En español | If you're new to camping — perhaps trying it out this fall to beat staying-at-home ennui — the toughest part can be figuring what you'll eat. But having healthy, tasty food is as simple as prepping ahead and picking up a few new tools (some you might already own).
First things first: You don't want to put your culinary fate in the hands of communal campground grills. Pick up an affordable, foldable campfire grill grate and bring along a cast-iron skillet or griddle; they'll expand your dining options considerably. You'll also need a good cooler, or possibly two (one for drinks and snacks; one packed colder and tighter with ingredients). Lastly, you'll want to do as much advance prepping as possible — assembling sandwiches, shredding cheese — to make mealtime a breeze. Here are six satisfying, nourishing, low-fuss meal ideas.
Save 25% when you join AARP and enroll in Automatic Renewal for first year. Get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.
The bacon here is an optional — albeit delicious — touch, and the combination of starch/healthy and fats/protein will keep you full for hours.
Fry the bacon in the cast-iron pan, warm the bread (just laying it in the pan as you would a grilled cheese), and then cook the eggs in the remaining bacon fat. Scoop out the inside of half an avocado, smash it onto one side of the bread, top with bacon, egg and the other side of the bread. (The bacon will provide all the salt you need.) If you opt for no bacon, use avocado oil for toasting the bread and cooking the egg. The spray version of avocado oil will be mess-free.
Super nutritious, completely customizable and no cooking required — those are just a few reasons why overnight oats has legions of devotees. All those aspects also make it a pretty ideal breakfast for camping. You can assemble in individual mason jars or a food-safe storage container up to a few days before your trip, then just pull out and enjoy. (For the uninitiated: This preparation yields the texture of porridge and can be made vegan.)
To make two large servings, mix 1 cup of rolled oats with 2 large dollops of plain yogurt and 1 1/3 cups of 2 percent milk (or almond milk). Stir in whatever you'd like to sweeten it: vanilla extract, maple syrup, honey, dried fruit, walnuts, dark chocolate, strawberries, peanut butter — plus a pinch of salt to bring out all the flavors.
Ham and Cheese Croissant Toasties
Assemble these croissant sandwiches at home with any deli ham and cheese you like. (Pro tip: Harder cheese — like Swiss or cheddar — is less perishable.) Feel free to add condiments such as mustard. Wrap each sandwich in tin foil. When you're ready to eat, toss the foil pack on the grill grate and heat until the sandwich is melty.
The best thing about this meal (well, besides the obvious — see: pizza) is that you can get as unfussy or fancy as you want. Supermarket dough, sauce and cheese will yield good results. If you want to make your own dough or sauce ahead of time or gussy up the toppings (maybe a BBQ, red onion and pistachio pizza? ham and pineapple? lots of veggies? fig and prosciutto?), you can do that, too. The key is cooking the dough in the cast-iron skillet (add spray oil) first, flipping, adding toppings, and then letting cheese melt.
Nachos are one of the tastiest, customizable, easy-to-assemble camping foods. And the majority of ingredients can be nonperishable. Gather any ingredients you like; a mix of canned and fresh yields the tastiest results.
- Cooking spray like avocado oil
- 1 bag tortilla chips
- 1 can black or pinto beans
- 1 can corn
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (great for tang)
- 1 jar salsa of your choosing (red, green or chipotle)
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 1/2 cup canned diced pickled jalapenos or 1/2 cup pitted olives
- 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
- 1/2 avocado, diced (optional)
Coat the bottom of your cast-iron pan with cooking spray. Start with a layer of chips, sprinkling of all three cheeses, then top with some onions, dollops of salsa, some peppers or olives and some cilantro; repeat one to two more times depending on the size of your skillet and how many people you are serving. Top with extra cheese. Cover the skillet with tin foil, which will help melt the cheese and soften the chips. Cook over the grill grate for 5 to 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Top with avocado. Enjoy with forks.
Assembling and marinating kebabs before you depart is a smart way to ensure an easy, tasty dinner. Serves 4.
- Wooden or metal skewers
- 1 pound chicken breasts (about 4 breasts), cut into large cubes
- 1 orange, juiced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons canned chipotle in adobo
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 each red, orange and yellow bell pepper, sliced
- 1 red onion sliced
- 1 package flour tortillas
- Limes, salsa and sour cream for toppings
- High-heat spray oil
Add orange juice, lime juice, oil, garlic, chipotle, soy sauce, cumin and water in a blender. Pulse to combine. Meanwhile, slide 3 to 4 chunks of chicken breast onto skewers. Carefully add assembled skewers to a gallon-size resealable disposable bag. Top with marinade, seal and pack in ice. (You might need two bags; just divide marinade evenly.) Put sliced peppers and onions in a separate bag.
Coat cast-iron skillet with cooking spray and place on one side of the grill grates. Add peppers and onions to pan and cook, stirring often, until veggies are soft and charred, about 20 minutes. Season with salt. Meanwhile, coat the other side of the grill grates with spray oil. Remove skewers from marinade and cook for about 10 minutes, until meat is cooked through. Flip after 5 minutes. Just before serving, quickly warm tortillas on grill grates, about 15 seconds a side. Serve with toppings.