Campers making blueberry pancakes

9 easy meal hacks for family camping

Camping is a simple way to vacation with your family, but trying to prep food while setting up a tent, starting a fire and keeping kids entertained can be a lose-lose battle. Tap into these MEC-approved family camping food tips to keep everyone happy and full.

1. Prep as much as you can

Before you leave home, plan out what you’ll be eating. Then chop, dice and mix as much as you can before your trip. When everything is pre-portioned out, you’ll have less to bring and (just as importantly) less to clean up, which gives the whole fam more time to hang out. In case you need to make minor additions or adjustments, bring a sweet prep set to dice, grate or flip with ease.

2. Put kids in charge of dessert

Encourage your kids to play with their food. Load cream, sugar and vanilla (or another favourite flavour) into an ice cream ball with ice and rock salt. After 20 minutes of shaking and rolling, there’ll be a pint of ice cream to share. Want something warm instead? Get inspired to go beyond basic s’mores with these delectable s’mores variations.

3. Easy freezy

Stew, chili or soup can do double duty if you cook it at home first, and then freeze it. You’ll have a temporary freezer pack to keep fresh stuff chilled on your first day camping, and a yummy meal for your second or third day. Plus, the cook work is as simple as heating it up in a pot and toasting buns on the grill.

4. Wrap master

For your first night’s meal, go for something that doesn’t require a ton of prep (or even plates), since you may be wrangling things like tent set-up and firewood. An easy option that uses fresh ingredients that are still fresh on day one? Fajitas, burritos or tacos. All your protein and veggies will be pre-cut and ready to go if you prep at home, so you just need to heat it up in one pot, wrap and eat.

5. Food on a stick

What’s camping without spinning something over the fire? It doesn’t always need to be a simple hot dog on a stick. Load up your roasting stick with layered veggies for a charred kebab; add smoky flavour to a mini grilled cheese sandwich by layering baguette with ham, cheese and pickle; or blacken baby bell peppers stuffed with halloumi or feta. If you want to keep things really low maintenance, wrap your eats in tinfoil, place it in the fire and sit back until it’s cooked.

6. Share chef duty

Camping with another family brings a big bonus: sharing the cooking. They do one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner and you do the same. Bring a cook set made for sharing and offer to wash the dishes on nights they cook and vice versa. With less food prep to focus on, you can spend your time where it really counts: coffee.

7. DIY trail mix

Whether it’s cracking open those eat-from-the-box variety pack cereals or chugging through some rice crackers, sometimes dry stuff is a life saver. Customize your family’s snack break by building a trail mix buffet at home prior to the trip and letting everyone choose their favourite ingredients in their own container. From pretzels and chip bits to cashews and raisins, everyone can snack their way.

8. Pack a mini pantry

What’s summer salad without dressing, tacos without salsa, or veggie dogs without ketchup and mustard? Instead of hauling full-size condiment bottles along, stock up on mini squeeze bottles and lightweight containers to stock your campsite mini pantry. Don’t forget your spices.

9. Recreate comfort foods

Just because you’re in the woods doesn’t mean you can’t dish up family favourites. Plan one meal where you go all out. Fire up a cast iron skillet and radiant toaster for bacon, eggs and bagels; pour batter into a waffle iron made for an open flame, or make some kettle corn right before the stars come out. You can even make mini cake bites or muffins for the trail – just pre-mix the batter at home.

Jumping people on a dock
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