As we planned last spring for our three week Wild West adventure, developing an easy and simple meal plan was particularly important to me. We knew we were going to have many days of long travel and many more days of fun exploring and touring our amazing country. So I didn’t want to have to fuss with making complicated meals after long days, and I certainly didn’t want to be stuck in the tiny camper kitchen when there were so many exciting things to see.
And let’s not forget that space is limited in a camper. Although we stocked our cupboard with necessary pantry items, we had to plan carefully so that we had enough room for everything. We knew there would be times on our trip when we wouldn’t have easy access to grocery stores, so we also had to plan ahead and make sure we had what we needed for meals until the next grocery trip. Thus, my mission for this trip was to develop a “keep-it-simple” camping meal plan.
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Although this post is about meal-planning while camping, the concepts would also work well for day-to-day living if you are looking for ways to simplify. I typically find the weekly meal-planning to be mentally exhausting–What should we eat? What do we have in the pantry? What would be a good meal for this busy day?–so after seeing how well this “keep-it-simple” approach worked on our trip, I am moving toward embracing this system for our day-to-day living as well. I will just have to find ways to keep enough variety or else my taste buds are inclined to get bored. 🙂
Here are my tips for easy meal planning for camping:
- Rotate your menu: By eating the same things every week or every 10 days, you will cut down on the number of different spices and staples you have to keep in your camper cupboards. This method also helps use up any remnants in your pantry, like that little bit of pasta still left in the box or that hunk of cheese you had leftover.
- Pick recipes that have corresponding ingredients: The more recipes that use the same things, the fewer items you have to keep in your camper.
- Stick to simple recipes: I have some go-to recipes at home that aren’t hard to make, but many of them have a lot of cut-up preparation or a long list of ingredients, particularly spices. Other recipes require you to boil a pot of pasta or rice while you are cooking the rest of the meal in another skillet–and given how small the camper stovetop is, this can sometimes get complicated to accomplish. So for camping trips I prefer recipes that call for fewer ingredients and fewer steps, as well as ingredients like frozen or canned pre-cut veggies that require no preparation. One pot pasta meals are great for easy camper meals.
- Prep ahead of time: Before we leave on the trip, I will often cut up raw meat (like chicken) into the pieces or cuts that I need for recipes. On our West trip, we had two nights that we ate hamburgers. Rather than having to bring all the spices and bread crumbs, we prepped the hamburger meat and shaped all the patties then froze them between wax paper in freezer bags. We also did this with chicken by combining trimmed chicken breasts with our favorite marinade in freezer bags and then freezing them flat to save room in the small camper freezer.
- Buy smaller packages: Although it is not the most cost effective way to buy food, sometimes saving space in a camper is more important. So I picked up small bottles of ingredients like olive oil and balsamic vinegar–it was enough to cover all of our recipes, but so much easier to keep in the pantry cupboard.
- On days you are going to be exploring or touring, plan to have meals that can be quickly prepared when you get back to your campsite, or even better, choose meals that can be cooking in a crockpot all day. We have a crockpot that has a timer function that switches from “cook” to “warm” after the programmed cooking time has finished. So even if we are gone for longer than seven hours, I don’t have to worry that my roast is going to burn. I also heeded the advice of a friend who recommended getting the crockpot liners for the camper–the liners made it so much easier to clean up!
To help you get organized for your trip, be sure to see this post on how you can get a free printable planning pack. And one final camping meal-planning tip: Always have a back-up, super simple meal for a day things don’t go as planned or the weather rains out your campfire dinner plans. For us, this means keeping a box of pasta, jar of sauce, and a bag of frozen veggies on hand.
For more camping recipe inspiration, you can find ideas for simple meals over on our Pinterest board, Simple Camping Meals.