Check out these camping meals that are kid-friendly and delicious.
I grew up tent camping, and now I tent camp with my husband and two daughters. Over the years, I’ve eaten a lot of meals at campsites.
As a kid, I remember eating a lot of hot dogs and ham steaks cooked on the grill and canned SpaghettiO’s warmed over the camp stove. With the advent of Pinterest, I’ve discovered many new camping meal ideas.
I enjoy experimenting during each camping trip and discovering recipes that everyone from my meat-and-potatoes husband to my picky preschooler will like.
Presented below are some camping food tips, along with my family’s favorite camping meals, and a Pinterest fail.
Camping Meals Rule #1: Make Delicious Food, But Don’t Work Harder Than You Have To
Camp food should not be hard. Camping is enough work – packing everything in the car, pitching tents, starting fires, walking to the bathhouse, chasing after small children – that I’m not interested in meals that require elaborate preparation, lots of ingredients, or long and involved cooking processes. I also don’t like handling a lot of raw meat while camping because I don’t have ready access to a sink for washing hands and cookware, so sanitary/cross contamination concerns are real.
That said, I do like to eat well.
My favorite camping meals are often pre-cooked at home and frozen so that I simply need to heat them over the fire, in the coals, or on a grill. It’s like the microwave dinner equivalent of camp food, except tastier. As an added benefit, frozen food thaws slowly in the cooler and helps to keep everything else in the cooler cold.
Camping Meals Rule #2: Don’t Wash Your Dishes If You Can Help It
I don’t like to wash cookware like skillets after dinner while camping because it’s a hassle to haul water and wash dishes in plastic tubs, and it’s more gear to pack in our already-stuffed car. I do occasionally cook with a skillet or saucepan, and I sometimes simply “wash” my cookware with baby wipes, but some of my favorite meals are cooked in foil wraps or foil pans over the fire or coals. When we’re done eating, we simply throw away the foil products. Disposables are less environmentally friendly, but back at home I’m more eco-conscious than the average person, so hopefully it evens out.
Now that we have the rules out of the way, let’s move on to our favorite recipes.
Camping Meals You Can’t Mess Up
Dinner or Lunch:
Nachos – Get a large foil pan, put tortilla chips in it, and add nacho toppings like shredded cheese, taco-seasoned ground turkey (cook and season the ground turkey at home, freeze it, and pack it in your cooler), canned beans (drained), Ro-tel (drained), canned corn (drained), etc. Cover the pan with foil and set on the rack over the campfire. Heat until the cheese melts and the meat is warm. Top with diced tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, green onions, guacamole, etc.
Walking Tacos – This is a classic camping meal. Cook some taco-seasoned ground turkey at home, wrap it in foil, freeze it, pack it in your cooler, and reheat it over the grill or campfire. Put the warmed meat directly into opened, individual serving-sized bags of Fritos. Add cheese, diced tomatoes, sour cream, or whatever taco toppings you like. Eat with a spoon or fork right out of the bag.
Hot Campfire Sandwiches – Slice a loaf of French bread almost all the way through, leaving the slices attached at the bottom of the loaf. Spread butter (and mustard or mayonnaise if desired) between every other slice and tuck lunchmeat and cheese of your choice between those slices. Wrap the entire loaf in heavy duty foil. Freeze or store in the cooler. When ready to cook, place the wrapped loaf on the campfire rack or in the coals. Heat until warm, turning occasionally, and slice into individual sandwiches.
Chili – Make your favorite chili recipe at home, freeze it in a plastic container, place in the cooler, and reheat in a pot over the campfire or on a camp stove. My family rarely eats Fritos, but we like to top our chili with Fritos when we camp.
Chili Cheese Fries – In a large foil pan, arrange frozen French fries and cover with canned chili (or homemade if you prefer) and shredded cheese. Add diced onion if you like. Cover pan with foil and heat on the campfire rack.
Quesadillas – In a large foil pan, lay out tortillas in a single layer and top them with cheese and whatever filling you want (diced chicken, steak, or shrimp cooked at home, beans, etc.), and add additional tortillas on top. Cover the pan and heat on the campfire rack. Serve with sour cream, salsa, shredded lettuce, etc.
Foil Pack Meals – Make individual meals in large pieces of heavy duty foil filled with your choice of canned diced potatoes, ground turkey or sausage (cooked at home), diced onion, diced peppers, canned diced carrots (drained), canned green beans (drained), canned corn (drained), shredded cheese, a dash of Worchester sauce, salt, and pepper. Wrap up the foil packs and stick them in hot coals until heated through.
Hot Dogs Cooked the Old-Fashioned Way – When I was a college student, I worked at a summer camp where campers cooked hot dogs on sticks over a large fire. The kids loved this classic camping experience, and now I let my daughters cook their own hot dogs.
Anything on the Portable Camp Grill – You know the routine. Steak, hot dogs, hamburgers, pork chops, and pork steaks are all good.
Breakfast Sandwiches – At home, assemble sandwiches on English muffins with fried eggs, sausage patties or bacon, and cheese. Wrap individual sandwiches in foil, freeze, place in cooler, and reheat in campfire coals or on a portable grill.
Breakfast Burritos – At home, fill tortillas with scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese, diced peppers and onions, salsa, etc. Roll up tortillas and wrap in foil. Freeze and place in cooler, and reheat in campfire coals or on a portable grill.
Scrambled Eggs – At home, crack desired number of eggs into a bowl, stir to scramble, and season with salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into a plastic container (we used a washed-out juice container), leaving extra room at the top for expansion, and freeze. Store in the cooler. As the eggs thaw, pour out the desired amount onto a skillet and cook on a camp stove. This meal does require washing a skillet afterward, so be warned. The last time we made scrambled eggs while camping, I “washed” our skillet by scraping and wiping it with baby wipes.
Homemade Breakfast Cookies – There are plenty of different recipes online if you want to experiment. I’ve made several batches of these no-bake energy bites, and my family eats them as a snack as fast as I can make them. I’ve also made breakfast cookies with the recipe at this link, and while I thought the cookies were good, my family thought they were only tolerable. You can also try these carrot cake breakfast cookies. Breakfast cookies make a good quick, healthy breakfast on mornings when you don’t want to use a grill or camp stove or make a fire.
Anything prepared in a toaster – If you have room to bring along a small toaster, and if your campsite has electricity, you can set your toaster on your picnic table and make bagels, toast, or toaster pastries. Pack butter, jam, or cream cheese in your cooler.
S’mores – The traditional campfire snack. Grab some graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars, and you know the rest. For a special touch, replace the chocolate bars with large Reeses peanut butter cups. Store the chocolate bars and peanut butter cups in the cooler so they don’t melt.
Campfire Cones – Fill a sugar cone with fresh fruit, marshmallows, mini peanut butter cups and/or chocolate chips. Wrap in foil and place in hot coals until heated.
Baked Apples – Cut the core out of an apple, but don’t cut all the way through the bottom. Fill the apple with brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pat of butter. Wrap in foil and place in hot coals until heated.
Banana Boats – This is my new favorite campfire dessert. Leave the peel on a banana and cut a slit lengthwise, cutting halfway through the banana and leaving the bottom peel intact. Fill the slit with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and a few mini peanut butter cups. Wrap in foil and place in hot coals for 2 to 3 minutes until heated. Take the banana out of the coals, peel open the foil, and eat the banana-chocolate goodness straight out of the peel using a spoon.
My Camping Meal Fail
Not all camping meals are winners. All kinds of people on Pinterest sing the praises of cinnamon rolls cooked over a campfire, but this recipe didn’t work for me. I used a store-bought tube of cinnamon rolls, wrapped one roll around my metal campfire stick, and attempted to bake it over the coals. The dough kept sliding off my stick, and parts of my roll burned while other areas remained uncooked and doughy. It was an idea that sounded good in theory but didn’t work well in practice.
I’m hesitant to try other recipes that require baking uncooked dough over the campfire. For instance, I’ve seen a pizza log recipe that involves spreading pizza toppings on a square of dough, rolling it up, wrapping it in foil, and cooking on the campfire rack. I’ve also seen people wrap crescent dough around hot dogs on roasting sticks. I’m just not sure how well or evenly these foods would bake.
Aside from the breakfast items, we make the special camping meals described above for dinner when we’re all back at the campsite after a day of fun and are ready to start a campfire and settle in for the evening.
For lunch, we typically eat simple fare like sandwiches with lunchmeat, egg salad, or peanut butter and jelly along with chips, and fruit. Traditional bread gets easily squished when packed with all the camping food, so you can make wraps instead if you prefer. Tortilla chips and salsa also make a good, easy campsite lunch.
If you want chips as a side item for lunch or other meals, pack Pringles. The cans take less room than traditional bags of chips that are full of a lot of air, and the cans protect your chips from getting accidentally crushed when packed with all your camping food.
For breakfast, we don’t always make hot food. I pack hard-boiled eggs, granola, and yogurt for healthy, quick breakfasts. I also like quick banana, pumpkin, zucchini, or cinnamon breads or muffins made at home, as well as store-bought Danishes, coffee cake, or doughnuts. My family likes unheated Pop Tarts straight out of the box as a breakfast treat when we camp.
The summer is still young and I’m looking forward to trying more new recipes this year when my family goes camping.
What are your favorite camping meals?
Featured Image Credit: Flickr.com
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