8 Tips for Planning and Packing Camping Food

camping food

Howdy, campers! The summer camping season is finally here, and it’s time to get back to nature!

Camping is one of our favorite summer activities. It’s cheap, it’s fun, and it’s like taking a mini-vacation, without all of the hustle and bustle of touristy destinations. And, it gives us a chance to hang out as a family, without all sorts of fancy technology and gadgets in the way.

Not to mention, I love camping food! I don’t know why, but food cooked over hot the hot coals of the campfire just tastes better, especially after a long day of hiking, fishing, and other camping shenanigans.

So, campers, it’s time to pack your coolers, and get your camping food in order. And, we’ve got a few tips to help you do just that!

1. Plan ahead. Probably the best tip I can give anyone when it comes to camping food is to plan ahead. I really can’t stress this enough! You don’t want to be in the middle of a family camping trip and not know what to make, or—worse yet— run out of food.

Before you even think about packing that cooler, do a little meal planning. Figure out what you and your family will have for every meal of each day. Don’t forge to account for snacks, either. Whether you want to get all fancy with your camping food or just stick to the basics, having your meals all planned ahead of time makes things so much easier!

2. Keep it simple! Speaking of getting all fancy with your camping food—don’t. Just don’t. Blueberry pancakes from scratch and eggs Benedict may sound super tasty, but unless you’re a pro at cooking over a campfire, complicated meals like this can be a bit tricky to make when you’re in the great outdoors.

Camping is supposed to a fun and relaxing activity. That means you don’t want to be stressing about cooking and food when meal times rolls around. Just stick to easy to prepare foods and foods that just need to be heated, like hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, steaks, potatoes, stew, and oatmeal. You’ll thank me later.

3. Prepare what you can ahead of time. Take some time to get your camping food ready to go. When meal time rolls around and you have a bunch of hungry campers gnawing at the bit (or each other), you can just grab something and cook it.

Here are a few things you can do to prepare your camping food ahead of time:

  • Chop veggies
  • Marinate steaks
  • Form hamburger patties
  • Wrap potatoes in aluminum foil
  • Make foil packet meals
  • Put together sandwiches or subs
  • Prepare stew

4. Prepackage quick snacks. Remember when I told you to account for snacks? Yeah, you’ll definitely be needing some, especially if you’ll be taking kids camping with you! We like to package handfuls of dry snacks into resealable plastic bags to keep on hand in between meals. You can use just about anything that won’t spoil, including trail mix, pretzels, chips, and nuts.

5. Invest in decent coolers. You might be tempted to skimp on decent coolers for camping, but don’t! If you’ll be packing perishable camping food, those coolers may be the only thing standing between you and a nasty bout of camping food poisoning. And that’s no fun at all!

Shop around to get the best deals, but choose a cooler with good reviews from a trusted brand. It may seem like a hefty investment at first, but you should be able to use quality coolers for years.

6. Pack meat separately. If you can swing it, use two coolers—one for meat and one for other items. This keeps the meat and all of it’s foodborne illness causing nasties away from other items, like drinks and veggies.

If you just don’t have the room in your budget or your happy camper vehicle, at least be extra cautious when packing meat. Pack it in a smaller plastic bin filled with ice and place it in your main cooler, or double bag it in heavy duty resealable plastic bags.

7. Freeze everything beforehand. Frozen meat will obviously stay colder longer, which means it will also stay safer longer. Keep your hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, and prepped foods, like stew, frozen until you’re ready to pack your cooler and leave.

You can also freeze your drinks and place them in the cooler to help keep everything cold. We like to freeze gallon jugs of water to keep in the cooler. The larger blocks of ice take longer to melt and keep everything colder longer, and we have something to drink when it does melt.

8. Make your own single serve packets. Full bottles of ketchup and mustard, and jars of coffee and coffee creamer take up a lot of room on a camping trip. Instead of wasting precious room, make single serve packets of your camping food and drinks.

Just preportion your items into small containers or baggies. You can also make DIY condiment packets from clean leftover popsicle tubes and a straightening iron! Check out the YouTube tutorial here.

Do you have any other tips for planning or packing your camping food? Make sure you leave them in the comments below!