Easy camping meals

Camping is a lot of fun on a budget. You get dirty, you get busy, and you get hungry.

But taking the fridge and kitchen sink really goes against the idea of camping in the first place, so whipping up something delicious can be challenging. Here are some great camping meal ideas so you don't have to rough it at dinnertime.

First night feast

Preparing a meal at home and freezing it is always a smart way to stretch your budget and start the trip. Think hearty foods that freeze well, like stews and soups. Pop a container or zip-lock bag of frozen food in a chiller bag and simply reheat it in a pot over the campfire. Presto.

Fancy packet meals

With limited facilities, ingredients, and refrigeration, convenience foods really shine and are much cheaper than dehydrated hiking meals. You can transform blah packet foods with a little camping magic. If you’re on a budget, own brand food is ideal.

  • Tuna mornay: macaroni cheese + flavoured tuna
  • Pasta: spaghettini + chorizo + canned cherry tomatoes
  • Burritos: baked beans + Mexican seasoning + tinned corn + tortilla
  • Fried rice: 90-second rice + broccoli + shelf-stable Chinese sausage or jerky
  • Spicy couscous: couscous + carrots + chilli tuna
  • Satay noodles: mi goreng + dried peas + peanut butter

Lightweight foods

If you’re trekking, it's absolutely vital to carry the lightest stuff possible. This is where meal planning comes in handy.

  • Only carry as much as you need. Zip-lock bags are great for this.
  • Skip heavy cans and jars and, where possible, get rid of any extra packaging.
  • Choose foods that can handle getting crushed in your bag. Go for tortillas over bread, and oats over cornflakes.
  • Choose energy-dense foods like peanut butter, chocolate and dried fruit. More calories for less weight!

Camping must-haves

  • Wraps or tortillas are sturdier than bread and stay fresh for a week.
  • UHT milk – buy the 200mL cartons. Just the right amount for a bowl of cereal and a cuppa.
  • Camp porridge – cook instant oats with powdered milk and dried fruit for a quick, hot brekky.
  • Boiled eggs – perfect in a wrap, as a snack or on top of noodles.
  • Couscous – add boiling water and wait three minutes, or add directly to packet soup or a stew.
  • Small potatoes – prick with a fork, wrap in foil and bury in a hole filled with hot coals. 30 minutes later you’ll have tasty spuds to top with baked beans or stew.

Sweet treats

  • Marshmallows for toasting – the best thing about campfires.
  • Trail mix – dried fruit, nuts, choc chips and pretzels will keep you going!
  • Instant cheesecake - shelf-stable cream-cheese triangles on a sweet biscuit.
  • Fruit cake keeps for a week and is excellent with a game of cards.

Camp-kitchen tricks

  • Fill empty tubes meant for travel toiletries with things like sauce, coffee and oil.
  • Plastic, stackable tubs with lids are excellent storage. One for crockery, cups and cutlery and another for cooking gear (pot, knife and chopping board) and oil, pepper, salt and sauces. Pack a third container with detergent, scrubber, Chux and tea towel and you’ve got the kitchen sink.
  • Pack strong plastic bags for rubbish.

Fresh air and a campfire meal makes everything better, so get out there and get cooking.

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