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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How to eat well while camping

My family and some family friends have a 'Labour Day' long weekend tradition that has stretched (for some of us) for more than 20 years. In South Australia, Labour Day previously fell in May but a few years back this was moved to the first weekend in October. So I have just enjoyed a three day mini break at Mambray Creek, in the Southern foothills of the Flinders Ranges.

Having done the camping thing for quite some time now, my family is pretty well accustomed to the planning, shopping, packing, unpacking and organising that goes into a camping trip. My parents have a camper trailer stocked to the brim with  useful accessories like foldable tables, portable sinks, storage containers full of pots, pans, camp ovens, crockery and cutlery and a pretty nifty gas cooktop. Really, all JD and I need to bring is a change of underwear and our swags. Too easy.

In previous years I didn't have such a concern for my health as I do now, so I was always happy with tinned and packaged supplies, and even Army rations when my brother was a soldier. This sort of stuff is generally easier to transport and to prepare over a small gas hot plate or a campfire. But this year, I was committed to taking the healthier route as opposed to what would be 'easy', and thankfully mum is always happy to support my life choices and was all aboard the 'no processed/packaged food' bandwagon.

With a little bit of planning and preparation it can in fact be just as easy to prepare healthy, home made meals for camping. You just need to keep a few things in mind:

1. Get organisedA couple of weeks out from the trip, get together with everyone you'll be catering for, or with, and map out what your meals will be. Keeping in mind what cooking facilities you'll have available, and how much room these provide. It's a good idea to keep meals simple. Once you know what you'll be eating, think about whether these will be cooked from scratch at the campsite, or will they be prepared at home and just heated up over the campfire?

2. Write listsWrite a list of all the groceries, utensils, recyclable storage containers and cooking appliances you'll need. Separate the groceries into the stuff you're going to prepare at home and the stuff you'll prepare while camping. Buy what you need for preparing at home at least a week in advance and save the fresh stuff for the last minute (perhaps the morning of the day before you leave so you have time to pack it all up).

3. Get cooking
Make as much as you can at home in advance and freeze it to keep fresh. It will generally have time to defrost in an esky on the way to the campsite. 

4. Pack smart
If you can pack in the order that things will be used, it will make things easier for you. If not, try to pack foods in portion sizes so you only need to empty out one container to heat up, as required. Pack your fresh groceries in a cooler box or Engel (portable) fridge, storing in a cool place so the produce stays fresher for longer.

5. Keep leftovers
If you don't eat everything you thought you would, pack it back away in a container and store in the cooler box. You never know when someone may want a snack or to use an ingredient for something else. Think coleslaw for baked potatoes, which could be used as a filling for a sandwich or roll. If you've got the space, take your leftovers home or share them with your fellow campers.

Here's a list of some of the stuff we took camping this October long weekend. I'll be adding recipes over the next couple of weeks for some of the below, so keep an eye out!

Baked potatoes with all the trimmings
Slow cooked 'baked beans'
Pancakes with stewed fruit
Garden salad
Spaghetti or baked bean toasted sandwiches
Carrot and celery sticks
Sprouted hummus
Easy one bowl guacamole
Raw apricot/coconut and fig/cacao bliss balls.

I'd love to know what you like to eat/cook when camping?


  1. We used to camp at Mambray Creek when we were kids! Such an awesome place, teeming with Emu's, isn't it?

    What a great tradition, we have a similar situation where we go away at Easter, only we tend to stay in cabins. This is great advice though, you are so super organised.

    ps - the beans sound great, too!

    1. Thanks Erin :) It's such a fantastic spot hey, even with the Emu's trying to steal our food!

      Long weekends and camping trips seem to be a right of passage in Australia - we head to the River for Easter. It's up there as one of my fav times of the year!

  2. Some great ideas Kirsty. This just might make me plan ahead a little bit better

    1. Glad I could help, Chris. It all comes down to the planning.

  3. I haven't been camping in years but we used to go to Normanville every Easter. My dad used to cook bacon and eggs in his wok for breakfast - that was such a great start to the day. Lots of great ideas here, Kirsty.

    1. Oh you should definitely take your kids on a camping trip, I've no doubt you'd come up with some pretty creative gourmet camping fare yourself Christina!


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