How To Plan Family Camping Meals | From a Family of Five
How to Plan Camping Meals for a Family
Camping with kids is so much fun and truly one of our favourite family activities. But planning, packing and preparing food can be really overwhelming when you’re starting out! That’s why I wrote this blog post full of tips I wish I knew when I started camping with my kids.
First: What kind of camp trip are you planning?
There are many ways to camp and the way you prep, pack and prepare your food while camping will vary from type to type as well as the duration of your trip.
So before we begin planning our meals lets answer a few questions below:
Will you be?
• Tent camping
• RV camping
• Backcountry or canoe camping
• Staying at a resort or lodge
How long will you be camping?
• A night
• A weekend
• A week +
• Will there be stores along the way to resupply at?
There are no right or wrong answers here, all kinds of camping are great and being out in nature with your family creating lasting memories is crucial. The way you answer will just determine how to plan your meals out as well as what types of food you should bring.
Let’s talk about our family’s favourite style of camping: Tent camping for a week or more.
How to plan Camping Meals for a Family – Tent Camping
We love booking front country campsites and going on multiday road trips living out of our tent each night.
We have to be sure that:
• all the food we need will fit in our cooler
• the non-perishables will fit in our food box
• and that we can resupply if needed and have a grocery list ready to go before we even leave home so we know we aren’t forgetting anything.
We like to bring food for 5 days and then go to the store for the next 5 days however all the prep and planning work is done beforehand! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry its not as daunting as it sounds! Take a deep breath and remember I have been there too, you’ve got this.
We have a bin filled with supplies for our camp kitchen we have accumulated after many years of trial and error. There are a few essentials we can’t go without listed below:
• Camp Stove + Propane
• Cookware + Dishware
• Cast Iron Dutch Oven
• Dish soap
• Dish cloths + drying towel
• Silicone mat or oven mitt
You can find a full printable version of our camp kitchen pack list here.
What to cook for a family when camping?
Making the vast majority of our meals ahead of time is a hack I wish I knew years ago. You simply have to prepare the meals at home, place them into a Ziploc bag or storage container, freeze them and then load them into our cooler in reverse order of eating.
This is perfect for us as we love to keep busy while camping and get to spend more time hanging out with the kids.
5 of our favourite premade camp suppers are:
2. Beef and Broccoli
3. Dutch oven Mac and Cheese
4. Veggie bowls on quinoa
5. Black bean fajitas
The possibilities are virtually endless here on what you could make ahead of time, as long as it freezes well its safe to bring along on your next trip to save time! Get creative and trial a few of your family favourite home recipes in the freezer then reheat on the stove top at home to see what works and what doesn’t.
Next up we have our “lazy camping meals” aka super simple meals we know our kids will eat and take very little time to make from us.
5 Lazy Camp Meals:
1. Cast Iron Nachos
2. Hot dogs and Kraft Dinner
4. Minute rice, canned tuna and edamame w soy sauce
5. Campfire PB&J’s
What do you eat for lunch while camping? At lunch time we don’t ever want to be fiddling around with a hot stove or fire so we opt for no-cook camp meals.
5 No Cook Camp Lunches:
1. Greek Orzo Pasta Salad
3. Tuna Salad Sandwiches
4. Avocado Pesto Pasta
5. Deli Meat Sandwiches
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that rule certainly applies while camping – what you eat in the morning on a camp trip can make or break the day depending on your activity level. Having proper fuel keeps you hiking, swimming, biking and playing outside all day long.
5 Camp Breakfasts:
2. Overnight Oats
3. Chia Pudding
4. Eggs and Bacon
5. Breakfast hash
Our morning breakfasts routine will vary based on what we have planned that day, if were hitting the trail we will opt for overnight oats and fruit, if were lazing about the campground we will serve a 5 course eggs and bacon spread – factor in what you’re doing that day while planning your meals.
Is it possible to cook real meals while camping? Absolutely! We don’t bring raw meat for the 6th day of a camp trip as our cooler temperature fluctuates throughout the day and we never want to chance getting us or the kids sick. But we will plan full cook meals for the first few days, if we camp in an RV with a fridge our options are endless!
5 Full cook Camp Meals:
1. Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
2. Shrimp, potatoes and Corn tinfoil packets
3. Chicken and Veggie skewers
4. Turkey Sloppy Joes with Caesar salad
5. Salisbury Steaks, potatoes and green beans
How to meal plan for a family camp trip:
We follow a template for each trip: you can find our meal plan template here.
When planning our meals out we always consider the outside factors:
• Are we driving that day
• Do we have a lot of activities planned
• Is this weather forecast friendly
We plan to eat our most perishable foods first then we simply plug the meals we want into the template, add the items needed to our grocery list, meal prep and freeze anything a week beforehand so when its time to go we can load the cooler and hit the list knowing we wont forget anything!
Okay so you’ve decided on your meals, you’ve written out the grocery list… now what?
How to Pack Food for a Family Camping Trip:
1. Pull what I already have on hand in my dry goods and load them into your food box.
2. Go to the store with your grocery list.
3. Head home and start cooking meals for reheating on the trip.
4. Load premade food into Ziploc bags or storage containers and put in the freezer.
5. On the morning of your trip precool the cooler with ice and frozen water bottles.
6. Add meals in reverse order you plan on eating them.
7. Add any fresh fruits and high moving items on last.
8. Fill remaining space with ice.
NOTE: lots of air space in your cooler will result in the cooler warming up too quickly resulting in spoiled food or ice melting too quickly. Fill dead space in cooler with ice, tea towels or frozen water bottles.
How to keep a cooler cool for multiple days?
• Only go into it when you need to
• Keep drinks in a separate cooler
• Keep the cooler as full as possible.
If you are going for one night you only need a small cooler, lots of air space allows room for the cooler to warm up too quick. Simply fill it with ice or even tea towels to eliminate dead space.
If you’re bringing drinks consider keeping them in a separate cooler from your food to eliminate the need of going in and out risking warming up your cooler.
RV Camping, Glamping and Backcountry Meal Plan for a Family:
Maybe you like to glamp or RV? No problem. If you have access to a fridge you can pretty much eat whatever you’d like staying within your fridge limits. We camp with our in-laws often and use their fridge to store all our highly perishable items like meat and fruits.
What to eat when backpacking or canoeing with kids?
Stick with dehydrated foods that you add hot water to. Bring nuts, hard cheese, jerky, dehydrated fruits, oatmeal, protein bars, canned fish or chicken, instant rice packets. Most grocery stores even carry a great selection of ready-made curry, korma and other meals you can simply heat up!
5 Backpacking meals for kids:
1. Canned tuna, instant rice and tortillas for Tuna wraps
2. Oatmeal with dehydrated fruits and peanut butter
3. Dehydrated mac and cheese
4. Hard cheese, salami, apples and nuts for charcuterie
When staying at a resort or Lodge often times meals will be included. If you are just getting into camping and completely overwhelmed by everything related to food you could look into this option!
To Finalize: How to Plan Camping Meals for a Family
Just know that no matter how you choose to get outside there is no right or wrong way to camp and there is no right or wrong way to feed your family. Take the above information and create a meal plan that works for you; don’t be afraid to mix many techniques. Trial and error is what got us here and is a great way to learn! Reach out if you have any questions.