Camping is one of the best ways to spend time together as a family during the summer. Getting out in nature, slowing the pace, forgetting about work and chores... aaaaahh the good life. Until you remember that your family still needs to eat every day and your perfect dream collapses in to mix of whinny kids and rushed, frantic cooking around a campfire. Don't worry - we've got you covered with our family camping menu. 5 nights of quick, healthy meals that you can customise to your family's tastes.
We also have some pro tips & tricks that we've learned over many years camping & backpacking with our families. Looking for Family-Friendly Campsites in BC? If you have younger kids check out Tips For Camping with Babies & Toddlers!
PRO TIP #1: PREP WHAT YOU CAN AT HOME.
We do one day meal prep and one day packing. That way we can blast down our packing list and have everything ready to pack into the car. We cook pasta ahead of time, make and freeze sauce or chilli weeks ahead and pack in the cooler frozen.
PRO TIP #2: ALWAYS HAVE EXTRA NON-PERISHABLE FOOD
Always keep a package of instant soup, hot chocolate pouches & rice crackers in your camping food bucket. Active kids often need more lunch than you might expect. A cup of soup has saved us from many a melt down!
PRO TIP #3: CELEBRATE "APPIE HOUR"
Put out special healthy appies as you are making dinner. We always put out veggies, hummus and a few whole grain chips & olives as we are prepping dinner. This keeps the kids (and adults) occupied and away from the food prep area. No one wants to be stressed-out over camping cooking!
PRO TIP #4: MAKE MORNINGS EASY
Bring pancake mix pre-mixed in ziploc bags. Snip off the end and pour straight onto the hot grill. Pair with fruit and syrup and it’s a happy morning. We really appreciate the ease of instant espresso powder for camping mornings, but a french press works really well too!
PRO TIP #5: PASTA IS EASIER TO COOK AT HOME
Pre-cook and drain your pasta at home and toss with 1 tsp of olive oil. Pack it into a large freezer bag & keep it in the cooler. At the campsite simply warm your favourite sauce and add the pasta to heat through. Dinner is done in 5 minutes without worrying about draining boiling water at the campsite with little ones under foot.
PRO TIP #6: FREEZE YOUR WATER JUGS
Using frozen jugs of water as ice blocks in the cooler keeps everything cold but stops all the food from getting soggy as the ice melts. Bonus, you can use it as drinking water as the ice melts!
PRO TIP #7: A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
We use 2 large plastic totes for all of our car camping trips. One has the "food gear" - all the pots, pans, cutlery, dishes, utensils, cutting boards, paper towels, etc. The other bin has all the non-perishable food or food that does not need to be in the cooler. This makes it easy to keep a clean & bear-safe campsite. All we need to do is safely store the 2 bins. We clean the camping "food gear" and store it at home all together in the bin ready for our next trip!
5-Night Family Camping Menu:
Chicken & Kale Salad Wraps with Soup
We use rotisserie chicken that we break down before the trip (omit the chicken in favour of mixed beans for a veggie option), any kale salad bag that comes with it’s own dressing, and whole grain tortillas. This super simple dinner is quick to pull together: Add some chicken to each wrap, top with salad and dressing, add extra veggies or cheese, wrap and eat with a bowl or mug of instant soup.
Again a quick dinner that uses the same chicken and wraps as night 1. This time you'll put black beans, corn, chicken, grated cheddar or jalapeno jack cheese on one half of a tortilla and fold the other side over, wrap in foil and cook either in a pan or right on the grill. We love to eat them right out of the foil with salsa and sour cream.
Simple Nut-Free Pesto Pasta with Lemon & Garlic Bread
Wrap garlic bread in foil and cook on the grill turning over often until butter is melted then leave in the foil while you make the pasta. We cook our pasta at home & bring it in a large freezer bag, but you could always boil the pasta at the campsite. Add cooked pasta to a pan with the nut-free pesto, cook 2-3 min until warmed through. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the pasta and serve with grated Parmesan cheese, chilli flakes and garlic bread.
Chilli with Quick Cook Rice
We make our favourite meat-based or veggie chilli days or weeks ahead and freeze in double layer freezer bags. At the campsite, we just warm the chilli, cook the rice and serve topped with cheese and green onion. You can also use up leftover salsa & sour cream from quesadilla night.
Hot-dogs Over The Fire
You’ve gotta do it! Here are our favourite healthier hot-dogs & veggie dogs. Have the kids spend the late afternoon finding perfect hot-dog sticks for everyone. When it’s dinner time, just rinse off the ends of the sticks, trimming to a point if necessary, then put hot dogs vertically on each stick and roast over the fire. Make sure that children are sitting firmly on chairs or on the ground, and that all young children are supervised around fires at all times. Serve on whole grain hot-dog buns with you favourite toppings. We have also done these hot-dogs over a gas fire pit when there was a fire ban in place and it worked quite well.
We would love to hear your pro-tips and successful camping meals. Happy camping everyone!
Co-founder of Healthy Family Media and the Healthy Family Expo, Kay is an adventurer & Ironman triathlete, as well as mum to an active 11-year-old. Originally from Montreal, she has been proud to call British Columbia home for over 15 years. Whether running, hiking & biking in the mountains or creating healthy meals in the kitchen, Kay is always up for something new. Her contagious enthusiasm & zest for life mean we’re never quite sure what she’ll be up to next, but we’re sure that it will be an amazing adventure!