Family Dinner: Camping Style
The meals you make on family camping trips can go one of two ways. If you don’t plan ahead, don’t have the right camp cooking equipment, or aren’t familiar with good camping recipes, you’ll end up with bland chicken seasoned with firewood ash. However, if you know what you’re getting into, you can make all the necessary preparations, pack the appropriate gear, and cook up something delicious despite being out of the comfort of your own kitchen.
To get started, the best way to make sure all your meals are easily prepared and taste great is to plan them before you ever leave the house.
When getting the food ready for a family camping trip, it’s best to envision what you’ll want for every meal. This doesn’t have to be pinned down to every meal for every day, but simply all the meals you’d like over the course of your trip. Make a list of all the meals you’d like to cook, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then, look at each item on your camping menu, and make a checklist of all the ingredients you’ll need, as well as the necessary cooking equipment.
Once you’ve got your meals planned and have completed your camping checklist, it’s best to measure and mix ingredients beforehand, saving you the hassle of doing so in the outdoors. Pancakes, for example, are a great breakfast that your kids will love to help make. Mix all the dry ingredients in one bag before you leave, and then simply add the milk and eggs at the campsite. Keeping up with this example, you’ll also need a small griddle and spatula.
The First Meal
Let’s say you head for the campsite right after work on Friday. When you get there, the kids will be hungry, the sun will be setting, and you’ll still need to establish camp and get your camping tent set up. The best way to ward off any potential chaos is to partially prepare a meal ahead of time for that first night. Prepare and marinate a piece of meat, then throw it on a charcoal grill or camping stove to let it cook while you get settled.
Equipment You’ll Need
The food you take and supplies necessary to cook it are as essential as any other piece of camping equipment. No matter what meals you plan, you’ll likely need a few of the basics. Most family-friendly campsites have permanent charcoal grills set up; find out beforehand, and if they do, be sure to take your own charcoal, lighter fluid, and matches. A camping stove also works great, as it’s easier and less time-consuming to use, and you can better control the heat than with a charcoal grill.
Be sure to take a chopping board to help keep your camp kitchen organized, and plenty of plastic bags to safely store any meat in your cooler. Also, take a large saucepan and frying pan and their corresponding lids. If you’re camping with the family, you most likely have the convenience of a car, so take advantage of this, and pack whatever camping cookware you’ll need. Pack all utensils into one bag and wash them after every meal so they’re ready to go by the next one.
Time to Get Cooking
One of the best parts of a family camping trip is when everyone is involved in the cooking process. While you’re preparing the meat, ask your kids to shuck the corn or set the picnic table. Be sure to include simple meals that the whole family can do together, too, such as roasting hot dogs on skewers and making s’mores for dessert.
For breakfast, go ahead and make your favorite meals. They shouldn’t be too different from when you make them in the kitchen if you take the right equipment. Combine chopped potatoes, peppers, and onions with scrambled eggs for a good southwestern omelet start to the day, and you’ll have only one skillet to clean.
Lunch will be easiest, and you may not even need to have a fire for this. Sandwich deli meat works great, as does a hearty salad.
Save the most ambitious meals for dinner, and be sure to set aside enough time to make it a family event. For supper, you can plan meals with multiple sides, marinated meats, and fire-roasted veggies.
A Few Tips
When packing your cooler, fill gallon jugs with water or juice and freeze them. These will keep the contents of the cooler cold much longer than chopped ice cubes, and you can slowly drink the liquids as they thaw. Be sure to take plenty of aluminum foil, too, as this is one of the easiest ways to grill items like potatoes and vegetables.
Also, to save space, empty any condiments and seasonings into separate bags, and to really stay organized, label these bags and note the quantity of whatever’s inside.
Cooking is one of the highlights of a family camping trip, so make sure you’ve got the right camping gear and prepare thoroughly to get the most out of it.