Easy Camping Meals for Kids

  1. Share
0 0

In this article, Hike it Baby Branch Ambassador and photographer, Melissa, shares her tips and recipes for easy camping meals for kids. Camping Meals for Families with Kids by Melissa Hollingsworth for Hike it Baby I don’t like to cook. Let me clarify: I don’t like to cook when I have tiny people pulling on my legs, climbing on chairs next to hot stoves or generally being on top of me in some way or form while I'm trying to provide for our survival. So this year and possibly for the next 20, I don’t like to cook. I’ve heard stories of families where one spouse cooks inside the home and one spouse cooks outside the home, perhaps proudly calling themselves the grill-master. Well, that’s not my house. Somehow, even when we are camping, I’m still the one behind the stove or grilling over the fire. Sure, said spouse will light the fire, play with the fire, catch things on fire, but not cook on the fire. While my family throws rocks in the creek, swings in the hammock or generally has a great time, I always seem to be the one with a spatula in my hand. It doesn't seem fair. I have to be honest: our first few camping trips were full of hot dogs and boxed rice mixes. “Easy food” that was supposed to be fast and … delicious? Even though I dislike cooking, I do try to eat healthy; but the rule for camping can quickly become "anything goes." Camping Meals for Families with Kids by Melissa Hollingsworth for Hike it Baby

Easy Camping Meals for Kids

Last summer as I was preparing for yet another camping trip and planning out our meals of mac and cheese and hot dogs, I opened my freezer to take stock of our inventory when I suddenly had an epiphany that would change the way we eat while camping forever. Sitting in my freezer, ready and waiting to go, were stuffed sweet potatoes wrapped in foil, frozen breakfast burritos packed full of protein and baggies full of pre-diced meat and vegetables just waiting for a skillet. Since the love/hate relationship toward my kitchen had developed in my childbearing season of life, I had adopted a method of cooking known as “Freezer Cooking” in order to keep my sanity during the 5 O’clock hour. It meant healthy meals that our family loved without spending an hour each day at the stovetop. What hadn’t occurred to me until this point was how adaptable and perfect this method of cooking could be for camping. If you're looking for a way to spend more time camping and less time cooking while avoiding the inevitable hot dog dinner, here are some strategies for a simple camping meal plan that’s delicious and healthy (or not, if that’s your jam). And most of all: they're fast and EASY.

Fresh Ingredients Within Reach

Some people are gourmet chefs wherever they go, but whether or not you know how to julienne a potato shouldn’t decide how much time you get to spend in your hammock. Bottom line? The more you can prep at home, the more time you have to play (or rest) when you camp. This includes chopping as much as you can at home. Let me say that again: Chop as much as you can at home. Ever wonder how the guys on those cooking channels make it look so easy to whip up a quick dinner and yet you followed the same recipe and it takes you an hour to do it? The secret lies in the little bowls full of finely diced vegetables and perfect cubes of pre-sliced meat. It’s the slicing and dicing that takes the most time when preparing a meal, and thankfully almost all of that can be done at home. It means less dishes too!

  1. Skillets are one of the easiest meals to make while camping. If you do the meal prep ahead at home and keep your meat and vegetables stored separately in the cooler, when you're ready to cook, you can dump everything in the pan and you’ve got a 10-minute meal.
  2. Skewers are another easy choice and don’t require a camp stove to cook. You can even pre-make the skewers at home if you want to cook them the first night you're camping. Just lay them on the grill over the fire and turn a few times while cooking, and dinner is done!

Think through the meals you plan on making and figure out how much of the prep-time can be done before your trip. It’s probably a lot more than you realize, but you can have family-favorite recipes that are easy to adapt to camp meals. Camping Meals for Families with Kids by Melissa Hollingsworth for Hike it Baby

Foil Packets to the Rescue

Tin foil is a camping family’s best friend. Do you know how many foods can be made in tin foil? A lot. Basically, think of any combination of meat, vegetables and starches and it can be made in a foil packet. The best thing: these can all be prepared at home before the trip and thrown in the cooler. A quick search on the internet for “foil-wrapped camping meals” should provide an abundance of options for delicious and simple recipes. Desserts can also be made this way too. It’s important to note that sometimes these meals can take a little longer to cook properly, depending on your ingredients. But once they're on the coals, there's little left you need to do until it’s time to eat. Just be sure they get on the fire early enough to be ready in time for rumbling tummies. Camping Meals for Families with Kids by Melissa Hollingsworth for Hike it Baby

Cook the Food at Home and Reheat

Pancakes are the worst when camping. You think they'll be easy because you “just add water,” but the batter makes a mess and cooking one pancake at a time on a small skillet is not the most efficient way to feed a ravenous family. Solution? Cook them at home before you leave! All it takes is a few seconds in the frying pan to warm them up and everyone is instantly fed and happy. Apply this approach to as much food as possible when camping. Need some protein with your breakfast? You can pre-cook the bacon too! The best part? You won’t smell like bacon as you hike through bear territory. If your foil packets are taking too long to cook over the fire, you can pre-cook them at home too. This is especially helpful for the potato family, which is notorious for being ready only after the kids have been put to bed and the adult beverages have run out.

Freeze your Food for Longer Trips

If you're planning a trip that will last more than a few days, freezing the meals for later in the week can be a great way to keep food fresh and save on how many times you run to the store for more ice. This opens up a world of possibilities regarding the kind of food you can take with you while camping. Grandma’s favorite casserole with 20 ingredients? No problem. Cook it beforehand, portion it out in squares, wrap in foil and freeze. Almost anything you can reheat in the microwave can be reheated in a frying pan or over the fire. The options are now limitless in terms of what you can bring camping. Reheating works best after the food has defrosted fully, making it perfect for meals later in the week.

Don’t Forget the Non-Perishables

Even with all the fresh foods you pack, it doesn't hurt to throw a few oatmeal packets into the mix as well. I don’t know if it’s the secret prepper inside me, but I always like to have extra food that won’t go bad if I forget to refill the ice or drain the water from the bottom of the cooler. You don’t have to go crazy, but it’s nice to have a day’s worth of non-perishable food for each person, so you don’t feel like you have to high-tail it out of the mountains to the nearest fast-food chain when dinner goes south for whatever reason.

Plan Meals Based on “Expiration Date”

It goes without saying that you should eat your fresh food first, the pre-cooked food second and the frozen food last, saving the non-perishables for emergencies or the ride home. Just a little time spent thinking this through at home will take away a lot of the stress of planning your family's meals while camping.

Dessert After Dinner can be a Rule Worth Breaking

I’ll leave you with this last little secret that will ultimately make you queen or king of the camp kitchen. When you’ve promised your children S'mores around the campfire and they fall asleep before it happens only to wake up in tears and agony at the thought of waiting one more whole day before they can relish in the goodness that is gooey marshmallow and chocolate on top of graham cracker, I give you S'mores Cakes. Pancake, chocolate and marshmallow ... done. You will be a hero forever. Camping Meals for Families with Kids by Melissa Hollingsworth for Hike it Baby

Need Some Inspiration?

Below are food ideas that prep and freeze well to start you on your fine, but easy, dining experience when you go camping.

Easy Prep:

Omelets

  • Pre-chop all ingredients.
  • If eating the first morning, pre-scramble the eggs and seal them in an air-tight container.
  • Dump into pan, cook and enjoy.

Skewers

  • Pre-chop all the meat and vegetables and store separately.
  • Skewer ingredients, cook and enjoy.

Veggie wraps

  • Pre-chop all the vegetables.
  • Add your favorite spread and throw wraps together before heading out on a hike.

Summer sausage, cheese and crackers

  • Pre-slice or don't. It's summer sausage – you can't go wrong

Foil Packets:

Chicken, onion and bell pepper packets

  • Add oil and seasonings to taste and wrap in foil.
  • Cook at home and reheat or place in coals around fire until chicken is cooked through.

Sausage, sweet potato and apple packets

  • Add oil and seasonings to taste and wrap in foil.
  • Cook at home and reheat or place in coals around fire until sweet potato is cooked through.

Stuffed sweet potatoes (or baked potatoes)

  • Bake potatoes and stuff with favorite ingredients.
  • Wrap in foil and reheat in coals of fire.
  • Avoid cooking potatoes around the fire if possible. It just takes too much time.

Perfect Pre-Made Foods:

Pancakes Bacon Frozen Breakfast Quiche (use favorite recipe) Frozen Breakfast Burritos (use favorite recipe) Quesadillas (can freeze or eat immediately, great for hiking) Muffins

Stress-Free Backups:

Oatmeal Packets Summer Sausage Trail Mix Fruit Leather/Dried Fruit Protein Bars (Homemade or Packaged) Photos by Melissa Hollingsworth.

Read More:

What are some of your family's favorite camping meals? Share in the comments below.

Easy camping meals for kids by Melissa Hollingsworth for Hike it Baby

ABOUT OUTGROWN

OutGrown is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works to create a world where everyone can enjoy the physical and mental benefits of spending time outside. We are focused on creating opportunities and removing barriers to access so families with babies and young children can take their first steps outside. We believe all families have the right to connect with nature, benefit from spending time outdoors and be inspired to a lifelong love of nature. Since its grassroots inception in 2013, OutGrown is a growing community of 280,000 families and over 300 volunteer Branch Ambassadors. More information on all of our programs can be found at WeAreOutGrown.org 

 

EDITORS NOTE:

We hope you enjoyed reading this article from OutGrown. We’re working hard to provide our community with content and resources that inform, inspire, and entertain you.

But content is not free. It’s built on the hard work and dedication of writers, editors, and volunteers. We make an investment in developing premium content to make it easier for families with young children to connect with nature and each other. We do not ask this lightly, but if you can, please make a contribution and help us extend our reach.

 

Community tags

This content has 0 tags that match your profile.

Comments

To leave a comment, login or sign up.

Related Content

0
Backyard Camping: An Epic Adventure Right Outside Your Door
This summer, the days have felt especially long. Due to COVID, I find myself saying “no” and “we can’t” a lot more than I want to. The restrictions and precautions evoked by parks and outdoor spaces, along with those we choose to abide by as a family, have left me feeling like I’m trapped in a shrinking room! Then one day, shoulders slumped as I sad-sacked around the house, I decided to change things up. All summer long, my husband and I have been missing our regular adventures. Camping has been high on our list because, though he has been camping in our old Westy, our 3-year-old has never been tent camping! Cue, backyard camping! The Pre-Test We figured there was no reason to put it off any longer. I got our tent out of the basement and walked purposely across the living room toward the back door, only to be stopped halfway by my very insistent son. He was VERY interested in setting up the tent… in the living room. And that’s exactly what we did. It was the perfect way to test out this whole camping thing… before we tested it out. Though my intention was to pitch the tent in the backyard, I recommend this “pre-test” to anyone who has concerns about your child actually sleeping in the tent. Our son has always been an early riser and so he is also an early sleeper. To expect that he could get to sleep at his usual 5 PM bedtime with the summer sun still at its peak and so many backyard distractions was a tall order. We had other concerns too but the most pressing was bedtime routine, general supervision, and whether or not my husband and I would get any sleep. With the tent set up in the house, my son was content to “pretend camp” for weeks. We looked for plastic night animals with our headlamps, roasted Lego marshmallows, and slept under a Christmas light sky. It was a major success and was just what we needed to shake up the boredom. However, if you opt to skip this pre-test and head right to the backyard I do have a few helpful tips. Photo Credit: Deanna Curry @shinydayadventures Taking the Tent Outside Though our son is an early sleeper part of the appeal of going camping is that you get to do things you normally wouldn’t (here are some ways to make camping fun for kids). When we finally made it outside with the tent we stayed up until it got dark, around 8:30 pm, looking for nocturnal animals and lightning bugs. By then we didn't have to worry about the sun and all the neighborhood noise had quieted. Not to mention, he was so tired we didn’t even need the bedtime routine to lull him to sleep. We also let my son fill his tiny belly with a marshmallow, hot dog, and Chex Mix dinner. As far as supervision, we actually went to sleep when my son did that night because, well, we are parents and we are tired. But if you’re camping with a baby (check out this post on camping with a baby) or your kids go to sleep before you, a baby monitor, or even an open window, depending on your situation should suffice. Photo Credit: Ashley Scheider Backyard Camping Tip The number one tip I can offer is this, try to remember why you wanted to do this. We did it because we wanted our son to experience all the things we love about camping and being outside. So, we let our kid eat junk food, set off a few sparklers, forgot about bedtime, were noisy and ridiculous, and as much as possible tried to remember what it’s like to be a kid. Need more inspiration? We got you covered: Camping with Great Books Things to Know for Your First Camping Trip Helping children and families sleep better when camping Do you have a favorite family room or backyard camping memory? Share it in the comments! Be sure to join the Hike it Baby Community Facebook Group. It's a great place to ask questions, learn from others, and share your family's outdoor adventures! About Hike it Baby Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Editors Note: We hope you enjoyed reading this article from Hike it Baby. We’re working hard to provide our community with content and resources that inform, inspire, and entertain you. But content is not free. It’s built on the hard work and dedication of writers, editors, and volunteers. We make an investment in developing premium content to make it easier for families with young children to connect with nature and each other. We do not ask this lightly, but if you can, please make a contribution and help us extend our reach.
0
Tips to Stay Safe While Camping in the Post-Quarantine Era
I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for a little time away from home and to get outside in nature. The camping season is upon us. But this year it’s going to be different. You all know the restrictions we must follow to keep ourselves, and everyone else, safe because of COVID-19. Social distancing, face masks, overloading hand sanitizer, and all that fun stuff. Camping seems to fit the bill pretty well, being out in the fresh air, with defined space for each tent. And (according to NPR) it truly is a low-risk activity. But that doesn’t mean it’s ok to completely let down our guard when camping. Here are the best safe camping tricks for the post COVID era. Camp During the Week If you can, do your camping on weekdays instead of weekends. There will be fewer crowds around because most people are working. The attractions in and around the campground will also be quieter during the week for the same reason. It will be far less likely to come across an overcrowded nearby attraction. Or have to wear a mask on hiking trails because of too many people. Look for Campgrounds with Big Sites Some campgrounds are already well designed for social distancing because their campsites are large and well-spaced out. Often with rows of trees between them. If you can find campgrounds like this, book there. And some campgrounds have walk-in sites. These are set further away from everything and you must carry all your gear in, instead of parking the car right next to your tent. But these sites are generally bigger and more spaced out than standard campsites. Consider booking one of these if they are available. Book Two Spaces If you can’t find campgrounds with big spaces, or if the place you have your heart set on doesn’t have them, and you can afford to pay a little extra, book two spaces side by side. Then, if possible, put your tent or camper in the middle.  Avoid Drop-In Booking Try not to just head to a campground and book what’s available. You just can’t know what kind of space you will get, how small it is, or how close to the neighbors it will be. It is better to book ahead so you know what you are getting into. Look for Lesser Known or Alternate Campgrounds Don’t go where everyone else goes. This year it will probably be better to avoid the most popular camping places. For example: Instead of booking at a well-known place like Yellowstone (which is so popular you need to book months in advance to have any chance of getting a spot) look for campsites at the National Forests around it. There is far less competition for these camp spots, yet the landscape is just as beautiful. Try Remote (Rustic, Primitive, Backcountry) Camping This is a great way to get a lot of space to yourself without a lot of competition for sites. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means camping away from everything. Generally deep within a National Park or Forest. You have to carry everything with you and hike to find your campsite. There are (usually) no facilities, no running water, or no electricity… but also, a few other people. This is certainly not something to undertake lightly and without preparation. But if you want to really camp away from it all, this is the best way to do it.   And, of course, continue to practice caution in the places where people gather. Be sure to follow the local area rules and regulations for safety. When entering an enclosed public space, like a bathroom or lodge, wear a mask. Wash or sanitize your hands afterward. Maintain at least 6 feet from other campers around you. And if sharing tools with other campers be sure to wipe them down afterward.  But most importantly, enjoy your summer camping escape! About the Author Laura Raffin is a born and raised Vermonter currently living outside of Chicago with her husband and two daughters. She is a blogger/photographer focused on family offseason and alternate destination travel. She spends every minute possible outside in nature and on the trails. You can follow her family adventures on Instagram @wegalavanttheglobe_ The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily the opinions, thoughts, or recommendations of Hike it Baby. About Hike it Baby Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Photos courtesy of Michelle Pearl Gee. Editors Note: We hope you enjoyed reading this article from Hike it Baby. We’re working hard to provide our community with content and resources that inform, inspire, and entertain you. But content is not free. It’s built on the hard work and dedication of writers, editors, and volunteers. We do not make this ask lightly, but if you are able to afford it, make a donation, and become a Hike it Baby member.  A membership also makes a great gift for that new parent in your life. We make an investment in developing premium content to make it easier for families with young children to connect with nature and each other. If you can, please make a contribution and help us extend our reach.