Campsite Cooking with a Toddler
This is what works for OUR family. I'm definitely not an exceptional camp chef, and I most certainly eat sugar and carbs- especially during a weekend of playing in the mountains.
In this season of life, I fall somewhere between a minimalist backpacker and a car camper with a full sized cooler. I like to cook a warm meal while I’m camping, but am not making pancakes and bacon on the camp stove, and peach crumble in the dutch oven (like my dad). Cooking with a toddler while camping is hectic. Do you really want to pull a toddler out of a stream while you are chopping onions? When I'm camping with Huck, campsite food prep work needs to be minimal. Over the past 2 years, I’m finally starting to learn what seems to work for us.
10 Tips for a Simple Campsite Cooking with Toddlers:
- 1. Prepare everything you can in advance. I cook beans, rice, and even pasta at home. Sometimes I’ll even pre-cut my veggies.
- 2. Keep things simple, while still bringing one or two luxury items. My luxury camping items are salted dark chocolate covered graham crackers from Trader Joe's and a good salsa. Maybe yours is a hunk of cheese or craft soda/ beer.
- 3. Bring foods that your toddler ALREADY loves to eat at home. Mac and cheese, spaghetti, and PBJ for the win! I keep it pretty easy for Huck. What are your family's go-to's?
- 4. Bring items that can work across multiple meals. The salsa from our appetizer will be used with eggs for breakfast. Most leftover items from dinner will be thrown into a breakfast burrito.
- 5. Think of ways to stretch the purpose of the items you bring. Frozen shelled edemame (to throw in ramen) acts as an ice pack for the portable cooler. An empty salsa jar can house leftovers to reuse in another meal.
- 6. Pull a few snacks out to enjoy during meal prep (high salt if needing to replace electrolytes). Nothing is worse than trying to set up the camp kitchen and prep a meal while feeling hangry. I love chips and salsa, sugar snap peas and hummus, and also recently fell in love with canned dolmas from Trader Joe's. Huck loves to snack on ritz crackers with sliced cheese.
- 7. Bring your favorite simple baked good to share. Homemade banana bread tastes incredible while camping, and can be a perfect easy breakfast on a morning you don’t feel like prepping and cleaning. I'm a huge fan of homemade cookies instead of granola bars on a hike too.
- 8. Have a few condiments dedicated to camping. I've set aside salt, pepper, Tapatio, and a jar of coconut oil.
- 9. Invite your little one to help prepare meals. Eating outside can be distracting, I notice that when Huck works with me to get dinner ready, he is more interested in sitting still for a few minutes to munch on dinner.
- 10. Treat Yo' Self! You’ve probably climbed a mountain, rafted a river, or white knuckeld it down the trail. You’ve earned those smores!
This is what we bring camping. I try to keep everything together in a bin in the garage so I can simply throw the bin in our car on our way out the door.
I am amazed by parents that raise adventurous eaters. While it's something I am working on, while I'm camping, I honestly only bring food that I know Huck already loves.
- PBJ Sandwiches
- Breakfast Burritos
- Ritz Crackers
- String Cheese
- Mac and Cheese
- Cutie oranges
A few of our favorite EASY camp meals:
- Chips and Salsa
- Guacamole made by smashing avocado in the shell with lime juice and salt (use other half for breakfast)
- Setton Farm's Pistachios (chile lime)
- Sugar snap peas and hummus
- Pasta with marinara and a grilled turkey sausage (reuse leftover sausage in breakfast burrito)
- Homemade lentil chili (reheated in pot) on top of a sweet potato that was baked in the fire
- Ramen with shelled edamame and a poached egg
- Burritos with carnitas made from home, black beans heated on stove, and bell peppers grilled on biolite grill
- Basmati rice made at home with heated up punjab choley from trader joes
- Banana Boats: Split banana (still in peel) down middle, and stuff with chocolate chips and marshmallows. Wrap in foil and throw on fire or on biotite grill top until cooked. Top with crushed graham cracker crumbs or drizzle with dulce de leche.
- Smores with roasted marshmallows and salted dark chocolate covered graham crackers (from Trader Joes)
- Grilled peaches
- Hot Chocolate
- Herbal sweet and spicy tea
- Breakfast burritos with leftovers from dinner (grilled veggies, beans, meat, mushrooms, etc), eggs, and frozen shredded potatoes
- Instant oatmeal with bananas and nuts
- Wraps with peanut butter, berries, granola, bananas
- Banana bread and coffee (The instant coffee packets from Trader Joe's are an easy win!)
- Mini bagel sandwiches with nutella, bananas, and strawberries
- Salad with arugula, roasted beets (prepped at home), pistachios, and goat cheese (dressed with pear vinaigrette from Trader Joe's)
- Rice bowls (cold) with leftover grilled peppers and mushrooms (and any leftover meat), salsa, and black beans (top with crushed tortilla chips)
- Salad with soba noodles, ribboned carrots, and edamame, dressed with soy sauce/rice vinegar (make at home, it holds up well for several days)
- PBJ sandwiches
Hopefully there are a few ideas in here to get you thinking about what you like to eat while camping. Honestly, thinking about camping meals and packing a kitchen always seems a little overwhelming. I ALMOST miss the day I lived off of granola bars and Doritos when camping. I like to make a meal plan and a list, and not think about anything again. What are some of your favorite meals? How do you pack up your camp kitchen?
* This post was sponsored by Setton Farms
**Thank you for the photos, Hannah Gordon, and thank you for some of the recent meal ideas!