Camping is a great way to teach basic life skills to your children and cooking is a great place to start. You can demonstrate how to cook with minimal resources, how to stay safe around a fire and even show them where their food comes from.
If you’ve been camping with kids, you’ve likely had a few of these thoughts pop up… what food did I actually pack? Do we have the required utensils to cook? What is something simple and easy to prepare? And, we’d better get the fire on ASAP!
To keep it simple, there’s a few strategies (and meals) that you can rely on to make cooking and camping a little bit easier with kids.
COOKING IN ADVANCE
Before we get into recipes, here is our number one tip: prepare some camping meals before your camping trip. The week before a camping trip, always cook up a few meals that freeze or refrigerate well.
Those portable fridge/freezers that fit nicely in your blue water camper fridge slides are lifesavers. Simply put your freezer meals (packed flat into zip lock bags) straight in. This also works well if you’ve got an esky and just going for the weekend.
Preparing in advance is super convenient, especially on the first night. After you’ve set up your tent, unpacked the car, and wrangled the kids, all you have to do is grab a flatpack and heat it up over the fire (or pop it on the gas stove).
Some great meal ideas to prepare include tuna bake, zucchini slice, pasta, spaghetti bolognese or Mexican pile on (recipe below). They travel well and reheat easily.
When you’re planning meals, either to reheat or to cook on the fly, you’ll need to consider what cooking equipment is available and what you’ll need to bring.
While campfires are excellent, you can’t always rely on them. Fire restrictions can come into place when you’re on site, so you should always bring another heat source just in case. But if you’ve got the all-clear, some handy cooking items to take with you include a camp oven, two-burner gas stove, a BBQ, jaffle iron, a billy, a gas fire lighter and compressed fire lighters.
Make room for all the other eating essentials too: plates, bowls, mugs, cutlery, utensils, a collapsible dish rack, a water jerry, and a fry pan, saucepan or two. To keep track of it, we recommend that you write a list of items or add it to this camping checklist.
SOME CAMPING MEAL STAPLES
A great go-to breakfast is either baked beans on toast or porridge. It’s simple and easy to prepare and takes up very little space. Just heat up your baked beans or porridge over the campfire or your stove.
As for lunch, it’s best to keep it pretty simple with sandwiches. Vegemite or ham and cheese sandwiches keep the kids happy and their tummies full. Quick and easy to prepare!
You can never have enough snacks! Kids just seem to graze all day long especially when camping. Take plenty of fruit, muesli bars, popcorn, rice cakes, boiled eggs, mini bites or veggie chips.
Some days it’s nice to get back to camp and heat up a pre-cooked meal, other times it’s great to sit around the campfire and get the kids involved in cooking their own dinner.
Kids really do enjoy this way of cooking and it’s a great way to teach kids to cook, especially when you’re using minimal resources. Here are a few cooking ideas:
If you love to fish and also love to eat it, then what better way to get everyone involved than to catch your own dinner!
Kids will learn an important lesson, that good things come to those who wait (although if you’re lucky, they won’t have to wait too long). Once the fish is caught, you can fillet and debone it. The kids love being part of the process and get to see how their dinner goes from the water to their plate.
A cheap and simple meal is popping your fish onto a pan to cook over heat or a fire. You can batter it with flour and beer, cut up some potatoes into chips, and toss them around on the frypan too. Serve with a simple salad. Alternatively, take some wraps and whip up a fish taco. Fish takes no time at all to cook up. If frying it up, allow a couple of minutes on each side to cook. Alternatively, if using batter, add a reasonable amount of oil to cook your battered fish.
SNAGS IN BREAD
It’s an Aussie staple and a must have when you’re camping. A sausage in bread with onion and sauce is delicious and the whole family will love you for it.
Super easy to prepare and cook, and it feeds the whole tribe. Kids don’t like sausages? Ensure you pack rissoles or hamburger patties instead.
MEXICAN PILE ON
This is another great meal where only half of the work needs to be pre-cooked and freezed for your camping trip. Once you’ve set up camp, all you need to do is reheat the meat and use your assembling skills!
Mexican meat ingredients: (pre-cook and freeze this part)
– Mince 500g
– 1 onion diced
– 240g tomato paste
– 3 cups of water
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt
– Oregano to taste
– Cumin powder to taste (start with 1-2 tsp)
– ½ to 1 teaspoon chilli powder
– 1 cup of cooked rice
Place meat and onion in a saucepan, brown lightly until there is no red meat. Add all other ingredients except the rice. Simmer for ½ an hour (lid off). Stir from time to time. Then add cooked rice and stir well. (Do this at home and freeze for travel, this is also a perfect filling for toasted sandwiches too)
Toppings for the Pile-On: (You can add to these ideas with any of your favourite toppings)
– Start with corn chips spread out on a plate
– Add heated/warmed Mexican meat mix
– Add shredded lettuce
– Add freshly diced tomatoes
– Sprinkle with cheese
If you’ve got a camp oven with you, this simple, easy recipe is a winner. There’s plenty of room for variations so you can make it your own. A basic damper that will never fail you is:
2 cups of self-raising flour,
2 pinches of salt
enough water to combine
then add what you like. (That may be some chocolate for dessert, or ham and cheese for a savoury damper.)
Wrap up in some aluminum foil, pop it in the ashes of your campfire and check it after half an hour. It might need a few more minutes after that outside of the foil to get nice and crisp.
A jaffle iron is a great addition to your camping kit. Spray some olive oil or coat the waffle iron with butter, place your bread down and fill with whatever you like. Baked beans are a great easy option. Put on the coals of the campfire and wait about 10 minutes. This is a delicious meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Now this one is the easiest of them all. You can find a large packet of ravioli in the refrigerated section and they come in various flavours. It sits nicely in your esky or portable fridge and takes about 5 minutes to cook in boiling water. It’s also a great idea to boil up some mixed frozen vegetables too (peas, corn and carrot).
Serve up with a pasta or pizza sauce mixed through and you’ll have yet another speedy, uncomplicated meal.
A simple dish that keeps the kids chock-full. Ingredients include pasta, large can of tuna, can of corn kernels, and a bottle of tuna bake sauce (the spinach and garlic one is awesome).
Cook the pasta and add the rest of the ingredients and top with grated cheese. Place in your skillet or BBQ (with lid) for 40 minutes.
Not only a great breakfast dish but an even better snack! To avoid using too much plastic in your cooking, consider making banana pancakes rather than one of those bottled pancake mixes. Just mash up some banana, eggs, and self-raising flour with a pinch of salt…throw in some sultanas for extra sweetness, and place on the skillet.
OUR FINAL TIP…
Please ensure that you bag up all your rubbish during meal preparation and place it in a bin provided. Better yet, pack it out with you and dispose of it at home. Leaving your campsite clean and tidy for the next family is always a good lesson for the kids too.
Consider ways to reduce your use of plastic as much as possible. Camping can create a lot of waste if not done thoughtfully. Seeking fresh ingredients that aren’t wrapped up in plastic and using your own Tupperware to store food is ideal.
Camping doesn’t stop you from eating well in the wilderness with your kids – all you need is a little preparation. These quick and easy recipes are a great way to get your kids involved and make cooking part of your camping adventure.