Menu planning for a camping trip can be complicated. Menu planning for a camping trip with kids can be just plain scary! Between working around picky eaters, and cooking without a kitchen, camp cooking for kiddos can be a bit overwhelming to think about. Take a deep breath, though, with a little bit of preplanning, it’s really not as hard as it might seem!
The first thing to do when planning your meals for your camping trip is simplify. While at home, you might be used to making something new and different for each meal, for the sake of simplicity, you may find it easier to repeat some of the same meals multiple times on your camping trip. This could mean cereal every morning for breakfast, or sandwiches every day for lunch.
For our family, we enjoy big breakfasts and fun dinners while camping, so we compromise on lunch and have sandwiches every day. This helps keep things easy because it’s one less meal we have to plan and prep for when we’d rather be enjoying other camping activities, and it also saves space in the coolers/tents/car and it saves money; sandwiches are also easy to clean up after, and who wants to be doing dishes all day when there are so many other fun things to do out the wilderness!
When planning for the rest of your meals, you’ll want to think about some of your family’s favorite foods and decide whether it would be reasonable to cook them over a fire pit or on a grill. This can be tricky if you’ve got picky kids like I do. While some traditional kid-favorites, like pizza, aren’t very camp fire friendly, you might find that you can easily make some other well-loved foods, like mac & cheese, just as easily outdoors as you do in your own kitchen. You might want to leave the lasagna at home, but pasta can be made fairly easily on a camp stove. And then of course there are the camping classics that most kids love anyway – hot dogs, hamburgers, s’mores. You may also find that kids are more open to trying new things when they’re on a camping adventure. I took a chance on our last camping trip and made “hobo pockets” and was surprised that both of my picky eaters tried them without a fuss, and one even ate the whole serving! Of course this is also where it comes in handy to have those extra sandwich supplies on hand in case the kiddos decide trying new things is a bad idea.
Breakfasts are always a big deal on our camping trips. We always bring plenty of eggs, bacon and sausage and make pancakes, or biscuits and gravy, or cinnamon rolls (from a can is good enough). When you’re out in the great outdoors with kids, you’ve got to have plenty of energy to get through the day, so we make breakfast count.
It’s also important to plan for drinks and snacks. You’ll want to be sure to bring lots of water if safe drinking water isn’t available at your campground, and if your kids are used to drinking other beverages, you’ll want to bring some of those as well. And pack a good supply of healthy, energy-dense snacks. Kids burn a lot of energy playing outdoors and will need to refuel often.
The most important part of planning a camping menu for me is making sure I have the right cooking gear. Personally, I love well-seasoned cast iron for camping. It cooks quickly and beautifully, and cleans up easily. My favorite three pieces for camping are a skillet, a Dutch oven and a griddle. Between these three, I can keep my family happy and stuffed full of everything from pancakes to tacos to grilled cheese to dump cake.