Today we will be talking about meal planning. Meals are one of the most memorable aspects of any camping trip and if one meal is a disaster you will never hear the end of it. I will show you how to avoid spending half the day in the kitchen and still deliver a meal that will knock their socks off. Pre planning and pre prep are a great way to buy more time for doing what you came for “Camping”. Later I will share a recipe that includes a great way to pre cook pasta. There are two methods for meal planning, the ration method and the recipe method. Today I will focus on the recipe method. I will go into depth on the ration method in a later issue. A small group in a camp setting will find the recipe method much easier to implement. If you have a very large group or need to be mobile the ration method is desirable.
An efficient and fun way to plan your menu is to gather up all your favorite recipes and make a daily menu centered around your planned activities not worrying about space or supply restrictions. For example if you are planning some hiking, sandwiches will do the trick. If you plan to stay close to the site you can afford some more elaborate meals. I try to plan for a variety of situations. This allows you to be fixable once you hit the site. You don’t have to follow your menu to the tee. Mix it up, be spontaneous and have fun.
Once you have your menu, figure out what supplies you will need, then depending on your space and weight requirements adjust your menu and/or your equipment accordingly. Otherwise just creating the menu can be a real challenge. Our goal here is to have fun. This method for meal planning is an easy way to figure out what supplies you will need without a lot of size and weight calculations. There are plenty of complicated formulas you can use for meal planning and in some circumstance like backpacking or extended trips these are essential, but for the average campsite certainty not necessary. If you forget or overlook something, most campgrounds either have a store on site or within a short driving distance. You might kick yourself for having to spend twice what something is worth but you won’t starve.
When planning your menu include plenty of fresh water, high-energy snacks and trail foods like fresh fruit, beef jerky and granola. Stay away from things like chips, soda and cookies unless you plan on sitting around the campsite wishing you had a TV to watch. Outdoor activities require a lot of energy and burn a lot of calories. The best way to plan healthy meals is to use the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid. Keep in mind appetites will be up so plan accordingly. Click on the link above to visit the USDA’s site.
Do as much pre planning and pre prep as possible. (Say that 5 times fast) I use a lot of zip lock bags, cutting up and cooking as much as I can before I get to the site. Use a cooler to keep your perishables like milk, condiments and fresh vegetables. I use powdered milk in all my camp recipes because it is convenient to carry and easy to convert your recipe to fresh milk if you have it. I usually use fresh milk for the first few days then go to the powdered milk after we have run out. At least that is the plan. My daughter loves to drink milk and always throws a fit whenever we run out of fresh. I often find myself reentering society in exchange for a little peace and quiet.
The nice thing about the recipe menu planning method is most home recipes can be converted to outdoor recipes with very little effort. This next recipe is a perfect example of something that is equally delicious at home or out on the campsite. Note the pre planning tips that make this a quick fix without compromising on taste.
Campsite Pasta Italiano
7 to 8 oz pasta
4 Tbsp olive or peanut oil
1 lb Italian sausage cut into ½ inch pieces
1 28 oz can Italian Style crushed tomatoes (do not substitute with regular crushed tomatoes)
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Do Ahead Tip: Cut sausage before hand and store in a zip lock bag
Do Ahead Tip: Cook the pasta at home as directed on package. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl add pasta and 2 Tbsp oil. Toss until evenly coated, seal in a zip lock bag and store in cooler until needed.
Do Ahead Tip: Plan several pasta dishes and cook all the pasta at once. Store each portion in a separate bag. Use a permanent marker to write the name of the recipe each bag is intended for.
Before you prepare your meal remove the appropriate pasta bag from the cooler and let it reach room temperature.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add sausage and brown evenly until cooked through. Drain grease; add crushed tomatoes and garlic powder. Stirring constantly bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until thickened about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add pasta. Mix well. If your skillet is too small to add the pasta you can mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. The heat of the sauce will reheat the pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with parmesan Cheese.
Whala! A simple delicious meal whipped up in a flash. Guaranteed to stick to the ribs after a hard days play. Don’t forget to leave some room for the S’mores.
Timothy D McBride
About the Author: I am an avid camper with a passion for the simple life. As the owner and operator of Camping &Cooking Supplies I strive to provide a tremendous resource for the camping enthusiast. So come and visit us at http://store.camping-cooking-supplies.com. See you on the trails.