Freezer Bag-It: Easy, Healthy, Ready-to-Go Camping Meals
Ever examined the label on a package of hotdogs? The ingredient list is enough to shock even a person of low health and environmental standards.
Consider some of these little gems: mechanically separated turkey (described by the USDA as “batter-like” poultry product made from by-product), corn syrup for thickening and sweetening, meat sludge made from mechanically separated pork and/or beef (see image at your own risk), and a whole bunch o’ stuff made in labs with names you can’t pronounce.
In other words, not a great choice for a nice, summer camping trip. Eat at your own risk.
Camping doesn’t have to be an indulgence fest. In fact, camping is a great way to connect with nature and experience eating in a more natural way. Done right it can actually make camping a heck of a lot easier (especially the packing the cooler bit!). Here’s our tips and tricks to easier, healthier camping meals.
1. To start, let’s write off the usual shortcuts. Lose the condiments (they take up waay too much room in the cooler anyway) and the usual canned quick fixes for dinner. They’re all additives and little nutritional payoff.
2. Make sure you’re equipped with the camp kitchen essentials you need to prepare healthy meals. You can make virtually any meal with these key tools:
- camp stove and/or BBQ (unless the campsite provides them, in which case, leave it at home)
- large skillet
- medium sauce pan (essential if you’re more than two or three campers)
- medium pot (can double as tea kettle)
- mixing bowl (can double as salad bowl and dishwashing bowl)
- cutting board
- large sharp knife
- smaller sharp knife (for the sous-chef)
- big cooking spoon or spatula (serving spoons are often overlooked)
- any necessary recipes
3. Work out a meal plan and prep for it. Be prepared for the fact that you might not have internet access (gasp!). Make notes on any recipes you don’t have stored in your noggin. Camping is a great place to experiment.
Prepping ahead of time will encourage the family to eat those yummy vegetables they need. Fill a freezer bag or two with sliced carrots, celery, zucchini, grape tomatoes and anything else you might need. A simple homemade hummus will ensure all that goodness is happily enjoyed. It’s cheap, stores well and is quick to prepare.
Easy Peasy Hummus
16 oz can of chickpeas
2 tbsp tahini
4 tbsp lemon juice
2 or 3 tbsp olive oil
A few cloves fresh or roasted garlic
One roasted red pepper
The order in which you add the ingredients to the blender is the trick to making the perfect texture. Blend tahini and lemon juice for a few minutes. Add optional ingredients next and finish with the drained can of chickpeas. Salt the hummus if necessary. If time permits, cooking the chickpeas from scratch makes this one of the cheapest snacks in town.
All those prepped veggies can be further chopped on site for use in sauces and salads. Take a sharpie and write your meal plan right there on the bag.
Pancakes are a great luxury while camping. Mix up your dried ingredients and toss them in another ziploc bag. Write instructions for wet ingredients on the bag.
Savvy Camper Pancakes
1 cup flour (hint: use spelt or buckwheat)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Bust out the sharpie and write the wet ingredients on the bag:
1 cup milk (almond, hemp or soy work great too!)
2 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
1 large egg
Out in the country there’s bound to be fresh, local produce for sale. Plan to stop along the way and pick up some berries to go with those pancakes.
4. Live off the land for a day. Leave the steaks at home. They’re expensive and difficult to cook properly on a camp stove. Camping near a good fishing spot? Plan to catch something fresh and eat that for dinner. Depending on the climate, you might even find fresh veggies or mushrooms in the wild. Dandelion greens make a delicious salad!
Don’t forget tinfoil, olive oil and seasoning for that fresh fish, along with a lemon or two, which can double as a salad dressing. If you absolutely must pack your own greens, choose hearty green leaves like kale.
5. Bring plenty of clean water. Frozen water bottles can double as ice in the cooler. Try to avoid too many sugary soft drinks, since they drain energy and dehydrate the body. They’re especially unhelpful in the hot sun. Stick to water.
6. Know when it’s time to indulge. That doesn’t have to mean s’mores and hotdogs. Homemade muffins and cakes make a great mid-afternoon snack. In the evening, try this alternative to the traditional s’more.
Banana Boat S’mores (Serves One)
2 pieces dark chocolate
1 half-marshmallow (optional)
Split banana in half and place chocolate and broken up marshmallow inside. Place in tin foil and roast lightly over a fire. Unwrap and enjoy.
7. Camping with friends is a great way to lighten the workload. Share the cooking tools and the work. Each family can be responsible for a meal or two.
8. If camping just isn’t camping without burgers, try these classic bean burgers. They freeze well, can be eaten on a bun with lettuce, tomato and pickle in the evening or fried up with eggs for breakfast in the morning. Some complain beans cause flatulence but this problem can usually be avoided by soaking the beans for a day before cooking.
Moosewood Bean Burgers
4 cloves garlic
1 grated carrot, large
1 cup chopped onions
dash of olive oil
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
About 3 cups cooked beans (black or kidney)
1½ cups rolled oats
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onions and garlic for several minutes before adding in grated carrots and spices and cooking for several more minutes. Mix in a large bowl with condiments and oats. Mash beans thoroughly and add to the mixture. Makes 6-8 patties. Throw in a ziploc and freeze for upcoming camping adventures.