It’s like having a picnic at every meal! Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned how to transport, store and cook food for camping (and I’m still learning). For a fun long weekend away, I’m detailing below the type of food I often buy and how I keep it.
At home, I try and keep packaged, processed food to a minimum (and we eat a lot less treats) but for camping, packaged food is really helpful. That said, I do look for more ways (like making my own pancakes instead of using the shake and pour bottles) to minimise this. Any tips welcome!
Portable fridge/freezers are fantastic but we don’t own one so I use three main things to keep food when camping:
- Ice Box
- Camp Pantry/Camp Cupboard (a small fold up one you can get from camping stores, like this one)
Plus a washing basket to transport extra food
Food all packed ready to go
Planning it out and breaking it up
I plan it out in three steps:
- Menu plan – decide on what meals we will have and make a list of food items needed
- Sort Pantry vs Cold Food – Break food items needed into two categories: pantry food & cold food
- Corn Chips, Can Diced Tomatoes, Can Corn, Can Baked Beans, Taco Seasoning (for nachos)
- English Muffins
- Juice Poppers
- Hot dog buns
- Tin Tuna
- 2 Min noodles
- Easy snacks
- Damper ingredients (+ golden syrup)
- Pancake ingredients (+ maple syrup)
- Fresh fruit (seasonal)
- Fresh salad ingredients
- Box cereal
- Packet dry pasta
Transporting the food
I put as much as I can in the Esky and then the rest in a washing basket. I find that the washing basket keeps things organised and can be loaded in the car allowing easy access to food while traveling if the campsite is a distance away; I reorganise the food once I get set up at the campsite.
In the Esky
At the campsite, I use a heap of freezer blocks (rather than ice) and store the butter, fruit, salad & eggs. Basically the ingredients that are best kept cool but don’t spoil easily (like meat).
In the Camp Cupboard
All non-perishable food and bread.
I tend to pre-prepare most of the fresh food (washing it, cutting it up where necessary) to make things easy. The Sistema compartment containers are fantastic for this type of thing.
I washed and dried grapes before putting into the container so they are ready to eat.
Same with the salad ingredients. This makes it easy to build sandwiches and wraps.
- Don’t put bananas in an Esky with other food or everything will smell and taste like banana.
- Bring a few extra empty containers to store food when opened
- Bread tends to get stale quickly, so either buy fresh every day (if you have access to shops) or plan your fresh bread meal on the first camping day.
- Mince (for nachos)
- Hot dog sausages
- Grated cheese (for nachos)
- Sour cream (for nachos)
- Whip cream (for pancakes)
- Yoghurt in tubs
- Brie cheese (a treat my husband and I like after we put the kids to bed)
- Sliced cheese (for sandwiches/wraps/snack)
- Salami sticks
- Ham (for sandwiches/wraps)
- Bacon (breakfast)
- Ice (usually buy ice at our destination)
Transporting the food
All the cold food goes into the Ice Box with (about 5 or 6) ice bricks from home. When I get to the campsite, I buy ice for the Ice Box and move the ice bricks to the Esky to keep other items cold (see pantry food above).
Storing the food
Drain water off every now and again and keep topping up with ice. This keeps food fresh and drinks cold.
Butter & Cheese
I keep a block of butter & grated cheese in their own Sistema containers. This protects them in the Esky/Ice box and makes it easy to access. Placing a block of butter in a container works better than the tub (you buy it in) because sometimes the lid can crack or fall off as it’s jiggled around in the Esky.
With grated cheese, a packet is fine if it’s sealed, but once open, it can get tricky. That is why I transfer the contents of the packet to a container to transport and use. Works a treat for placing in the middle of the table for people to help themselves at meal times.
Butter in a container for sandwich spreads and cooking
- Think water; anything cardboard will go soggy, get wrecked and spread itself throughout the icebox…so either put items in a plastic container or buy items (like yoghurt in plastic tubs – and remove cardboard outer package) that are sealed and relatively water-proof.
- For eggs, you can purchased a plastic egg carton container from camping shops to store eggs (there’s nothing quite so bad as a cracked egg throughout an ice box).
- If you are only storing drinks in an esky or an ice box for an afternoon, and you want drinks to get cold very quickly, add water to the ice so it’s all sloshy and drinks will be cold in under 10 minutes.
- Depending on what sort of meat I have and how it is packaged, I sometimes transfer the meat to containers prior to packing. The mince I purchased this time, was vacuumed sealed and so I left it the way it was. For ham and the hot dogs, it’s best for them to go into plastic containers so it’s easy to stack in the ice box and so they don’t get wet and soggy.
- Portioned sized canned or bottled drinks are ideal for camping.
Re-organising at Campsite
Once I’m at the campsite, I reorganise food slightly in my three main food areas as follows:
1. Ice Box
- Sour cream
- Ice bricks (used in the Ice Box for transporting cold food)
3. Camp Cupboard
- All non-preshisble items, snacks & bread
With this shopping list, below are the options I have for meals. Sometimes we eat dinner at lunch time when we camp.
Bacon & Egg Muffin
Bacon & Eggs
2 minute noodles
Bacon & Egg Muffin
The good thing about this breakfast is you don’t really need a plate! Just slap it all together and enjoy.
Mustard/BBQ Sauce/Tomato Sauce
Bacon & Egg muffin for breakfast
Family Favourite Camping Dinner Meals
I keep all condiments with our camping gear so it’s already packed in its own container. You can find more about our gear here: Packing for Camping.
- Peanut Butter
- Most of these items are non-perishables. For perishable items, I put them in the fridge and pull them out or replace the next time we camp.
- It’s great to have this in a separate small box so it can be pulled out in one go when it comes to eating and cooking.
- I find spray oil better because the spill factor is very low.
I made delicious damper on an open fire at our last camping trip. So good! You can find the recipe here: Campfire Damper Recipe.
Damper with lashings of butter and golden syrup
If you have any tips to share, please do so in the comments. Also check out the great tips on the Be A Fun Mum Community Facebook Page.
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ReneeMay 1, 2014 at 9:54 am
I’ve found to save ALOT of cash on ice (which can end up really expensive), I freeze spring water bottles & also one of those large Spring water dispensers that you get from the supermarket (about 11 litres). I have a big deep freezer & pop these into the bottom of the freezer a month out so they are really solid. The large water dispenser (must be plastic) will normally keep the esky cool for up to 7 days depending on how hot the weather is & how frequently the esky is opened…… Best of all you can drink it!
Best tip I’ve ever received for saving on ice purchases.
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GeorgieMarch 30, 2015 at 9:52 am
What an awesome post!! Something we have recently discovered is that we can order cryovac-ed meat from our butcher. It not only helps meat last longer, but also avoids water getting in! Talking of water, we find it a never ending struggle. No matter what containers we use water gets in from the ice box. We usually use 2 x ziplock bags on everything (that isnt chryovaced) and put into a container as well!
GeorgieMarch 30, 2015 at 9:53 am
We also freeze all meat aside from the first day’s before we leave.
Kelly - Be A Fun MumMarch 30, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Yes, that’s a great tip! Thanks for leaving a comment Georgie. It’s so helpful to have these comments with tips. Really ads to the post and helps others.
neiceApril 10, 2015 at 9:15 pm
We are taking our first family camping trip and I was so nervous about packing everything I need. So good to have a visual of your list. Hey I’m all good now.????
Kelly - Be A Fun MumApril 11, 2015 at 6:00 am
All the best with it!
Corrie @ Mountain StitchesJune 23, 2015 at 4:52 am
I just wanted to let you know what I do for pancakes. Camping pancakes are my absolute favorite, and I have quite the herd to feed. I also like to do everything I can without having the processed foods. So for my pancakes, I mix all my dry ingredients at home, and then when we go to mix them up on site, I simply have to add eggs, water, and a little oil. If you would like me to share my recipe, just shoot me an e-mail. I also make my syrup up homemade at home. Happy Camping! Thanks for sharing your wonderful tips!
Kelly - Be A Fun MumJune 23, 2015 at 7:25 am
Hi Corrie! I do that too. Wrote a post here http://beafunmum.com/2014/04/camping-food-pancake-recipe-pre-prepared/ – is that how you do it too? Always welcome different recipes to try!
Would LOVE to know how you make the syrup. Can you email me email@example.com ?
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