Tips and Tricks for Cooking on the Road
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
If you are new to camping it can all seem a little overwhelming. While having a van does add in some really nice perks, meal preparation and cooking are things that can be really daunting.
It can seem impossible to have good food with limited space, time and amenities. Let me start by saying it is still possible to have delicious and filling meals while on the road or in the backcountry. It takes a little time and preparation but it is totally worth it in the long run. Small spaces and lack of a full kitchen doesn’t equal boring tasteless dishes.
Here are some things that I have fond helpful over the years for making the most of out my camping meal experience.
Pinterest is your friend. There are many camp friendly recipes on Pinterest worth checking out. Get creative. Just because you aren’t at home doesn’t mean you can’t cook family favorites while on the road.
Be intentional. Think about what you want to eat or what you might possibly need well before the week of your trip. This gives you ample time to get a shopping list together. I like to get a blank piece of paper and write “Day one” then underneath write breakfast lunch and dinner with space to fill in what each meal will be. For me this helps to see everything and gauge all of what needs to be packed. I find that if the meals are planned out ahead of time for longer trips or if more people than just Mickey and myself it takes an added stress away.
While campfire meals are great, camping stoves or the stoves in our lost saguaro vans are exactly like cooking at home (with just a little less space). We have made steaks, shrimp, pasta dishes all from scratch while out boondocking. However, over the years I have found that it saves so much time and space to do things ahead of time.
Making pasta? Pre cook the sauce.
Having a stir fry or fajitas? Pre cut all the veggies
Want eggs for breakfast? Make fast easy omlettes by pre beating the eggs in a protein shaker. Then all you have to do is mix and pour into the pan. Your veggies will be pre chopped as well. Easy peasy breakfast
WRAP IT UP: Wraps are the perfect camping and hiking vessel for protein. You can add leftovers into a wrap, make a quick quesadilla on the stove the options are endless. And bonus they pack really well if you are planning on any excursions from the van during the day. I find that pre cooking a large amount of chicken to have around is a great snack along with cold cuts and cheese. These can easily be thrown into a wrap with a couple of your favorite condiments and boom you have a healty and easy lunch. (also can throw in some pre chopped veggies for extra crunch and nutrition)
Plan for one big meal a day that needs to be cooked. No one wants to spend a ton of time in the kitchen while on an outdoor adventure. I recommend having one big meal a day and then having the other two be kind of free for alls. Have options where people can help themselves. Options that are quick and easy and do not require much prep.
Snacks. Snacks. Snacks. Do not forget snacks! Vital to camping and outdoor activity.
I have no affiliation with Trader Joes but I will say that it is a perfect place to shop for camping trips. They have so many different snack options and pre made meals. They also have really unique seasonal sauces and breads which can get you inspired for your next trip.
Bonus...if you have not tried their box wine it is great especially for the price. We usually get one block of red for the campfire and one block of rose to make spritzers.
In the winter months their whiskey is actually really delicious for the price. I LOVE to make hot toddies. My particular version involves spiced tea of your choice, lemon, cinnamon sticks and honey. Give it a try, you wont be disappointed.
On our most recent trip to Utah (post coming soon) I started with the things I thought would be good for dinner each night. I wanted variation, something that would store well / pack well and something that would be somewhat nutritious but also tasty as I knew we would be quite active during our trip. I also hate to waste food so I wanted things that could be re heated for snacks or repeat meals or even something I could eat for lunch when home from the trip (which we did. Jes had the pasta and I had the chili and it was perfect since we did not have time to go to the store after a long drive home)
Night One: driving night, fast food in Flagstaff. Check out Los Altos near the 89A for some quick, delicious Mexican food.
Night Two: Turkey Chili
I find that Chili is great for camping when it is cold. It is hearty and nutritious.
I threw ground turkey, 2 sweet potatoes, hatch chili fire roasted tomatoes, white beans, kidney beans and black beans, chicken broth, fresh garlic, a shallot, ½ red onion, ½ white onion, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, coriander, quinoa, salt pepper and red chili flakes into a crock pot for about 6 hours. I did this two days before our trip, put it in Tupperware and boom one meal done with about 15 min of prep time. I brought along fresh cilantro, cheese and hot sauce to top.
Night Three: Pasta:
I also love fall inspired foods (yes, I know, basic lady here) and was persuaded by the autumnal pasta sauce I saw at Trader Joes. Building from there I oven roasted tomatoes in olive oil and garlic until they started to burst. I put these in with the sauce and let it simmer. While the tomatoes were cooking I sautéed a shallot, one half white onion and butter in a pan. I added EVOO and mushrooms and cooked down and added to the sauce. I boiled rigatone and added to the sauce. I then added fresh spinach, parmesean cheese and motzarella.
(this was the meal we forgot to take pictures of, whoops)
Trader Joes does it again. They have an amazing Japanese fried rice. I fried that up and then added some mushrooms and oven roasted broccoli and red onions. I marinated ground chicken their soyaki sauce and cooked that separately.
All of these meals fit perfectly in the vans refrigerator. All we had to do for dinner was throw the food in the pans which allowed us more time to hang out by the campfire.
For lunch we had wraps. For breakfast we had hardboiled eggs, blueberry bread and pumpkin bread. Our mornings wouldn’t be complete without coffee. If you are in the market for an outdoor french press I am obsessed with BruTrek. We met them at the Overland Expo and they have great products. Check them out here.
Keep it simple, keep it fun. Prep ahead of time so you have time to enjoy the beautiful destinations you are traveling to. Happy trails my friends.
For the record, I get no kick backs for anything I recommend in this post. These are just things I like and want to share with you :)