We all went camping last summer for the first time as a group. It was also super fun, but we weren’t as organized as we could have been. We drove an Explorer and still barely fit everything for 4 people into it–and we didn’t have a dog. This year, determined to plan ahead and have room for Sadie in our Impreza hatchback, I formulated meals that would be cheap, easy, and not take up a ton of space. The biggest mistake we made last summer was buying stuff that needed to be refrigerated. We ended up with two ice chests and a whole lot of soggy food. AND we still went to the grocery store every day.
This year we were more organized and successfully packed (like, REALLY packed) into our little Subie with the dog. But, there was literally no spare room in the car, and Pete and Betsy had to leave their camp chairs at home. (Sorry guys.) And, we still went to the grocery store every day! Once, three times in one day. I think Betsy and I just really like grocery shopping. Plus, it’s something to do while the boys nerd out about stuff on their iPads or something.
So, for next time, while I might still bring a few things like TVP and homemade pancake mix that I can’t get in small enough quantities at the store, as well as a little bit of oil and stuff to make coffee, I think I’ll also try to embrace the fact that I am a car camper, not a real camper–but I mean really, what does that even mean? the beauty of camping is making it yours, and connecting with the outdoors in a way that is meaningful to you–and part of the fun for me is going to the grocery store. (Come to think of it, going to the grocery store has been one of if not the most enjoyable experiences in every place I’ve traveled to: Mexico, Costa Rica, England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Wales, and random places in the US… I guess just really, really, REALLY love grocery shopping.)
Back to the recipes. I would highly recommend all of these to anybody who wants to bring food stuff camping (no fridge required!). Depending on where you’re going, consider buying produce when you get there, at a store, stand or farmer’s market. And mix things up a bit to suit your taste. For the foil packet stew: experiment with local produce since there’s so much of it around here in the PNW! And if you can’t find any, grab some potatoes and either frozen or canned veggies. Not into TVP? No worries. Just do beans and rice and add the taco seasoning to them. Use any kind of berries or other fruit for that matter instead of the blueberries in the pancakes. Or just put your fruit on top. Or honey, or peanut butter, or whatever! It’s camping! No rules!
- 1 package cooked brown rice, the kind that comes in a plastic pouch
- 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
- 1 15 oz. can tomatoes (I used fire roasted in adobo)
- 1 packet taco seasoning (make sure you read the ingredients if you want vegan–lots of the regular brands put milk in theirs)
- A little less than 1 c. drinking water
- 1 cup. dry TVP (texturized vegetable protein, usually with the flours in the baking section at the grocery store, or in the bulk aisle)
- 6 tortillas
- Empty rice, beans and tomatoes into a small sauce pan and heat up stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, bring water and taco seasoning to a boil. Add TVP and turn off heat. Let sit for 5 minutes or so. Whip up some guacamole.
- Spoon filling and guac into tortillas and enjoy with chips and salsa.
Time commitment: 10 minutes hands on, 30-40 minutes inactive
Makes: 4 packets of stew
- 4 red potatoes (not baby)
- 2 carrots
- 1 red bell pepper
- a couple of handfuls fresh green beans
- 1 onion
- 1 splash canola or olive oil
- to taste: salt, pepper, and whatever other herbs and spices you feel like (I did salt, pepper, celery salt and cajun seasoning and it was salty enough but kind of bland otherwise.)
- Get your camp fire ready.
- Wash, trim and chop veggies. Make sure that pieces of ones that cook faster are bigger than ones that cook slower.
- Toss with oil and seasonings.
- Divide up between foil packets. You might want to double up on the foil just in case it rips or burns. Pinch foil on top to seal and then poke a couple of holes around the seam. Place on grate or directly in fire for 30-40 minutes. Remove carefully, and open carefully. Garnish with bread and hot sauce if you’d like. Be warm and full.
Time commitment: 30 minutes all together, unless you have a griddle, then it would be less
Makes: 8 big-ish pancakes
- 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
- 1 c. whole wheat flour
- 1/4 c. “white” sugar (aka evaporated cane juice)
- 1 1/2 T. baking powder
- 1 t. salt
- 2 1/2 c. water
- 1 or 2 splashes canola oil, plus more for frying
- Optional: blueberries and chopped peaches
- Before you leave home, measure dry ingredients into a ziplock bag. I like to write cooking directions on the bag.
- When you’re ready to make the pancakes, dump dry ingredients into a bowl and add water and oil. Stir just till combined and most lumps are gone.
- Heat up your pan on a camp stove over medium-low heat and add a little oil. Spoon however much batter you’d like, depending on the type of pan you’re using and the size of pancakes you’d like. I made bigger pancakes in a sauce pan and it was not the easiest thing ever. I’d recommend a griddle. If you’d like fruit in your pancake, sprinkle on the batter after you spoon it into the pan.
- When pancakes are golden, steaming and bubbly, use a spatula to flip. Cook for a minute or two on the other side, just till done in the center. Top with fruit, honey, or whatever you’d like.
Finally, a note about our supplies…
This thing is a beast and I love it. Not only will it get you through a group camping trip with style, I think it will also get you through the zombie apocalypse.
Cookware/dishes: MSR Quick 2 System Cookset
We chose this set because although it’s a little pricey we wanted 1) coffee mugs and 2) a set that would serve us well for car camping as well as backpacking if we ever get up the nerve to do that. And did you notice how cool it is? Worth the investment, in my opinion.
What sort of things do you love cooking on camping trips?