Going camping, backpacking or day-tripping this spring break? If you’re thinking of packing chips and mountains of cereal to satiate you on the road, think again. With a bit of cooking and planning ahead of time, you can feast healthfully and affordably wherever you adventure.
If you’re going on a long trip, make sure to think about preserving some perishable foods like vegetables, fruits and meat. Bring a cooler that you can fill with ice along the way, especially if you’re camping in an arid environment like the desert.
Make sure to incorporate essential nutrients into your diet — protein-rich food like nuts and beans, as well as fruits like oranges and apples to provide vitamins and minerals.
Whole grains cooked ahead of time, like brown rice and quinoa, help as a foundation for any meal during the trip. Throw some cheese and veggies on top for dinner, or mix in honey and dried fruit for a sweeter, heartier breakfast.
Remember to bring the forgettables — cooking oil, salt, pepper, brown sugar, honey and spices (seal in jars or bottles and label) are essential to bring if you plan to cook during your trip. Aluminum foil is also extremely helpful for packing lunches and roasting veggies in the fire. And don’t forget utensils, knives, plates, cups, spatulas, napkins and small pots and pans.
Play it smart. Plan meals that utilize the freshest, most perishable ingredients — like salads, vegetable wraps and eggs — at the beginning of your trip. Save meals like soup, beans and oats for the latter end of the adventure, as these stay good longer.
Here are some easy ideas for camping meals and snacks:
Oatmeal: If you have a camp stove, boil water and mix in oats for a simple breakfast staple. Top with raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, granola, ground flax or milk to liven up your rustic meal.
Quick cooking grains: Couscous, minute rice, quinoa and polenta are all easy to boil and pair well with other ingredients.
Beans: Pre-cook beans like black beans, chickpeas, or kidney beans for a hearty chili or as a side. Or bring a can.
Cheese: Hard cheeses like parmesan, Swiss and cheddar stay good longer than softer cheeses and taste great in wraps, burritos, sandwiches and chili.
Pita bread and tortillas: Make a quick veggie wrap with hummus and raw veggies, or add some cheese to make a quesadilla.
Dried pasta and sauce: This makes for an easy yet delicious meal in your home or in the mountains. You could also make a pasta salad beforehand dressed with olive oil and veggies.
Eggs: If you have a safe place in which to transport eggs, bring them for a tasty breakfast scramble or add them to breakfast burritos.
Jerky: Beef, turkey, bison or tofu will stay good and provide much-needed protein.
Sturdy vegetables: Carrots, cabbage, bell peppers and cucumbers all travel well. Bring potatoes or sweet potatoes to roast in a campfire. Just poke the potato with a fork, wrap in foil and place in the fire, rotating until soft in the middle.
Sturdy fruits: Apples, oranges and grapefruits hold up just as well. Good for take-along snacks.
Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts and peanuts are among your many choices. Eat them alone or add them into a trail mix.
Dried fruit: Raisins, cranberries, cherries, mango and figs are all delicious and packed with energy.
Granola and cereal: Hearty and filling cereals that are low in sugar keep you satisfied and energetic for long treks. Make some homemade granola to snack on or eat for breakfast.
Granola bars: Pack some energy-dense bars that are low in sugar and high in protein, like Clif Bars, Larabars or homemade granola bars.
Pancake mix: Bring some “just add water” mix or make your own to bring along.
Chocolate-covered anything: Coated nuts, espresso beans and dried fruit serve as instant desserts or snacks.
Condiments: Bring sauces like mustard and ketchup in small containers or single-serving packets.
Tea and hot chocolate packets: Just add hot water and enjoy by the fire.
Coffee: If you need your morning coffee, even in the woods, bring instant coffee or make some rustic campfire coffee.
S’mores: Obviously. Graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows. Bring wire hangers to fashion into campfire sticks.
Trail mix: There are plenty of store-bought mixes, but try making your own with this recipe.
Ultimate Trek Mix Recipe
1 cup almonds or slivered almonds
¾ cup walnuts or walnut pieces
¾ cup shelled pistachios
½ cup coconut flakes
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried cherries or raisins
½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
¾ cup dark or semisweet chocolate chips
Mix everything together and munch.