Now that we’ve gone camping every summer since our second child was 2 months old, we feel like we’re old pros. We have the same whole grain “camping pancakes” every time, and I’ve definitely learned how to avoid having them explode like this gluten-free version did once!
We have plenty of healthy, real food meal ideas to menu plan for camping with, and we always print the packing checklist from The Family Camping Handbook (only $6.95) and rely on it heavily for meal planning. There are lots of options in there plus gluten-free printables and packing lists, but I’ll sneak one example out of the book and share it with you today. 😉
Here’s the thing: we often “cheat” a little, especially when we’re going to be working hard outside and getting tons of exercise walking up and down hills (that are about straight up) to get to the beach! This is our “20%” of the time that we’re unhealthy, and we can do the “80%” when we get back home!
My cheater items are mostly the cured meats, oh, nitrates, nitrates...May the Lord bless the food anyway and protect our health! (Do you Trust in the Promise of your Meal Blessing?)
It’s getting easier to find “better” meats in many stores, especially ALDI and Costco, and we’ve found quite a few sausages that have neither nitrates or MSG, hooray! I refuse to let me kids consume MSG if I can help it – but that’s a very hard-to-find item since it hides under dozens of names! 🙁
3-Day Camping Meal Plan
Note: This plan includes plenty of homemade whole wheat options, but we have a GLUTEN-FREE camping meal plan as well.
- Hamburgers (grass-fed, on 100% whole wheat homemade buns (soaked).
- Baked beans (put the can right in the fire!)
- Corn on the cob (on the grill)
- Soaked 100% whole grain pancakes We call these our “camping pancakes” and make them every time, soaking the flour just before we leave, letting the jar sit at room temp overnight (saves cooler space!) and adding the leavening and eggs in the morning, shaking the jar. So delicious!
- Bacon (definitely a “20%” portion of the day!)
- Egg salad sandwiches (pastured eggs with homemade mayo and a bit of mustard)
- Cold spelt salad
- Homemade Yogurt and applesauce/fruit
- Foil packet dinner: polish sausage, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, onions, garlic, salt and pepper, butter
- Salad with homemade dressing and lots of Farmer’s Market veggies
Lay out a large sheet of aluminum foil (heavy duty) for each person. fold up the side a little to keep everything in. Pour a little olive oil (EVOO or not? I went not.) on the bottom.
Cut up potatoes, carrots, onions and mushrooms and place in the foil. Add fresh crushed garlic (why not garlic powder?), salt, pepper, and pats of butter. Put polish sausage (I used to use standard grocery store stuff, Hillshire Farm and focused only on the taste; now Costco has some excellent nitrate-free Polish sausages) on top, sliced in two-inch chunks or bite-sized pieces, which is especially nice for children. (Not cutting meat with a plastic knife on a paper plate is great!)
Fold the foil around the food and fold over to seal the top. Store in plastic bags in the cooler. Cook at the edge of the coals on a campfire until done, usually about 30 minutes for the potatoes to get soft.
You can also cook these on a grill for more control over how evenly they cook.
Our kids all get in on the action for this project – we lay out foil on the table, everyone helps cut up veggies and meat with the knife skills we teach in our online cooking course, and each kid can decide how much and what items to put in their foil packet. It’s the perfect balance of responsibility in the family!!
If your kids want to learn some of the knife skills neccessary to help out with this, check out our free knife skills class on YouTube.
Am I squeamish about the ton of aluminum foil I’m using (and going to throw away) here? Yes.
But this meal has been touted by our family as THE BEST ever. It could be because we are often so tired and starving by the time we eat it, but it’s definitely a fav.
Plus it’s a super camping meal because everything is done for you except making the fire. It’s nice to relax during meal prep a little bit, while we eat our salads.
- Fried Eggs
- Smoky links cooked over the fire
- Homemade English muffins (part whole wheat; recipe in The Family Camping Handbook)
- Brats and Homemade buns (same recipe as the hamburger buns, along with grilled peppers and onions from the Farmer’s Market)
- Potato salad (with the homemade mayo, a little yogurt to thin it out, mustard and these pickles)
- Veggies and dip (homemade ranch and homemade blender hummus are favs for my kids)
- Granola bars
- Crispy nuts and raisins
- Dried fruit roll
- Soaked Spelt Biscuits (these are so good, you can eat them cold w/o any toppings and never miss it!)
- Frozen Peas
- And I have to pack my deodorant in the cooler, of course!
Prepping all the Food to Go Camping in the Deep Woods
Here’s an example “to-do” list that generally keeps me busy for a few days:
- Make mayo
- Hamburg patties
- Wash lettuce/salad too
- Slice tomatoes
- Cut watermelon
- Make yogurt
- Make pancake batter/additions
- Boil eggs x 2
- Make egg salad
- Bake potatoes
- Make potato salad
- Soak/cook spelt
- Make spelt salad
- Make yogurt ind’l cups
- Make foil packet dinners
- Make English muffins
- Bake buns x 2
- Cut veggies
- Make veggie dip
- Slice peppers and onions
- Fill water bottles and jugs of water…we go waaaay out in the woods with nothing but a campfire pit at our disposal!
Keeping Food Cold Out in the Woods
3 handy dandy cooler tips for you!
- Freeze water in square or rectangular plastic containers (most space efficient shapes) and use them as ice in your coolers. You’ll still want to buy some ice to really get it distributed around the cold food, but the added bonus of the boxes of water is awesome: After a day or two, you’ll have some ice cold water to pour off into your bottles for drinking.
- Freeze your meat, cheese and bread as well. Consider anything that won’t lose quality when frozen as a target for this process. If you pack shredded cheese, bacon, butter or burgers frozen, you extend their “cold time” that much longer. Don’t use the strategy on lettuce, onions you’re not going to cook, or really any sort of raw foods. Yuck. Mush.
- Rather than use disposables, pack one lidded cup for each child who will drink milk. Even when empty, keep these cups in cooler, then refill as needed. You don’t have to feel like you’re doing dishes all the time since the milk residue on the cups will stay cold.
If you’ve ever gone camping, you’ll know that everything tastes better over the fire. Even boring stuff like spaghetti is amazing when you’re outside, cooking it yourself over a real fire. I don’t even get it.
Food is one of the BEST parts of camping, to be sure!
Check out our GLUTEN-FREE camping meal plan as well!
A Fun Story – What do you DO out in the Woods with Little Children, Anyway?
I had to share this story I wrote quite a few years ago – if you love camping, this will warm your heart and make you laugh…
So what do you do with a 4-year-old and a 14-month-old in the middle of nowhere? First, you enjoy the fact that you are truly alone. No kidding, not a soul other than our little family was camping in the whole place. The 45-degree-temp at 9:00 a.m. may have had something to do with that…
The best parts of our camping trip:
Daddy and the 4-year-old boy can set up the tents by themselves.
…while the baby and the Mommy bring stuff out of the van. It’s so important to teach kids responsibility! Look how proud she is to help:
Putting sticks in bags is important, too… 🙂
A beautiful morning walk, one of many. We saw 4 deer, lots of mushrooms, and lots of deer tracks. Children can be expected to walk one mile for every year of age. That doesn’t mean they won’t stop for every bug, leaf, and mushroom, but they can do it. Our little girl always amazes me with how far she wants to walk “all by herself”!
Kids don’t need big toys to have fun…and the sand does come out of the pants/shoes/shirts/underwear/diaper. (Mommy made the mistake of saying to a toddler, “The sand is steep, like a slide!” Thus ensued playground time.)
My son is so creative. This is what he did for most of his time around the campsite:
He’s digging holes. He explains that they are traps for deer. When the deer come in our campground, they’ll trip in the holes, and “if they fall hard enough, they’ll get dead and we can eat them for meat in the morning.” We’re always thinking food and frugality in this family! 😉
Sister can play in the dirt that brother digs up, too.
Kids who love playing in the sand and water, and the sun being just warm enough to make it happen.
Volunteering to be the dry parent who warms up the cold kids while my husband went in the frigid water with our nerves-of-steel children!
My favorite: eating ice cream around the campfire in our fuzzy PJs, winter hats, and sweatshirts! We thought we were going to be so cool, making ice cream while we were camping in the hot summer weather, but instead, we felt ironic eating it when we could see our breath!
And the best part of all? The kindness and generosity of strangers.
No photos here, since our two camera batteries had both long since run out. Funny…I guess we had a battery theme going, because when we got all packed up and ready to hit to road for home, the van spit out a “click-click-click” instead of turning over. Dead battery.
Remember the whole “appreciating being alone” thing? Not so helpful when you need a jump.
On the beach, already a 15-minute hike from our campsite, you can see ONE house. One. The walk out of the woods to the nearest anything would have been a couple miles, at least. We took the chance with the beach, and the answer to our prayers came in the form of kind, generous people, who not only were home and willing to let us use their phone to call for a tow truck, but they then offered to jump our van instead.
I’m sending them some brownies.
We had a chance to offer up our suffering, minuscule inconvenience that it was, for those who were suffering even more. We were given the opportunity to practice humility and accept the service of others. And most importantly, we made it out of the woods!