After many years of camping with Nonna and Nonno, I gleaned a lot about preparing easy meals in the wilderness. Below is a list with some of Nonna’s standbys plus a few of my own.
This is always our first night meal after driving in and setting up camp all day. Chop up hotdogs into 1″ pieces and put them in a pot with a can of baked beans. Heat it up and you’re done!
Whenever I make my vegetarian chili recipe, I freeze the leftovers in individual portions. For camping, I take a couple of the frozen bowls in the cooler – they act like blocks of ice for the other food for at least a day, then I heat them up on the second night. We always eat chili with soup crackers (like plain Goldfish).
Nonna makes her own spaghetti sauce and jars it, but I often just buy a jar at the store. You can try boiling water at the camp for the pasta, but it takes a lot of water and fuel for your stove. Nonna makes hers ahead and puts it in a plastic container, so it just needs heating onsite. I buy frozen meatballs that thaw in the cooler, then pan fry them a little before adding the sauce and pasta. Don’t forget the grated Parmesan!
Fresh Catch on the Grill
Whenever I camp with Nonna and Nonno, we spend a lot of time during the day fishing for rainbow trout in the little watering holes in the Rockies. We grill the fish whole by stuffing with lemon slices and seasoning with salt and pepper. You can cook them directly on the grate, or we prefer to put them on some oiled aluminum foil over the grates (so they don’t stick too badly or fall through). To make the meal complete, we also wrap small baked potatoes in foil and toss them in the fire near the coals.
Pack Lunch Makings
We take a loaf of bread, lettuce, cheese, and lunch meat with mayonnaise and mustard for easy lunches right out of the cooler. I also make a batch of Chickpea of the Sea, which is always a nice change of pace after lots of lunch meat sandwiches. Take peanut butter and jelly, too, for variety.
Generally, we stick to the basics for breakfast – eggs, sausage or bacon, potato hash (if there are leftovers from the grill night). To make toast, put a little bit of butter or oil on a skillet before adding your bread and cook until it gets golden. Grits and oatmeal also pack easily and make for a hearty start to the day. Oh, and coffee.
Having snacks on hand is key because it can be a hassle to make full meals. We always make sure to take trail mix, chips and salsa, and granola bars. I make sure they are all easy to pack for day trips, which means portioning out smaller servings in zipper bags, which also makes them easy to reseal. (If you’ve ever looked for ways to close a chip bag in the wilderness without chip clips, you’ll know what I mean! Paper clips or hair ties work in a pinch, by the way…)
S’mores (the Lindsay way)
Of course, you also need s’mores makings! The traditional way involve graham crackers, chocolate pieces, and marshmallows, but I skip the grahams and chocolate and instead buy Fudge Stripe cookies. It’s so tasty and much easier!
I have to credit an old family friend for this ingenious idea… Bring along a roll of refrigerated crescent roll dough, and use your marshmallow roasting sticks to “bake” them over the fire. The trick is to wrap the dough around the stick so it makes a thin layer (no overlaps), then hold it near the coals to be sure it cooks through before browning it. Each one takes 6-8 minutes, but wow, so worth it! You can try it with cinnamon roll dough, too…
Have other standby camping recipes? Please share them in the comments below!