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CRAFT: Home Sweet Home

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Camping trips are a great way to vacation. They’re inexpensive, and you get to experience amazing natural settings with scenery, trails, and lots of wildlife. You needn’t sacrifice your nutrition or quality of food just because you’re camping, though. Sure, box macaroni and cheese makes a quick meal, but you should feel confident to cook delicious, nutritious meals for you and your family while camping. I grew up camping, and I looked forward to certain food traditions we had just as much as those from home. Here are some guidelines and tips for tasty meals around camp. If you have a favorite camping meal or some more advice, please post in the comments!

Camping Kitchen

Pack a mini kitchen in a milk crate or plastic tub. Keep food in a separate tub. Besides the usual camp stove and cookware (one pot and one pan can be sufficient), here are some ideas for things to pack:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Tongs
  • Wooden spoon
  • Sturdy plastic bowls
  • Eating utensils
  • Small container of dish soap
  • Thermal mugs
  • Dish towels (can double as pot holders)
  • Clothesline and clothespins
  • Food prep knife
  • Small salt shaker
  • Small pepper grinder (you can get a jar of peppercorns with a grinder right on top in the spice aisle)
  • 2 frequently used spices of your choice (we chose ancho chile and curry powder)
  • Cooking oil
  • Pureed garlic in a tube (at your specialty grocery)
  • Garbage, sandwich, and freezer bags, rubber-banded together
  • Paper grocery bags
  • Plastic cutting board
  • Colander (doubles as salad bowl)

Store your “kitchen” as well as all of your food inside the car when you’re not using it, especially if you’re camping in bear country. Chipmunks can chew through pretty much anything, and they can smell a lot better than we can.

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Hot Water Means Breakfast

For a simple breakfast, just boil a pot of water. You can then make oatmeal, grits, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, hard-boiled eggs, Ramen noodles, etc. Cut up some fresh fruit as a simple side or cereal topper.

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Coffee

If you’re like me, it’s hard to function in the morning without a nice cup of coffee. Camp mornings can be tough, and a gnarly cup of dried-out canned coffee is the last thing you need. You don’t need one of those specialized camping coffee percolators, just bring your French press from home. Pre-grind some of your favorite beans, and remember you’re on vacation, so treat yourself to the nice stuff!

Keep your coffee inside a zip-top bag inside a plastic food container to keep as much air away from the grinds as possible, and it will stay fresh your whole trip. If you like your coffee sweet, there’s no need to pack an extra container of sugar, just plop a marshmallow in your thermal mug (or nab sugar packets from the rest stop on your way).

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Durable, Compact, and Easy to Cook

These should be your guidelines when considering what food to bring on your trip. Potatoes, corn on the cob, pasta with jarred or dehydrated sauce, and sturdy green veggies like green beans, brussels sprouts, and asparagus can ensure success in the camping kitchen. Avoid recipes with long cooking times, too many ingredients, or high splatter potential and stick to the basics: good quality ingredients prepared simply with oil, salt, and pepper. I like to bring along vacuum-packed faux meats, as they are easy to prepare, compact, and the package is watertight. There’s also little risk of spoilage if the cooler gets too warm. Bring pasta in bags, not boxes. That way the package will get smaller as you use it, whereas a box takes up the same amount of space even when almost empty.

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is head of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


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Comments

  1. Maggie R says:

    We have pretty much the same camping kitchen tools. We decided after our last trip though that we would be keeping everything in an Enclosed Tub. We had way too many squirrels climbing all over everything that week (even all over the clean pots and dishes in our box) and we were always washing everything before using it!

  2. Sara L. says:

    Whoa, seeing that first picture brought back memories of every vacation we ever went on when I was a kid. We always knew it was about time to go when mom started packing up the milk crates with the kitchen supplies. They would stay in the back of the minivan as a kind of pantry, so they could get closed in at night with little hassle, and no problems with the animals.

  3. E L says:

    I’ve found that my wok is the only cooking pot I need. It’s light-weight, heats up quickly over a campfire, and is easy to clean (it’s seasoned much like cast iron). My spice kit is an old Altoid’s tin (I’ll take along spice mixes tailored to what I’m planning to cook). A towel, a ‘scrubber’, and a big metal spoon… and I’m ready to cook just about anything.

  4. Erin says:

    I make diced chicken packets in heavy duty aluminum foil. I add whatever is available like frozen corn, peas, potatoes, green beans, and onions, and then top them with Italian dressing and salt and pepper. They are delicious! You can prep the veggies at home and pre-pack them in baggies. Let everyone pack their own packets with their favorite veggies.

  5. Melissa says:

    These are super yum, cheap, and filling, and I always cook them when I go camping. You fix them ahead of time, seal them in some plastic bags (to keep out the cooler water – learned that the hard way!), and throw them in the cooler.
    Bryan sausage (the two long weenies)
    bag of red potatoes
    head of cabbage
    4 or 5 carrots
    Montreal Chicken grill mates seasoning.
    Foil
    Just wash the veggies, cut everything up and throw it in the foil sprinkled with seasoning. Toss it directly on the campfire for about 30 minutes. These are also great on the grill or in the oven!
    My husband used to have “silver turtles” in his boy scout days – same concept with the foil pouch, just with a hamburger patty, a cut up potato, a carrot, and and onion. But I like to have something green with my meal, so I’d have to throw some green beans in there or something. Google “grill pouch recipes” and you’ll find a ton.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Make sure the dish soap is sulfate/sulfite-free, as not to damage streams and rivers. When you finish washing your dishes, throw the water all around instead of dumping it all in one spot, which lessens the damage to the environment.
    My camping tip is to bring a folding chair with a circle cut out of the seat to use as a potty. Dig a hole underneath and make sure to bury your “leavings” far away from camp areas and water sources.

  7. Dan Bishop says:

    I wouldn’t recommend putting food in your car if there is a significant threat of bears in the area. Bears have learned that by tearing into your car, there can be food to be found. Some bears have even learned how to retrieve bear bags from trees. The best thing you can do is not have unsealed food or dirty dishes in your campsite. Be safe and have fun!

  8. shelly kane says:

    Nice and so interesting article. I really like it. I make diced chicken packets in heavy duty aluminum foil. I add whatever is available like frozen corn, peas, potatoes, green beans, and onions, and then top them with Italian dressing and salt and pepper. They are delicious! You can prep the veggies at home and pre-pack them in baggies…

  9. Dan says:

    I always thought that camping is the time to starve. It’s a shame but I cannot cook without everything I need so I deprive myself and my family for a delicious meal. We stick more on ready to eat foods like fruits, bread, crackers, cereals and more canned goods anyway it’s just for a short period of time. Can you give me more ideas so that we can also enjoy such a delightful meal?

  10. Freda says:

    Camping on a motorcycle (without a trailer) means everything has to serve more than one purpose. You also need to shop daily if you’re camping more than a couple of days. First night out is our “big” meal. Frozen Cornish hens provide the “cool” for the cooler (6 pack size) and they need to be prewrapped and seasoned in your foil cooking packet and placed in a freezer bag. The foil is your cooking utensil and your plate. Then, a couple of the TINY bottles of wine, Premade salads in freezer bags that will become your bowls, and a couple of fresh tiny baguettes stashed somewhere warm and dry. A large potato to serve 2 can be smuggled somewhere, too. My husband thinks we could cook one on the engine… As long as you can have a campfire to bury your chicks and your potatoes (and providing your first site to camp is close enough that the chicken has JUST thawed) you will have a gourmet meal which will have all your camping buddies eating hot dogs green with envy!

    1. Freda says:

      Forgot to mention that the large freezer bag becomes your sink for the weekend! If water is abundant at your campsite, you can splurge and use the cooler for your sink, and your bathtub, and a storage unit, and a backrest, or maybe as a cooler!