Want to know how to make a camping meal plan?

skillet and pie irons cooking over a fire

Help! We are planning our next camping trip and I either don’t pack enough or pack way too much food. How can I make a camping meal plan that doesn’t require seventeen trips to the store once I’m out there, but also ensures I won’t be bringing half my pantry there and back? Elizabeth M.

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Hi Elizabeth! Oh man, that’s a good one. I frequently bring too much food with us, although that is not always a bad thing.


There was this one time we were camping in a smaller state park with a lot of active nightlife. We didn’t hang our food up high because I thought it would be protected in the totes inside of our shelter. I was wrong. So very wrong. The first night some critters absconded with half a loaf of bread. The second night they managed to destroy a pack of tortillas. And it wasn’t until after we got home that I realized my emergency supply of hot dog buns was nowhere to be found. That was one trip I was very glad I brought too much food! And it made a difference to how I create a camping meal plan.

However, for a better answer to your question, I definitely prefer to err on the side of too much food in all of my camping meal plans. I don’t want to go grocery shopping once I have made it to the campsite. Which is why I will plan for more meals than I expect us to need. If we are going for a weekend and I’m expecting Friday night dinner and dessert, three meals on Saturday (plus snacks), and Sunday breakfast and lunch I will typically add in one more dinner, one more breakfast, one more lunch, and one more snack/dessert. Most of our meals can be eaten at a different time of day and if something goes wrong with one of them, I can substitute an alternate.

Using like ingredients or methods:

I also try to plan out my camping meals using like ingredients or similar cooking methods. If I’m going to be making breakfast sandwiches using sliced bread in my pie irons, I try to plan other meals that are also going to require the use of sandwich bread. If we are going down the route of tortillas being our carbohydrate of choice, I want to try and use tortillas in as many meals as possible. You can tell that was not my philosophy during the critter trip but it has stood me well going forward for our short weekend trips.

Don’t like leftovers? Call them planned-overs!

On longer trips I obviously need to plan for more meals and more variety. Some folks are fine eating the same thing over and over but we are not. Therefore I might switch out the cooking methods but still try to utilize similar ingredients or use the planned-overs method. First night we cook up steak, second night we use it in Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches. One morning we cook up eggs in a nest, the next morning those hash browns are stuffed.

Yes to healthy, yes to junk food:

I like to encourage eating fruits and vegetables even while camping and typically include a green salad with dinner on the first night, maybe even the second night. Other vegetables we might bring along for snacking include carrots and snap peas. They don’t require refrigeration and we enjoy eating them plain so I don’t have to worry about dips going bad. We do not want fruits that ruin quickly so apples and cuties tend to be our go-to fruits.

Additionally, we will purchase and pack individual servings of both breakfast cereals and chips. We don’t typically do this while at home so it makes for an enjoyable treat when we are starving but the fire isn’t quite ready for us to cook our planned meal. Plus, there are just times when I too am craving junk food!

Bringing stuff home:

You might ask what happens with that leftover food after we return home. Some of it can just go back into regular rotation for meals at home. Alternately we have no problems eating camping food whenever the opportunity might arise so we often just build a fire or heat up the grill one evening the next week and cook anything that needs to be eaten.

Ways to keep down what needs to go back into rotation would be to bring smaller amounts of items like condiments. I bought small containers at one point of the things we use most often and try to refill them as necessary going forward. This also has the benefit of taking up less space in my cooler if they are items that require refrigeration.

Camping Meal Plan A focusing on tortillas:

Camping Meal Plan B using sandwich bread:

Finally, here are my general tips for camping meals:

  • Whenever possible, prep at home. It is easier and more sanitary to prepare your ingredients and meals at home with running water and countertops.
  • Dishes known as “one pot” make quick meals without requiring a lot of thought while at the campsite.
  • Practice mise en place with ingredients pre-divided in the correct size amounts before you head out the door. Bonus is that smaller containers typically pack easier in small fridges or coolers.
  • Plan your meals to use similar ingredients to make packing simpler.

I hope these tips help you feel more confident about the choices you make packing for your next trip. Also, if you enjoy any of the recipes I’m recommending please let me know. Plus feel free to let me know of any favorite recipes you have. I’m always looking to add new ones to our repertoire.

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