How do you successfully take a long camping trip without running out of food? A simple thing called Meal Planning.
Growing up, my family would go on ten-day summer trips, every year, into the High Sierras. My mom would make a meal plan for the week and we'd buy a huge load of groceries at the base of the mountains before heading up. I never realized how brilliant and organized she was. She had a meal planned for each night and all we had to do was buy what we needed.
Now it was my turn to plan a camping trip of my own. How were we going to pack for 9 days of meals? My parents had saturated me in camping wisdom growing up, but now I'm on my own and I have to rediscover their genius strategies for myself.
Our last few camping trips were a flunk in this department. They had me dumping all the contents of our fridge into a cooler, only being mindful of our coffee and cream stats. Although those things are very important, this strategy wasn't the brightest. David and I aren't picky eaters so we did just fine eating mish-mash meals.
Coming up on this longer camping excursion, I knew that procedure wasn't going to cut it, so I tapped into my inner Sara Hipple (mom) and went to the drawing board.
I got out my trusty travel notebook and began jotting down easy-to-make dinner meals, lunch ideas, breakfast options, and snacks. So many things like canned soup and boxed rice dishes crossed my mind as I reached for manageable cooking options while still trying to maintain variety in our meals. I liked the idea of soup and a rice dish but I didn't like the can and box part. I've really been trying to keep my cooking habits fresh and creative these days and I didn't feel like I should sacrifice a week due to limited resources. DING! Suddenly, a wonderful and simple idea darted into my frantic, pacing brain waves – prepare meals ahead of time. Rather than settle for store-bought meals and side dishes, I would spend the days leading up to the trip making things like soup, rice, and pasta sauce to reheat while on the road. I felt like a genius!
After thinking up enough meals, I sketched out a diagram with a box for every day, each containing three categories – AM, MID, PM. I proceeded to fill in the boxes with a dinner, lunch, and breakfast until the week was full. (I strategically placed the pre-made soup and rice in the beginning of the week to keep from going bad.)
I then created grocery lists according to the days and meals I had chosen. Three stops at the grocery store would do it.
On our family trips (as a kid) we only did one grocery run because our destination was in a remote area in the mountains, far from grocery stores. (Our only resource was a tiny boat house/drug store that sold pizza pockets, souvenirs, and ice to refill our coolers.) On the contrary, if you happen to have ample space in your ice chests for all the perishables for the trip, then you're set. If not, the best option is to plan out multiple (small) grocery runs like I did. (We will need to restock our ice anyways, so it won't be a bother grabbing a few more items as well.)
I plan on doing one grocery run today, before we leave, and two more on the road. Here's a rough idea of what that will look like:
Fri- Shop for Saturday, Sunday, & Monday Meals (on the road)
Sat- at camp
Sun- on the road
Mon- Shop for Tuesday & Wednesday Meals (on the road)
Tues- at camp
Wed- Shop for Thursday, Friday, & Saturday Meals (on the road)
Thurs- at camp
Fri- at camp
Sat- Shop for Sunday if absolutely necessary (on the road)
Sun- on the road home
Here's a few extra tips for packing the food:
- get a large plastic bin to hold dry foods (it makes the transferring of food from car to camp much easier and also keeps you organized with the minimal space in your vehicle)
- get a plastic container to hold your eggs (no matter how hard you try, ice will melt in your chest, getting water all over your food and dismantling your eggs cartons)
- put milk and/or cream in reusable containers (for the same reason as the eggs)
- pre-chop ingredients such as lettuce & salad toppings and pack in small plastic/glass canisters (it will make cooking on the road more enjoyable and keeps your veggies from getting damp and wilted in the cooler)
I'd love to hear your input, ideas, suggestions, and questions concerning better ways to meal plan. Leave me a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org