After a long day of adventuring and driving, you finally find somewhere to camp for the night. The Clif bar and handful of trail mix you ate that afternoon is wearing off. Patience stretched thin, you dig around in a bin of food in the back of your car, trying to find something to satisfy the ever-demanding dragon in your belly. What do you find? Instant noodles…yet again.
What if I told you, it IS possible to eat healthy, and on a budget while car camping? What if you could eat more than granola bars and instant noodles? All it takes is some planning and creativity.
To begin planning your meals, you first have to think about your “kitchen”. What supplies are necessary to make delicious meals out of the back of your car? The following is a list of MUST haves when living life on the road.
- Portable stoves.
These can range from a small and portable gas stove, such as a Jetboil, or MSR Pocket Rocket, to a larger stove, such as a Coleman. What you choose depends on what your goals and plans are while on the road. I personally use a lightweight MSR portable single flame stove, as I find it easy to pack, it doesn’t take up much space and can be used for backpacking trips.
Just in case the self ignite switch on your stove stops working.
- Kitchen supplies
A pot, a frying pan, knife, cutting board, can opener, bowls, and sporks. Essentials in the “kitchen”. I use collapsible bowls, which can double as a cup. These save space and weight! However, my favourite kitchen utensil is a spork. They can be used for eating, stirring, and mixing!
Food is often the most exciting part of the day. If you have good food to look forward to!
- Oatmeal. Spice it up! Add dried fruit, milk powder, coconut flakes, maple syrup
- Eggs. I eat a LOT of eggs while on the road. They are filling and packed with protein! And, can be diversified easily. Make scrambled eggs, but throw in some chopped onion, peppers, and spinach. Make hard boiled eggs to add protein to other dishes. Or just make a plain old fried egg to have with toast.
- Potatoes. Fry ‘em up! Or, if you have a fire, wrap them in tin foil and let them cook in the coals until done.
- Peanut butter or nut butter. Again, protein packed. Good to snack on, or put on toast, fruit, or celery.
- Banana pancakes – just mash bananas, and an egg together and fry it up! You can even add cinnamon or other spices to make it interesting.
- Coffee. Instant coffee or “real” coffee, depends on what you like! There are many lightweight and affordable devices out there to make your own lattes on the road.
- Powdered Milk is an essential in the “kitchen”. It can be added to so many different dishes, and doesn’t go bad! You just mix what you need, and save the rest as powder.
- Tuna (plain or pre flavoured) and crackers, peppers or celery, or any other veggie of your choice!
- Sandwiches. Since you already have eggs and tuna you could make those into sandwiches, or use some deli meat.
- Macaroni salad with veggies mixed in.
- Chickpea Scramble.
The one-pot wonders, as I like to call them.
- Brown instant rice
- Chili (canned beans and veggies)
- Homemade soup, just boil your meat of choice until cooked, add some chicken, veggie, or beef stock, and add some cabbage, spinach, onion, or whatever veggies you want. * this uses more fuel than other dishes, but tastes delicious!
- Pasta. You can be as creative as you want with this!
- Dark chocolate
- Granola bars or trailmix
- Carrots, celery, or any other veggies
These are just a few samples of what I usually eat while on the road. Most of these ingredients are inexpensive but are staples to make a variety of dishes. Meat can be pricey, so depending on what your budget is, you can choose to substitute for another form of protein such as beans. Be creative! A good rule of thumb is to have veggies, carbs, and a protein in your meal. The one-pot wonder meals are definitely a time and fuel saver, and taste great!
Brainstorm, write down which meals you would like to have that week on a calendar, and then make a grocery list. Is it really that simple? It can be! Using a pre-made meal planning calendar or app can help with the process if it still feels like a struggle.
Taking a day every week to plan your meals is a great way to save time and money. Curbing the desire to buy unhealthy or random ingredients, and instead making shopping purposeful and time-efficient. Spending less time aimlessly wandering through grocery store isles leaves more time for doing the things you love!