Cooking for the family outdoors can be an amazing experience that brings everyone together and can even be a creative way for the kids to try new foods. But trying to plan a menu and shop for enough food to keep everyone happy and well fed during the entire vacation can be a daunting task.  Here are some tips that can make it easier:

Plan a menu and stick to it.  That will make shopping and cooking much, much easier. Just make sure that you buy enough food and snacks.

As a general rule, buy twice as much of everything as you think you will need. If you don’t use it all you can use it at home but if you need it on your family camping trip at least you’ll have it.

Buy two or three large (30 gallon) plastic storage totes with lids. These are ideal for holding food. The containers are waterproof and airtight and will protect your food from the elements, critters, and spoiling. You will also need a few large coolers.

Use block ice in your coolers instead of cubed. Block ice lasts longer and will result in less mess.

Buy some bread and peanut butter, ramen noodles, or mac and cheese as a fast, easy meal alternative to whatever meal you have planned. That will also give fussy eaters an option if they don’t want to eat what you’ve cooked.

Cook as many things as you can ahead of time. It’s much easier to reheat something than to cook it from scratch so anything that will travel and keep well cook before you leave. Pre-cooked meats are much safer than raw meats so cook your meat ahead or buy a of pre-cooked deli meat.

Buy a set of durable plastic dishes for camping. You can get these at any home store for just a few dollars. Get two sets of everything that you will need.

You cannot have too many waterproof kitchen matches.  Use the plastic from your food containers to keep the matches dry.

Buy a coffee percolator if you’re a coffee drinker.  A coffee percolator is a great way to make coffee on a campfire.

You will need a lot of plastic wrap and aluminum foil so buy plenty of both. Aluminum foil is great for cooking and the plastic wrap will help store leftovers.

Don’t forget the dish soap and sponges to wash your plastic dishes and cooking utensils.


Bring several plastic cutting boards. There are usually not that many clean places to prepare food on a campsite and picnic tables can be very difficult to prepare food on.

Bring two manual can-openers and two bottle openers.

Measure out the ingredients that you’ll need for cooking ahead of time and store them in plastic air tight bags.  A great way to keep your meal ingredients organized is to buy small plastic totes with lids, shoebox size ones, and put all the ingredients for one meal in one tote. Label the lid and you can just pull out that tote when you want to make that meal and have all the ingredients at your fingertips.

Make sure your sharp knives for cooking are well sheathed in hard containers and kept away from the kids.

Use metal measure cups because they won’t melt if you get them too close to the fire and won’t break. Don’t bring glass anything – it is just asking for trouble.

Freeze your meals before you leave home and then they will slowly thaw through the course of your trip. That will make them last longer and also help keep other food cooler.

Don’t forget pot holders or oven mitts.

Always supervise your kids when they are helping you cook.

Make sure you throw away your trash and keep your food away from the campsite if you’re in an area that has bears.  If you have plastic totes of food keep them locked in your car away from your tents.  Never keep food in the tents, not even a snack.

Make hearty meals. When you’re outdoors hiking and the kids are playing outdoors all day you will all probably be hungrier than normal.  A nice chicken salad might be a great dinner at home but when you’re on a camping vacation everyone will appreciate hearty, filling meals.

Use old film containers to hold your matches. They will keep the matches from being lost and keep them dry.

Let the kids help. They can toast bread, roast vegetables or help you prepare the food in other ways. Campfire cooking is fun and it’s part of the experience of a family camping trip. You’re not on a schedule when you’re camping so it doesn’t matter if it takes 45 minutes to make dinner because the kids are helping. Supervise them closely, but let them help.

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