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Wisconsin Parent

Camping with Kids: Camp Cooking

Aug 05, 2013 05:00AM ● By Abbie Chaffee
Camping with kids doesn't have to be intimidating. Here are some tips and advice on what to cook when camping with your kiddos.

Our first camping trip of 2013 started on Mother’s Day weekend at Devil’s Lake State Park. It was really really cold the first few nights; with temperatures dipping down to 30° ( how cold was it? I made the dog sleep in the sleeping bag with my daughter and I in order to keep us all warm. My husband had to fend for himself). Thankfully, the weather was really beautiful for the rest of our weeklong stay.

Happy Mother's Day to Me! 

Being “the planner” that I am, I started planning out meals way back in March for this trip. The key to a successful camping trip is proper preparation. When bringing small children in tow for a camping trip try not to get too “wild and crazy” with recipes; but also don’t be afraid to cook something other than hot dogs.

When we go camping, I like to do big breakfasts. I find that it’s easiest to actually sit down and eat in the morning, when everyone is still a bit groggy and the fun of being outside hasn’t quite set in yet (but if your child is anything like mine, that sets in about 15 minutes after waking up, so it’s best to make breakfast ASAP). We save pancakes and bacon for our end of the week breakfasts (and sometimes dinner), and stick with scrambles for the first few days. They’re simple and fast to whip up. Here is my preferred camping  scrambler:

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Scramble:

camp cooking

(this recipe is based on 2 adults and 1 child consuming it)

-4 eggs; beaten

-1 cup Potatoes O’Brien (frozen potatoes with onions and peppers)

-1/2 of a package of ground  breakfast sausage (save the other half for the next day)

-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

-salt and pepper to taste

**I use a propane fueled camp stove to cook our breakfasts.**

(Turn on the camp stove and adjust your flames to about a medium heat…this takes some practice if you’re new to outdoor cooking, so don’t be afraid to “fiddle” with it while you’re cooking.)

In a large skillet (I prefer cast iron), brown your sausage. If there is an excessive amount of oil, spoon off into a cup. Next, add your potatoes (it’s ok if they are still frozen). Allow the potatoes to soften a bit (time varies depending on your heat). Next, add your beaten eggs and a few shakes of salt and pepper. Scramble together until eggs are a desired “doneness”. Remove from heat and stir in your cheese (until everything is nice and melty). Serve immediately.

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*Tip: To clean your egg and cheese coated cast iron skillet, bring along a box of coarse ground kosher salt (and a scouring pad). Add enough  salt to coat the bottom of the pan, then use a scrubbie to break up cooked on bits. The salt will soak up extra grease and flavors left behind too. Discard “dirty” salt in the garbage and apply a thin layer of oil (I use coconut oil that I bring camping with us.) to the pan and work it in using a paper towel. Your pan should look like new, and be ready to use for your next meal. Store the pan upside down on your picnic table (or camp kitchen table) to prevent bugs from sticking to the freshly oiled surface.


camp cookingcamp cooking

On to lunch!

When we go camping, lunch is always a “grab and go” option. Sandwiches like PB &J  or roasted turkey are typical crowd favorites, but my child is the only child on earth who won’t eat a sandwich so I have to think outside of the box. I like to bring along a big bag of trail mix (either store bought or homemade) to made sure we’re snacking on high protein nuts in the middle of the day to keep our energy levels up. After the first day, lunch typically consists of leftovers from the night before (if there are any). Since our family is so small, and refrigeration is very limited, we’ll cook a whole pack of brats in one night, knowing that we’ll eat them for lunch the next day (cold). Here is a list of items I bring with us for quick lunches:

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-cheese (I usually buy a brick of local cheddar to cut up)

-applesauce (in those handy pouches)

-trailmix/raw nuts/raw seeds/granola

-cut up veggies (like carrots and celery)

-peanut butter (to eat by the spoonful or dip carrots and celery into)

-whole apples (once again, to eat on their own or with peanut butter)


-hummus (to eat with veggies.)

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Can't forget the cheddar bunnies!

*I try to avoid bringing bread along on camping trips because the extra moisture of the outdoors seems to make everything stale overnight. That, and one time raccoons stole my loaf of bread. I do bake a loaf of sourdough to bring along, because that never seems to be affected by the extra humidity, and tastes better a little stale. We’re also not a big sandwich eating family, so we don’t eat a lot of bread anyway. However, if your kids need their PB&J, bring the bread! Maybe store it in 2 Ziploc freezer bags to seal in the freshness a little longer.

Dinner Time!

When it comes to camping with a toddler, we try to keep it simple. Grass-fed burgers (pre-formed, and frozen before leaving), brats (what’s camping in WI without brats…and beer), and marinaded grilled chicken breasts (which I marinade, double bag, and freeze before leaving as well). Freezing various meats before leaving means we don’t need as much ice for the first few days camping; resulting in less waterlogged food in the cooler. On the final days of our camping trip, I try and use up the rest of the food we brought. Typically, that means pancakes and eggs at least one night for dinner (always a fan favorite).

For side dishes, I keep it simple as well.  I like to make vinegar based salads, like three bean, before leaving for our trip to eat with dinners during the week.

Three Bean Salad:

-1 can of black beans; drained and rinsed

-1 can of chick peas; drained and rinsed

-1 can of white beans; drained and rinsed

-1 cucumber; diced

-1 red bell pepper;  diced

-1 tbs olive oil

-3 tbs apple cider vinegar

-3 tbs water

-salt and pepper

-feta; to add later if you’d like

Add the beans, cucumber, and bell pepper to a large bowl with a lid. Next, whisk together oil, vinegar, water, salt and pepper in a small bowl and add dressing to bean mixture. Cover with lid and shake to coat.

Since this salad is vinegar based and has zero dairy, you don’t have to worry about keeping it super cold during your trip!

*Feel free to add any other vegetable, bean, or spice you and your family like! I like to sprinkle a little feta on mine before eating. Yum.

For other side options, we like grilled corn on the cob, and “foil packs” with seasoned potatoes.

*Tip: when we go camping, we bring a collapsible grill grate that goes right over the fire; making grilling a breeze. Just be sure to bring some cooking spray along so your grilled food doesn’t stick to the grill!

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 Our simple dish washing station at the campsite. Jug of water, drying rack, and one happy toddler

Here’s a quick list of my “camp cooking must haves”:

-camp stove


-cast iron skillet

-coarse salt to clean skillet

-stainless steel tongs


-sturdy wooden spoon

-a plate for each person

-fork, knife, and spoon for each person

-a sharp knife

-a cutting board (preferably plastic)

-cooking spray

-paper towels

-plastic tub to wash dishes in (and a sponge & scrubbie)


Happy Camping!!