Camping is supposed to be a vacation, so why do so many people who go camping plan huge complicated meals? I like the KISS method of meal planning for camping- “Keep It Simple Stupid.” I will share a couple tips, and recipes that my family enjoys, and keeps me from having to slave in the kitchen (whether camp stove, cabin stovetop, barbecue, or fire pit). I try to keep the menu similar on every camping trip. This sounds monotonous, but I stick to meals the family loves, and certain meals that are associated with the camping experience.
I have a technique for packing the food and utensils. (I use a camping checklist to make sure I get all of the cooking utensils I need). Ipack one cooler for frozen foods (anything that can be frozen): meats, ice, cheese, bread, and one cooler for cold foods that cannot be frozen or are going to be eaten soon. I label the coolers, so that the one with frozen food is not opened too often. I like to pack dry goods and foods that do not need refrigeration in either double-bagged grocery bags or plastic crates with lids. The crates are preferred, as they will stack. I also label these for ease of finding what I need.
One of the family’s favorite meals is the breakfast-lunch combo. Because we stay up late every night, we usually sleep in. Well ok, the truth, we are usually up as soon as the sun hits our eyeballs. I fix a breakfast bagel. This recipe makes 4-6 breakfast bagels, depending on how large you make the sausage patties. This takes about 15 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to cook.
1-16oz. chub of sausage (I prefer spicy hot, but you can use regular or maple flavored.)
1-pkg.regular split bagels any flavor works
Cheese slices- any kind of cheese will work. My favorite is sharp cheddar or Swiss, and sometimes I like a slice of both
1- Hot sauce or ketchup
Make patties from sausage to fit the bagels. This can be done ahead of time at home and then freeze the patties: however, I usually make them as we are preparing at campsite. (To keep the sausage from sticking to your hands, you can rinse your hands in water between each patty formation.) Place the patties on the grill set on medium heat (you can use a frying pan, but the grilled flavor is what makes this so special. (Be prepared for fire flare-ups, due to grease from the sausage).Be sure patties are cooked thoroughly, place cheese on patty and put open face side of bagels on to brown. Assemble your bagel- place one sausage patty on the bagel, add ketchup or hot sauce and enjoy. Variation: add a fried egg to the sausage bagel.
Other tricks I use to take the work out of cooking are to prepare meals at home, portion them in plastic containers and freeze. This also helps to keep the frozen food cold longer. Be sure to remember to thaw prior to mealtime unless you have access to a microwave. These meals can be prepared in 20 minutes or less at the campsite:
- Spaghetti and meat sauce with French bread (optional). The meat sauce can be prepared ahead of time, and then reheated while the noodles cook. Spread butter and garlic on the French bread at home, re-bag and freeze. Even if this will not fit into the coolers, being frozen will help it arrive at your destination un-squashed and keep it fresh longer.
- Sloppy Joes. You make your sloppyJoes from scratch or add the sloppy Joe mix to your ground beef. Place in container and freeze.
- Tacos- Meat can be pre-cooked and frozen. This is a one-pan meal, so I usually just cook the meat when I am fixing dinner. Buy pre-shredded cheese and freeze it. You might try cabbage instead of lettuce. It tends to keep longer during the harsh temperature fluctuations of camping refrigeration. Be sure to include other toppings: diced tomatoes, onions, avocados, etc. to satisfy everyone’s taste.
- Chili- Make this at home and freeze. Can be served with sour cream and cheese garnish, and toasted bread or bread sticks. If you like, you could buy or make cornbread, which would be a welcome surprise to most of the campers.
- Cold Cuts- I like to visit the deli and get fresh thinly sliced meats. I usually get 2 lbs. each of turkey, pastrami, and roast beef. This satisfies everyone’s taste buds. Do not forget the spreads and garnishes. I like to use mild green chilies in place of lettuce. I buy the canned whole chilies, and split them. This adds a great flavor to the sandwich, and if snowmobiling, hunting, or skiing in colder weather, the chilis will not wilt and become soggy like lettuce will do.
Your campers will enjoy these meals. They will be full, and you will happy that you get to spend more time enjoying the camping instead of cooking.
Shanna Howell is a wife and mother who has taken her family to dozens of campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada. She still loves to take RV camping trips around the country, even though her children are now grown.
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