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I love the outdoors, especially when I’m with my family, but I don’t take naturally to sleeping outside, and while I appreciate a good campfire, I’m not big fan of actually smelling smoke for 3 days solid. But food gets cooked on that same fire, and if planned right, this can make for a pretty fun time. So here are some tips to help as you prepare easy camping meals that maximize fun and minimize hassle for your family.
The goal is doable, yet good camping food. There’s no reason to go gourmet on camping trips, especially on your first few, and especially with kids. I repeat, especially with kids. (Save the baked brie for glamping with friends.)
Plan food you can prep ahead of time and can be cooked and served in one container. Cleaning dishes is not the best thing about family camping, and paper plates are no shame, although avoiding plastic utensils (so they don’t wind up in a landfill) is a solid choice.
My boys like to cook over an open fire, but we bring the camping stove, too. Somehow, dinner in the fire pit and breakfast with the camping stove works well. As much as possible, we involve the boys in prepping, cooking and cleaning. And remember, the more you prep at home, the easier/quicker/less messy cooking’s going to be.
Even for car camping, simplify by getting rid of extra cardboard and plastic packaging on food. Also, cut up all your veggies before you leave the house.
And bring more good camping food than you think you’ll need since there’s no pantry or store to run to if you need more. Depending on your family camping area, we also suggest keeping your food in a secure box or in your car (raccoons and bears, you know).
One more thing that’s invaluable – a good, lightweight portable table. You’ll never appreciate a decent work surface more than when you’re organizing a campsite meal.
We usually plan to cook our dinner over an open fire. Bring extra supplies, kids often burn their first batch of hot dogs.
We usually plan to cook breakfast on a camping stove. It makes for a quicker cup of coffee and food than working up the fire again early in the morning.
We like to keep lunch flexible and eat things that don’t require any cooking at all. Keep it simple to allow for coming and going in and out of camp: sandwiches with sandwich meats or premade chicken salad, ham salad or egg salad, chips, fruit.
Keep snacks in easy to reach places, like in a backpack or day bag. Camping with kids certainly requires good snacks.
I’m not sure this even needs to mentioned, but you’ll want to make sure you pack enough water and um, adult beverages. A little wine or bottled apple cider makes camping more fun.
Pro Tip: Avoid feeding wildlife, keep your campsite clean and place food in airtight containers. Those animals are less cute when they’re walking around your tent in the middle of the night. (Was that a raccoon? Or a bear?!)
A solid plan for good camping food before your trip makes for a smooth camping experience for all. Once you’re there, don’t stress about the food and simply enjoy the time outdoors with your family. And bring extra clothes so if you get tired of the smoke smell too, you can just put on a new long sleeve shirt.
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