Sample Menu Plan for Camping
One of the most important components of a successful camping experience is a well-planned menu, which should lead to delicious food! (If you’re curious as to our Top Ten list of must-have items for camping, check out this YouTube video or this blog post).
A common theme in our Top Ten List of Essential Camping Items was that camping does not need to be difficult - don’t overthink it! And the menu is no different. However, just putting a little bit of thought and planning into the menu can save you a lot of time and frustration later at camp.
Before we get into the menu, I wanted to go over a few tips to keep in mind when planning and then executing your menu.
- Do as much prep as possible at home! If the recipes that you choose require veggies to be cut up, ingredients to be measured out, etc, you’ll want to do as much of this as possible while you still have the convenience of your kitchen! When Jake and I go camping, we prep the veggies, measure out ingredients, pack them up in some Pyrex’s and throw them into the cooler or dry food storage tote for our trip.
- Remember that you are bringing a cooler, not a refrigerator. Some items, such as a cardboard carton of eggs, can become soggy in a cooler due to the melting ice. Still definitely take eggs, but maybe repackage them into a different container and be careful that you don’t have multiple items wrapped in plastic wrap or cardboard that the water could soak through to your food.
- Bring storage totes to keep your dry, non-refrigerated food organized. Plastic totes work well for storing and transporting all of these types of food, such as your bread, spices, etc. If the tote is big enough, you can also throw your cookware in there, too. This is what Jake and I used all summer while we lived at the campground. We kept our food and cookware in a couple of different totes. It makes it easy to put all of your food together in one place to throw back in the car before nighttime.
- Some campgrounds, such as PRPC, supply adjustable grates over the firepits that you can use to cook your food. Some campgrounds, however, may not supply these grates. You'll want to check ahead of time, and plan accordingly. Some of the recipes we are supplying below will be made easier with a grate - feel free to bring your own if it is not supplied.
- Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to cook your meals at camp. If you are cooking over the open campfire, you’ll want to plan on it taking longer than what you are used to. Fires sometimes take a while to heat up, and you can’t control the flame like you can on a gas grill or stovetop. But don’t stress about this! Simply plan on it taking longer, and cherish the time with the ones you love around the fire.
Now, onto that sample menu! I decided to put together a sample menu for a long weekend - a three night camping trip. For the sake of making the menu easy to read, we’ll say that the camping trip starts on Thursday late afternoon/evening and you leave on Sunday morning.
Sample menu (again, this doesn’t have to be hard!)
Thursday night: Burgers & S’mores
Kick off your camping trip with this classic combo! This meal is simple & quick, with the anticipation that you may not be arriving to the campground until later in the day and you will have to set up your tent and arrange the rest of your camping supplies. So, to make this meal go sooo smoothly Thursday night, have the burgers already pre-packed into patties, that way you can just throw them over the fire when the fire is ready. Speaking of having the fire ready, depending on what time you arrive at camp you may want to start the fire immediately, before you set up your tent. This way, the fire has a chance to create some nice coals before you start cooking over it. Have the condiments in the cooler, and the buns and s’more supplies in the plastic dry food tote. (FYI, while marshmallow roasting sticks are nice, they are for sure not necessary. Usually, we just end up grabbing a stick, sharpening it to a point with a knife, and sticking it in the fire to sanitize it!).
Friday Breakfast: An egg, sausage, potato, cheese scramble
We love throwing together a scramble (with no real recipe) because it can be made in ONE pan. Ideally, you’ll throw it in a cast iron pan to cook it all up, and clean-up is a breeze. Cover the pan with aluminum foil for part of the cooking time to make the potatoes cook faster. To make breakfast an even speedier affair, we suggest having the potatoes cut up prior to arriving at camp.
Friday Lunch: Something portable, in case you are away from camp adventuring!
Pre-made wraps or sandwiches are always an easy option. Throw in some granola and some nuts for snacks, and you got yourself lunch!
Friday night: Mexican night over the campfire
Appetizer: Nachos made in a cast iron pan. Simply layer the tortilla chips on the bottom of the cast iron pan and layer the toppings of your choice over them. Repeat those steps one more time, so you have a nice and full, double-stacked pan of nachos. Cover with aluminum foil, and put it over the fire until the cheese is melted! Make sure you are not placing the skillet over the hottest part of the fire - you do not want the chips on the bottom to burn.
Main course: Southwest Chicken Skillet. Find the recipe here.
Dessert: Campfire Candy Bar Churro Burritos. Find the recipe here.
Saturday breakfast: Pancakes and sausage links.
At first, making pancakes while camping may seem like a messy business. However, the secret is to pre-mix the majority of the batter while at home. Stir up all of your dry ingredients, put in a covered bowl, and bring in your dry food storage tote. That way, you just have to measure out and mix up your wet ingredients at camp. It makes it much simpler than bringing each individual ingredient on your trip! Our go-to pancake recipe can be found here. Sometimes we make it gluten-free, sometimes we just use regular flour.
Saturday lunch: Hot Ham (or Turkey) & Cheese Sandwiches
Just in case your camping adventure has you at camp on Saturday afternoon, these sandwiches make a quick, tasty lunch. Simply place some slices of ham and your favorite cheese on two pieces of bread. Butter the outside of the sandwiches, wrap them in aluminum foil, and throw them over the hot coals, or on the grate over the campfire. If you want your food to avoid direct contact with the aluminum foil because of health reasons, simply wrap your sandwiches in parchment paper first, and then cover everything with foil.
Saturday night dinner: Ribs + Sweet Corn
We saved an easy recipe for tonight’s dinner, but oh, such a classic! Briefly soak your unshucked ears of corn in water, then wrap the ears individually in tinfoil. You can either place the wrapped corn on the grill, or along the edges of the fire, turning every few minutes. Every fire is different so we haven’t established any cooking times, just peel back some of the husk and see if it is cooked! As for the ribs, we prefer using just dry seasoning as opposed to sauce, but use whichever is your favorite. We like to cook ours over low heat, so you will want to start cooking them earlier rather than later. Our preference is to pull the ribs off of the heat when the meat starts to recede up either end of the bone. This makes for a dry, rather than a slimy, rib. But again, you cook it to your likening.
If you happen to have any s’more ingredients leftover tonight, you might as well use them up on your last night of camping! Try some variations for s’mores: spreading some peanut butter or Nutella on your graham cracker, using a Reese’s cup instead of a chocolate bar - get creative!
Sunday Breakfast: Overnight Oats
Some campers are in a bit of a time crunch Sunday morning and want to avoid starting a fire to cook dinner over. Taking down the tent and packing away all of the supplies in a somewhat orderly fashion can take time. If that’s you, one of Jake and I’s favorite to-go meals to prepare at home and throw in the cooler is overnight oats. There are LOTS of recipes out there for overnight oats! What we like to do is put a scoop of clean, whey protein powder in a bowl, and stir in some quick cooking oats, coconut milk, chia seeds and frozen blueberries. We love prepping overnight oats before we leave for our trip because they are good for about 5 days after you make them if you keep them in your cooler. If you watch our Grand Island YouTube video, we took overnight oats along with us there. They make for a quick snack or meal when you are in a hurry.
Planning the menu is one of my favorite parts of planning the camping trip, and eating good food is one of our favorite parts about camping! I hope you found this post informative, as well as encouraging. Remember, camping is only as intimidating as you make it!
Have a ball out there!