking skills when you don’t have a specific heat setting adds to the challenge.
Create camping menus that include a little bit of everything. Cooking on the campfire. Grab and go meals like cold cut sandwiches. Foods that the kids can eat while they run around. Snacks that are easy for kids to grab on their own ( I keep a basket with pre-packaged snacks that they can eat when they want).
6. Pre-Cook Meats or Choose Fast Cooking Cuts
Pre-cooking burger for tacos, chicken for fajitas, and packing hot dogs will cut down on cooking time. It also cuts down on mess.
Opening up a pack of raw chicken and then not having a place to wash is a little gross.
But still icky.
Pre-cooking your proteins means less cook time over the fire. Camping trips that are all about the adventure benefit from camping meals that take less time to cook. More time to play!
7. Plan Meals That Can Be Prepped at Home
Cooking outside is harder. It just is. You don’t have the same counter space. The ability to wash dishes as you go and keep things from being rained on, pooped on by flies, or stolen by squirrels makes it a challenge.
Plan your camping menus so you can prep some of your meals in advance. Bake the banana bread at home. Make the muffins and pack them in a Zip-lock. Pre-cook the roast so all you have to do is slice it and warm it up.
8. Pre-Cook Some Ingredients to Make Meal-Prep Easier
Camping isn’t about just eating leftovers. You don’t want to make every meal in advance then eat only pre-cooked food when you get to camp.
There are some parts of a meal that can be prepped in advance to make the process at camp a little smoother.
Pre-boil the noodles. Then all you have to cook is the sauce and veggies.
Pre-cook the rice. Saute up the chicken and stir-fry vegetables on the campfire and then add the rice to warm it up.
Like I mentioned above, I would prefer to slice up the chicken in advance. Cooking it at camp isn’t as big a deal if I can just slide it out of the bag and into the frying pan!
9. Don’t Forget Your Cooking Utensils and Supplies
We pack a camp box when we are going out to tent camp. It has all of the main cooking utensils and supplies.
Can opener. Spatula. Campfire gloves. Tin foil.
Part of camping is problem solving and making do with what you have. It is a challenge and feels a little like a puzzle.
Sometimes, it just takes away a little stress to know that you definitely have the tools and equipment you need to make a meal work. Use a checklist to ensure you have all the things you need for your camp trip!
10. Plan for Snacks and Hungry Campers
You can plan for all the meals. All the contingency plans.
Someone will always complain about the camping menu. One of the kids will always want to eat PB&J all weekend long.
And you will always come home with leftover food. This is way better than running out of food while you are miles from the nearest grocery store.
Camping makes you hungry! Be prepared to feed everyone more than you would at home. They are burning energy building forts, fishing, hiking, kayaking, and just running around.
Plan to have snacks. Extra fluids (juice, water, tea, etc.).
Feed them up and then let them play.
Make Your Camping Planning Easier
There are times that I look in the fridge and wonder what in the heck I am going to pack for our trip. I draw a blank when it is time to go to the store.
When this happens, I end up piecing together the menu on the fly. While I walk around aimlessly in the grocery aisles.
And our meals turn into a hodgepodge. Or I forget to buy all the ingredients for an entire meal (no lunch for you!).
Having a meal plan gets my brain moving. I might not follow it all the way…but it at least helps me get started in the right direction.
Check out these meal plans, checklists, and recipes to help get your brain started in the right direction too!