Would you like to pick your camping recipes, plan your camping menu, build your grocery list, and create a food packing for your camping list in just 5-10 minutes? In this article, I will show you my unique camping meal plan for creating a menu derived from my own inventory of easy camping meals and recipes. I'll also show you how to prepare the fastest grocery list that you've ever made (seriously!), and also create a list of the food that you need to pack from home.
In the last article, I provided you with some of my favorite easy camping meals including foil packets, Dutch Oven and cast-iron cooking, and campfire cooking with a stick. I also recently discussed some of my favorite camp kitchen essentials and included links for purchasing my recommended tools.
Today, I am going to give you the five easy steps to get all of your meal planning and packing lists done. It took me an hour or so to initially set up my system, but now it saves me so much time and I can do all of these things really fast. So fast, in fact, that the last time that we went camping, I had this all done in 3 minutes.
3 minutes? Yep.
I'm gonna tell you that this is straight-up Type A travel planning, but stick with me if you are Type B because I promise this is going to save you at least a couple of hours of not-fun planning before each camp trip. I promise.
5 Steps to Easy Camping Meal Planning:
1. Select Your Recipes
To reiterate from the last post, you generally want to pick simple camping recipes. Things that are time-consuming will take time away from your relaxation time, so choose wisely. Also, ensure that you plan something simple for the day that you arrive so that you aren’t anxious about making a meal. We often will make one nice meal during our trip, but never on the first night. You should also think about your activities for the day as you build your meal plan. If you are leaving your campsite to do an activity, you will find that it takes a fair amount of time to transit and then do an activity. That will cut into your time to relax (notice a consistent concern of mine?).
I’ve noticed that when we have sites that are along the water and where we don’t have to leave the site to get to the activity, we have a lot more time throughout the day. Some of my most memorable meals have come from the stays where we don’t have anything really planned and we just hang out around the campsite. If you make something that cooks slowly over the fire then you have time to relax while your food cooks.
2. Create your menu
In truth, you just need a piece of scratch paper to make your menu and that's what I would do if camping was a one-off trip. If you camp more often, however, and would like to follow my process then you need a spreadsheet tool like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Create a column for each day and then create rows for Breakfast, Morning Snack, Lunch, After Snack, Dinner, and Dessert.
Make sure that you have a main dish and two sides. Sides can be as easy as a veggie tray, fruit tray, and/or chips and dips so that people can just graze.
I've included a blank menu template for you. Keep reading to the end for the full Excel workbook.
3. Create Your Ingredients List (One Time Only)
Over several years of regularly camping, we've gotten to the point where we have our favorite meals that we like to make. That's great except what kept happening is that I was just running through the list of ingredients in my head to make my grocery and packing lists. When we'd get to our site, I'd realize that I forgot some of the ingredients. Oh, and I can't even tell you how many times we've had to buy condiments or a certain drink because we forgot to bring it.
Now, I don't have to worry about that because I have a worksheet that has every ingredient that you could possibly ever want to make a specific meal. I write down all of the meals that we like to eat when camping. We love fajitas. There’s also a chicken/ranch foil packet meal that we like. For breakfast, we often have pancakes or breakfast tacos. For each of these meals, I list out all of the ingredients that you could possibly need including spices and condiments. I list the dish and then I put all of the ingredients underneath it. I also list the menu item to the left of the ingredient (and I’ll explain why momentarily).
For example, here is my ingredient list for making and serving burgers:
You get the idea. I created an area for every breakfast, lunch, or dinner as well as things that we need to bring every time like condiments, drinks, and spices.
Remember how I said that it only took me an hour to set up my process? Yes, that is true on the day that I thought of it. Unfortunately, it also took years of forgetting things. Don't be old me. Be new me. Do this. I promise it works! And once you set this up, you can leave it as-is or update it with new meals.
Here is what my overall page looks like.
The full download for the editable workbook with each of these sheets is at the end of this article.
4. Create Your Grocery and Food Pack Lists
I hope that your head is not exploding. Download the workbook at the bottom of the page and take a look. I promise that I've done the hard work and included instructions.
OK, back to it.
Here’s where you save lots and lots and lots of time. For the grocery list, I go back to my menu Iand copy all of the menu dish ingredients to a blank worksheet page.
I then add another column that says “Buy or Bring”. If I have the item, I put “Bring." If I need to buy the item at the grocery store, I put down “Buy.”
If you really want to save time, buy online and have it delivered directly to my house.
After I have purchased the groceries, I filter by “Bring” and I pack any dry goods that I can.
Once the groceries arrive, I put any dry goods with the other dry goods. For refrigerated items, I group them and keep them in their grocery bags in my fridge so that I don't forget them. I also will refer to my "bring" list of refrigerated items and put those things in a bag in the fridge.
I then sit down and have a glass of wine.
5. Review Your Food Packing List
You're 90% there so don't screw up now! On your day of travel, check your list, especially for any items that you refrigerated!
And remember, don't be like Old Chrissy and forget the condiments or drinks:)
DOWNLOAD the editable camping menu plan here.
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