Summer is here! I’ve been waiting for it all year. Camping is one of my all-time favourite summer activities. Whether you’re a glamper, a rustic camper, or even a cottager, these food hacks will save you time, or simply open your world to new and delicious culinary delights!
There are so many delicious foods we enjoy mostly in the warmer months. Who doesn’t love a smore by the campfire, a smokie at a barbecue, or ice cream on a hot beach day? Is it possible to maintain a healthy balance AND make the most of this time of year?
Yes, of course! There’s no reason you can’t maintain a healthy balance, and still have plenty of time to soak up the sun, go hiking, boating, and swimming with the kids. You don’t even have to give up those summer favourites! It’s all about moderation. The key is to keep it simple, plan ahead, and enjoy the beautiful fresh summer produce.
These camping food hacks will help you save time, keep you sane, and feel your best!
1. Start by planning your meals.
Try to include at least one vegetable or fruit at each meal. Remember veggies and fruit also make a quick, and easy snack, plus they taste so fresh in the summer!
Keep most meals simple. Our breakfasts usually consists of a combination of cereal, toast, peanut butter, nuts, fruit, and yogurt. Then we save the more elaborate 'brunch-type' meals like ham or bacon and eggs, pancakes, French toast, etc. for lunchtime.
If you're a regular camper or cottager, consider keeping a 'camping notebook' where you can jot down your meal plans, and any other camping related notes you may need. It's nice to have it all in one place, and you can look back at your menus to get ideas for future trips.
Once you have your meals planned out, make a grocery list. By planning ahead, you will be sure to have everything you need…unless you’re like me, and forget at least one critical thing every time!
Are you planning for a camping trip this coming long weekend?
Give this long-weekend menu a try:
DINNER: pre-make wraps or sandwiches and serve with veggies and hummus so when you arrive, you don’t have to cook
BREAKFAST: keep it simple - cereal, toast, fruit, yogurt, etc.
LUNCH: quesadillas (with cheese, veggies and black beans), serve with salsa and fruit on the side
DINNER: tin foil pack fish, shrimp or sausage, and veggies, served over rice with a salad kit in a bag
BREAKFAST: keep it simple
LUNCH: cheese, sausage, crackers, veggies, dip, and fresh fruit (great for a beach day!)
DINNER: tortellini with tomato sauce, sprinkled with shredded cheese, bread or buns, and some raw veggies or a salad
Breakfast: keep it simple
Lunch/Brunch: breakfast sandwiches - eggs, bacon or ham, fresh tomato and avocado slices, on English muffins, with fruit and yogurt
2. Don't be afraid to use some healthy 'shortcuts' to keep things simple. My favourites are:
pre-washed and chopped lettuce
salad kits in a bag
mini carrots, and snap peas
jars of tomato sauce
fresh tortellini or ravioli
pancake mix (see below for tips to add extra nutrition)
leftovers from my freezer, like pizza, spaghetti sauce, or chilli
3. Think about the things you can prepare ahead of time. It’s always easier to prepare food with the conveniences of home.
Here’s a list of the things I prepare before my camping trips:
Wash, and chop veggies, and fruit – consider the length of your trip, some will spoil faster if washed and chopped. I always cut carrot sticks, enough peppers for the first couple days, fresh pineapple, and I wash apples, avocado, peaches and celery. Do not pre-wash your herbs, or they will spoil very quickly.
Cook bacon and crack eggs – everyone loves to have bacon and eggs when camping, but it’s so much mess to clean up. I’ve learned that if I pre-cook my bacon at home, then just warm up when we’re ready to eat, it saves me a ton of time and hassle. To save even more hassle, you can pre-crack, and mix your eggs in a jar, or bottle, and they’ll be ready to go! You'll have scrambled eggs in no time.
Pancakes are usually on the menu when we go camping. If I’m using a pancake mix, I usually add some ‘extras’ like wheat bran and germ, oats, hemp hearts, and ground flax seeds to bump up nutrition. Did you know you can mix your batter ahead of time? If you plan to eat them in 1-2 days, you could mix the wet and dry ingredients at home. Put it into a sealable plastic bag, and simply cut the corner off when you’re ready to make them. Alternatively, you can keep dry ingredients in a large container with a lid, and in a separate jar, mix the wet ingredients. When it’s time to make pancakes, simply pour the wet into the dry, and mix. To make it even easier, (if you have electricity), you could bring a waffle maker, and clean up will be a breeze!
Depending on how quick you plan to eat it, you can pre-cook pasta or rice. I wouldn’t want to leave it for more than 2-3 days. This could save you a lot of time, and clean-up.
Finally, I always make salad dressings, sauces, and dips ahead of time; like yogurt dip, bean dips, and meat or veggie marinades. Mason jars are my friend! I usually have a ton of them labelled with different concoctions in my cooler (or fridge!).
4. Try foil pack meals to cut down on dishes. You can either cook them on a small barbecue or directly on the fire. Try these ideas to start:
Chicken breasts, black beans, peppers, onion, and corn, with salsa and chili powder. Serve over rice or with tortillas
Sausage, peppers, onion, garlic, and thinly sliced potatoes
Shrimp tacos – shrimp, peppers, onion, corn with taco seasoning. Serve on a tortilla with all the fixings.
Fish with fennel, green beans, tomatoes, lemon and dill. Serve with rice, quinoa, or pasta
Bean & veggie burritos (see my recipe for Bean and Veggie Baked Burritos in my Free Family Meal Guide)
Sweet potatoes cut in half with green onion, shredded cheese, and bacon or ham. Serve with plain yogurt of sour cream
5. One-pot, or one-pan meals are perfect for camping. I love any meal I can make in one cooking vessel. Cast iron is the best when cooking directly on a fire. Give these a try:
Mix rice, a can of rinsed beans, veggies and enough broth or water to cook rice, top with chicken, pork or fish. Sprinkle with seasoning. Cover with lid and cook on low heat until the rice is cooked through.
Boil tortellini or ravioli. Remove from the pan. Heat a jar of tomato sauce in the same pot then mix pasta back in. Heat through. Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy!
Heat a jar of butter chicken or curry sauce in a pot. Mix in a rinsed can of chickpeas and some chopped veggies (whatever you happen to have). Heat through and serve over your pre-cooked rice!
Fry some ground turkey or beef in a cast iron frying pan with taco spices. Remove from pan. Assemble ingredients for nachos in the same pan. Return to low heat to melt the cheese.
If you really want to make things easy, bring your slow cooker (if you have electricity). There’s hardly any work when your veggies are already prepped. All your fellow campers will be jealous…trust me!
6. Look for salad recipes that can be made ahead, and last a few days in your cooler or fridge (usually not lettuce-based salads).
Pasta salads, coleslaw salads, and bean or lentil salads can usually survive in a cooler or fridge for a couple days, and still taste good. Try my Quinoa Chickpea Salad Bowl with Fresh Basil, Avocado & Feta (leave the avocado out until you are ready to eat). Salads that include vegetables, a protein source and a whole grain are great on their own for lunch, or with a piece of grilled meat or fish for dinner.
Watch for more summer side salad recipes coming in July - reallifenutrition.ca.
7. There are so many interesting desserts that are fun to make when camping. Let’s think beyond s’mores...but don't give them up completely! Here are some of my favourite camping dessert ideas, that also just happen to incorporate some healthy ingredients:
Grilled fresh pineapple spears with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.
Banana boats – cut a banana lengthwise (in the peel), sprinkle in some mini marshmallows, and chocolate chips, wrap in tin foil, and heat on the fire.
Baked apples – core an apple, and fill with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, oats, raisins, and walnuts. Wrap individually in tin foil or place several apples in a cast iron pan, cover with tin foil, and heat on the fire or barbecue until apples are soft.
Fruit crumble baked in a cast iron pan.
8. Cooler or camper fridge space comes at a premium. There never seems to be enough!
You can save some space by transferring some of your larger condiments, and spices into smaller containers. I like to use different sized mason jars, and small spice jars from the dollar store. This will keep things organized and save space.
Ok…I’ll be honest, we obviously do more ‘glamping’ than real camping! Who brings a waffle maker and crock-pot camping?! Whether you’re a ‘glamper’ like me, a cottager, or more of a rustic camper, these hacks will definitely make your time at the lake more enjoyable, and help you to make the most of our short summer.
Remember to plan and prep ahead, keep your meals simple, enjoy some fresh summer produce, and have fun trying new things. I don't know about you, but I would rather be hiking, building sandcastles on the beach, swimming, or playing catch with my kids, than making elaborate meals. These hacks help me stay sane, maximize my time, and keep me and my family feeling our best! I hope they'll help you too 😊
Happy Camping 🏕
Janine LaForte, RD
Real Life Nutrition