Camping Food: Preparing, Transporting & Storing Food for A Long Weekend

April 24, 2014

It’s like having a picnic at every meal!  Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned how to transport, store and cook food for camping (and I’m still learning).  For a fun long weekend away, I’m detailing below the type of food I often buy and how I keep it.  

At home, I try and keep packaged, processed food to a minimum (and we eat a lot less treats) but for camping, packaged food is really helpful.  That said, I do look for more ways (like making my own pancakes instead of using the shake and pour bottles) to minimise this. Any tips welcome!  

Products

Portable fridge/freezers are fantastic but we don’t own one so I use three main things to keep food when camping:

  1. Ice Box
  2. Esky
  3. Camp Pantry/Camp Cupboard  (a small fold up one you can get from camping stores, like this one)
    Plus a washing basket to transport extra food

Food all packed ready to go

Transporting & storing camping food

Planning it out and breaking it up

I plan it out in three steps:

  1. Menu plan – decide on what meals we will have and make a list of food items needed
  2. Shop
  3. Sort Pantry vs Cold Food – Break food items needed into two categories: pantry food & cold food

Pantry Food

Camping food - pantry food

Shopping List

  • Corn Chips, Can Diced Tomatoes, Can Corn, Can Baked Beans, Taco Seasoning  (for nachos)
  • Bread
  • Wraps
  • English Muffins
  • Juice Poppers
  • Hot dog buns
  • Tin Tuna
  • 2 Min noodles
  • Easy snacks
  • Marshmallows
  • Damper ingredients (+ golden syrup)
  • Pancake ingredients (+ maple syrup)
  • Fresh fruit (seasonal)
  • Fresh salad ingredients
  • Box cereal
  • Packet dry pasta

Packing Camping Food

Packing Camping Food

Transporting the food

I put as much as I can in the Esky and then the rest in a washing basket. I find that the washing basket keeps things organised and can be loaded in the car allowing easy access to food while traveling if the campsite is a distance away; I reorganise the food once I get set up at the campsite.

In the Esky

At the campsite, I use a heap of freezer blocks (rather than ice) and store the butter, fruit, salad & eggs. Basically the ingredients that are best kept cool but don’t spoil easily (like meat).

In the Camp Cupboard

All non-perishable food and bread.

Fresh Food

I tend to pre-prepare most of the fresh food (washing it, cutting it up where necessary) to make things easy.  The Sistema compartment containers are fantastic for this type of thing. 

I washed and dried grapes before putting into the container so they are ready to eat.  
Same with the salad ingredients. This makes it easy to build sandwiches and wraps.

Fresh Food - camping

Tips

  • Don’t put bananas in an Esky with other food or everything will smell and taste like banana.
  • Bring a few extra empty containers to store food when opened
  • Bread tends to get stale quickly, so either buy fresh every day (if you have access to shops) or plan your fresh bread meal on the first camping day.

Cold Food

Camping - Cold Food

Shopping List

  • Mince (for nachos)
  • Hot dog sausages
  • Grated cheese (for nachos)
  • Sour cream (for nachos)
  • Whip cream (for pancakes)
  • Milk
  • Yoghurt in tubs
  • Eggs
  • Brie cheese (a treat my husband and I like after we put the kids to bed)
  • Sliced cheese (for sandwiches/wraps/snack)
  • Salami sticks
  • Ham (for sandwiches/wraps)
  • Bacon (breakfast)
  • Ice (usually buy ice at our destination)

Transporting the food

All the cold food goes into the Ice Box with (about 5 or 6) ice bricks from home. When I get to the campsite, I buy ice for the Ice Box and move the ice bricks to the Esky to keep other items cold (see pantry food above).

Storing the food

Drain water off every now and again and keep topping up with ice. This keeps food fresh and drinks cold. 

Butter & Cheese

I keep a block of butter & grated cheese in their own Sistema containers.  This protects them in the Esky/Ice box and makes it easy to access. Placing a block of butter in a container works better than the tub (you buy it in) because sometimes the lid can crack or fall off as it’s jiggled around in the Esky.

With grated cheese, a packet is fine if it’s sealed, but once open, it can get tricky.  That is why I transfer the contents of the packet to a container to transport and use.  Works a treat for placing in the middle of the table for people to help themselves at meal times.

Butter in a container for sandwich spreads and cooking

Camping Tip: Keep a block of butter in a clear plastic container.  This protects it in the ice box and the container is sturdy so won't crack

Tips

  • Think water; anything cardboard will go soggy, get wrecked and spread itself throughout the icebox…so either put items in a plastic container or buy items (like yoghurt in plastic tubs – and remove cardboard outer package) that are sealed and relatively water-proof.  
  • For eggs, you can purchased a plastic egg carton container from camping shops to store eggs (there’s nothing quite so bad as a cracked egg throughout an ice box).
  • If you are only storing drinks in an esky or an ice box for an afternoon, and you want drinks to get cold very quickly, add water to the ice so it’s all sloshy and drinks will be cold in under 10 minutes. 
  • Depending on what sort of meat I have and how it is packaged, I sometimes transfer the meat to containers prior to packing.  The mince I purchased this time, was vacuumed sealed and so I left it the way it was.  For ham and the hot dogs, it’s best for them to go into plastic containers so it’s easy to stack in the ice box and so they don’t get wet and soggy.
  • Portioned sized canned or bottled drinks are ideal for camping.

Re-organising at Campsite

Once I’m at the campsite, I reorganise food slightly in my three main food areas as follows:

1. Ice Box

  • Ice
  • Meat
  • Drinks
  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Sour cream
  • Yoghurt

2. Esky

  • Ice bricks (used in the Ice Box for transporting cold food)
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Fruit
  • Salad

3. Camp Cupboard

  • All non-preshisble items, snacks & bread

Meal Menu

With this shopping list, below are the options I have for meals. Sometimes we eat dinner at lunch time when we camp.

Possible Breakfasts

Bacon & Egg Muffin

Pancakes

Cereal

Bacon & Eggs

Toast

Possible Lunches

Wraps

Sandwiches

2 minute noodles

Hot Dogs

Possible Dinners

Wraps

Hot Dogs

Nachos

Spag Bog

Bacon & Egg Muffin

The good thing about this breakfast is you don’t really need a plate! Just slap it all together and enjoy.

Ingredients

Bacon

Egg

Spinach (optional)

Mustard/BBQ Sauce/Tomato Sauce

Bacon & Egg muffin for breakfast

Bacon & Egg Muffin

Family Favourite Camping Dinner Meals

  • Hot Dogs
  • Spag Bog
  • Nachos
  • BBQ
  • Wraps
  • Fish & Chips
  • Loaded spuds
  • Burgers

Condiments

camping - food and cooking staples

I keep all condiments with our camping gear so it’s already packed in its own container. You can find more about our gear here: Packing for Camping.

Shopping List

  • Jam
  • Sauce
  • Mustard
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Vegemite
  • Peanut Butter
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Foil
  • Oil

Tips

  • Most of these items are non-perishables.  For perishable items, I put them in the fridge and pull them out or replace the next time we camp.
  • It’s great to have this in a separate small box so it can be pulled out in one go when it comes to eating and cooking.
  • I find spray oil better because the spill factor is very low.

Damper

I made delicious damper on an open fire at our last camping trip and I’ll share the recipe soon. So good!

Damper with lashings of butter and golden syrup

damper

If you have any tips to share, please do so in the comments. Also check out the great tips on the Be A Fun Mum Community Facebook Page

More

Packing: Our Camping Gear

Camping One-Pot Nachos

Travel Dice Game

Pre-prepaed pancakes

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kylie @ Octavia and VickyNo Gravatar April 26, 2014 at 8:08 pm

I’m NOT a camper, not a proper camper anyway, and I’m in awe of people that do it. This is a great resource, I’ll be sure to come back and use it if and when I ever join the fun. Never say never!

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ReneeNo Gravatar May 1, 2014 at 9:54 am

I’ve found to save ALOT of cash on ice (which can end up really expensive), I freeze spring water bottles & also one of those large Spring water dispensers that you get from the supermarket (about 11 litres). I have a big deep freezer & pop these into the bottom of the freezer a month out so they are really solid. The large water dispenser (must be plastic) will normally keep the esky cool for up to 7 days depending on how hot the weather is & how frequently the esky is opened…… Best of all you can drink it!

Best tip I’ve ever received for saving on ice purchases.

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