Camping With Young Children (meals)

My husband and I love camping.  We just returned from a 2-night/3-day trip with friends and we have a 5 day trip on the calendar.  You might be thinking right about now that with a 5yr old, 3yr old, and 5 month old we’re pretty crazy.  It’s possible.  However, when we started having children we decided that it wasn’t going to stop us from enjoying one of our favorite pastimes. We would find a way to make it fun.  So here we are, planning ahead for our 5 day camping trip.  If you are contemplating your first camping trip with littles in tow, here are some tips and the menu from our weekend trip we just took (activity and gear tips are here).

Tip #1.  Keep meals simple.  Elaborate meals are fun but not practical with kids because of the amount of time it takes for cooking and cleaning up.  We select meals that are minimal prep and only require hot water or roasting sticks to cook. Think backpacking style meals.

Tip #2.  Take a camp stove.  Or food that doesn’t need to be cooked.  Because not being able to cook meals due to rain or campfire cooking blunder is not something you want to have happen with young children.

Tip #3.  Eat Healthy If we are camping with kids for more than one night we take oranges for the vitamin C factor and veggies for snacks.  We’ve found it’s easy to get sick if you are used to eating healthy at home but deviate from that with the standard hot dog fare for several days at a time.

3 day, 2 night Camping Trip Menu (serves 2 adults, 2 young children)

Easy Camping Meals

Easy Camping Meals

Friday Dinner: frozen BBQ chicken* on sandwich rolls and frozen peas.

Prep: Warm up chicken over fire (on foil doubled up with sides) and serve on buns.  Boil water for the peas.

Pre-trip prep: 2 days before we left I slow-cooked the BBQ chicken, shredded it, and froze it in a zip-lock bag.  I packed it in a personal, lunch bag  size cooler from REI with the peas so it would stay frozen until dinner time that night.  We use canned or pre-cooked packaged meat for meals the rest of the trip.

Saturday breakfast*: Fried eggs/Pre-cooked sausage links/english muffins, coffee, and hot chocolate

Prep: Over the campfire we cook the sausage, eggs, and coffee in the percolator.  On our camp stove we boiled water for hot chocolate. You can toast the muffins over the fire with roasting sticks if you want.

Saturday lunch: Flour Tortilla Parmesan Cheese and Summer Sausage wraps, easy peal mandarine oranges, baby carrots.

Prep: Slice cheese and sausage and roll up with the tortilla.  We don’t do any kind of dressing or anything.  You could, but they aren’t bad plain and it’s a lot less work! 

Note: We picked the cheese and meat based on Backpacker Magazine’s list of trail worthy cheese and salami. I’ve used this meal on numerous backpacking trips.

Saturday dinner: Chicken Alfredo (using ramon noodles/jar sauce/packaged chicken) and baby carrots

Prep: Boil water, pour over ramon noodles (discard the seasoning packet).  Drain once noodles are hydrated and mix in chicken and sauce. We also grated in some of the fresh parmesan cheese.

Sunday breakfast: pre-cooked waffles with honey and strawberries.

Prep: Heat the pre-cooked waffles over fire on foil or sticks.  Top with cut strawberries and honey. Or Peanut Butter.  

Sunday lunch: Peanut Butter and Honey flour tortilla wraps (or leftover sausage/cheese wraps), easy peal mandarine oranges, baby carrots.

Desserts: Marshmallows, Chocolate Bananas (we cooked this on the grate over the campfire and topped with strawberries)

Snacks: Trail mix, baby carrots

Another favorite dinner we like to take (we didn’t use it this trip) is indian rice with chicken in pita bread. We use instant rice and mix the seasoning up before we go.  You could just use a couple tablespoons of curry powder to flavor as well. 

Shopping/Packing List for the menu above (insert in appropriate portion sizes for your family):

  • frozen bbq chicken (I pre-cooked 2 chicken breasts)
  • small bag of frozen peas
  • sandwich rolls or hot dog buns
  • 6 eggs + hard plastic egg protector/carrier (I packed these with the sausage links, summer sausage, and cheese into a 2nd personal-size cooler with a freezer pack).
  • 1 pack of pre-cooked sausage links
  • english muffins (or you can use the flour tortillas for breakfast burritos)
  • 1 roll of Summer Sausage (found in the deli specialty cheese/meat case)
  • 1 small chunk of parmesan cheese
  • 1 package of 6″ flour tortillas
  • 8 easy peal mandarine oranges
  • large bag of baby carrots
  • 3 ramon noodle packs
  • small jar of Alfredo sauce
  • 1 package (or can) of pre-cooked chicken
  • frozen, pre-cooked waffles
  • 1 quart of strawberries
  • honey
  • Small jar of Peanut Butter
  • trail mix
  • dessert supplies (marshmallows, chocolate, bananas)
  • hot chocolate
  • ground coffee
  • coffee filters
  • percolator (ours is one that you can put over an open fire)
  • aluminum foil
  • zip lock sandwich bags (for taking snacks on hikes)
  • water bottles (we take one large nalgene per person)
  • roasting sticks
  • one pot with lid for boiling water + frying pan (we use our backpacking set made for a camp stove)
  • ladle
  • Spatula
  • Pot lifter tool for hot lids and pans
  • camp stove and fuel as a back up in case the camp fire cooking fails you (we used our backpacking stove).
  • matches or lighter
  • fire starter sticks
  • paper plates/bowls/plastic silverware
  • camp mugs or disposable hot-cups
  • glove for handling hot things (we use your standard, cheep work  gloves)
  • biodegradable dish soap, wash cloth, and hand towel for washing dishes.


* If you will be camping in hot weather make sure you take necessary steps to keep eggs and meat cold.  The weather this past weekend was on the chilly side so we didn’t have to worry about things not staying cool over night.  We only pack un-packaged meat/eggs for the first dinner/breakfast of our trip.  After that we either get them the day we need them during our trip or use pre-cooked/packaged stuff.