I used to love camping as a child: The fresh air! The hiking! The s’mores!
And then when I became a parent, I realized that the reason I loved it so much when I was younger was that children don’t have to pack every family possession—including food and rations to sustain a small army for a week—into the family van without losing their cool. And children aren’t so worn out by the process of doing all this packing that they feel as though they have been on a camping trip already before the family vacation has even begun.
After all the stresses of preparation, you deserve a fireside glass of wine (be sure to add that to your packing list. The inside of a boxed wine travels remarkably well in your cooler. Just saying …)
And as for the menu, the good thing about camping is that it doesn’t have to be sophisticated or complicated to taste so incredibly delicious. My favorites involve just simple ingredients that you don’t have to fuss with too much.
5 Kid-Friendly Campfire Meal Ideas
- In Girl Scout camp, we used to make foil dinners regularly. A foil dinner is shorthand for “throw whatever you want into a foil packet and cook it over the fire.” Things you can add to your foil dinner might be: ground beef or turkey, carrots, onions, broccoli, potatoes, cheese, and seasonings to taste. You can also make a “foil breakfast” with the same concept.
- Canned biscuits make a versatile camp food. Try wrapping one of these around a hot dog and roasting it to golden perfection over a fire. This is a great way to involve kids in the meal preparation.
- A simple bean salad made from canned beans (such as kidney and pinto), plus chopped veggies and a vinaigrette dressing, will last for a few days and will taste better as it marinates over time.
- Go beyond the s’more. Sure, you have to have the traditional campfire dessert. But experiment with these other ingredients, too, and make a special camping concoction: chocolate chips, waffle cones, bananas (can be wrapped in foil and cooked up to creamy perfection), cherries, and whipped cream.
- Get [slow] cooking. If you’re able to tote along a slow cooker with you (and you have the electricity), making a slow-cooked meal is simple work. Add a beef roast, some vegetables, and a can of cream soup, and you’ll have an aromatic hot meal that cost you hardly any time.
There are hundreds of recipes available online for easy camp meals — be sure to check Pinterest for some “camp-spiration” before you hit the road.
May your tent stay dry and your marshmallows turn golden, and may the nearby Ritz Carlton always have a vacancy just in case.
Cynthia J. Drake is the author of the forthcoming book, Budget Travel for the Genius, which comes out soon and is available for preorder.