Camping season is about to come to a close. There is time for a few more campouts before we put the gear away for the season. My family enjoys tent camping; we haven’t really had the opportunity to do any “glamping.” I have a large tent and portable grill with changeable plates (so I can do pancakes without pans), chairs and coolers. Everything fits nicely in my SUV, and we can pack and go. Camping is my favorite way to vacation because it’s budget friendly. Once I get to the campsite, the only expense I’m going to have is ice.

I want to keep the food simple while we are camping, with as little dishes as possible. So, I can make macaroni salad, potato salad or broccoli salad, and put them in zip-top bags. When it’s time to serve, I just cut the edge with scissors I made sure to pack, and we don’t need a serving dish or spoon. I bring an extra zip-top bag and rubber band to store any leftover salad till the following day (I put the rubber band around the end I cut and slide into a clean bag). Or I package the leftovers in bags that I know will be the serving size for that day. Filing these in the cooler can make grabbing the next meal a snap.

I freeze my water bottles ahead and use them in the coolers, so we need less ice on our trip. As the water melts, we have drinking water, and they take a while to melt.

I’m going to do as much prep as possible before we leave. I’m not standing in a camp kitchen with flies all over while I’m chopping vegetables. That means I’m going to do things similar to freezer cooking. I’m going to marinate meats and vegetables and then freeze them, as they defrost they marinate, and it requires less ice that I have to buy. The problem with this is that a couple of meals need to be less frozen, and I may have to pull them out of the cooler to finish defrosting before cooking. Generally that’s not a problem. I take the day’s meals out in the morning and put them in the drink cooler. It is always warmer than the food cooler. I use a separate cooler for drinks to keep the kids out of the food, and the dirt out of that cooler. The kids never seem to have clean hands when they stick them in the ice, or maybe that’s just mine. Meats like tri tip are going to take longer to defrost than, say, hamburgers or hot dogs, so we plan on eating them later in the week.

Breakfast is easy; I bring oatmeal packets and boil water, or pancake mix. I combine dry ingredients in a bag and wet in a container, or I buy the premade that I just need to add water to. Of course, no campout is the same without bacon or sausage in my opinion, so I always make breakfast burritos, at least once.

Lunch tends to be hamburgers or hot dogs. They don’t take long to cook, just long enough for us to warm up from swimming, or take a break before we head back out to our next activity. Sandwiches are another great idea, but I tend to have to carry more in the cooler for them. It would depend on what your family needs to make these work. Leftovers are great for a faster lunch; just fill a tortilla and go. I love using tortillas because no plates or silverware are required.

Dinner is usually chicken, tri tip or shish kabob. It takes longer to cook, and gives everyone a chance to sit around the fire and talk. When camping with others, we usually make this a community effort. I suggest you make sure to make those arrangements before you leave. This is where we have the salads and bread and vegetables come out. I’ve got some new foil recipes to try this year. I’ll let you know what we think. We sit at the table and do dishes afterward. Some of our favorite memories have been made around picnic tables this way.

I don’t really do dessert when camping. S’mores are more than sufficient, and the kids want them every night anyway. You could bring cookies or brownies.

Here’s to a stress-free weekend with the family! See you around the lake.

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Corissa has been a resident of Calaveras for over 25 years. She is a mother of 4 who loves raising her kids in such a supportive community. Writing was never something she saw herself doing and it has been a wonderful new adventure.

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