Camping has recently become one of my favourite things to do.
Over the past 12 months, I’ve gathered the little Freeman family and headed out bush for some outdoor fun! The nature. The sun. The time away from technology. The fun. The slow pace. They’ve all been key things that I’ve really enjoyed about the experience. I’ve come to really cherish the disconnect from being ‘online’ 24-7 and simply spending time doing next to nothing!
The beautiful, yet also challenging aspect of camping is the simplicity of it all. Being away from your fully equipped kitchen can often mean that meals become quick, easy and super processed. I’m all for enjoying your favourite foods, especially while being away on holidays, but I find that if I keep a basic level of good dietary quality we all feel better along with having a high level of food enjoyment.
Here are some tips, from lessons I’ve learnt over the past year, to help you eat healthily while you enjoy the great outdoors.
Create a mini meal plan.
Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, you’re not likely to have much space to pack your gear, which means you need to be super savvy with your food. Only bring the exact amount of food that you’ll need. No more, No less. A meal plan helps you do just that. Once I’ve written the plan, I write a food list. I then pack the exact amount I need from food I’ve already got at home and then head out to the supermarket for the rest. Here’s part of a plan from my last trip:
Keep your food colder for longer.
Healthy food is generally fresh and needs to be stored well so it doesn’t go off. No need to be afraid of it. I’ve brought milk, yoghurt, cheese, fresh meat and chicken plus lots of fruit and vegetables camping with no problems at all. Make sure you’ve got a good esky, buy plenty of ice and pack the esky so the ice is around the food items that need to stay cold, like milk, meat and cheese. Also, while you’re on your trip, open the bung at the bottom of your esky to drain away the water from the melted ice, this will keep the ice that’s still in your esky frozen for longer.
Store your fruit and vegetables in PeakFresh bags.
Put fruit and vegetables into individual PeakFresh bags and store them at the top of your esky above the ice. Don’t bury them in it, they’ll get crushed and soggy. PeakFresh are awesome little green bags that prolong the life of your fresh produce in the crisper in your fridge! They’re absolutely fantastic and I use them all the time. They work so well. I use them camping too, just to ensure my fresh produce stays fresh while we’re out in the sticks!
Bring a good non-stick pan.
I initially started camp cooking using a cheap, enamel frying pan that I bought as part of a discounted camping set. Food stuck to it, I’d need copious amounts of oil and even then it was still bad. It was also super difficult to clean. The last two trips I brought a non-stick pan and seriously! What a difference! I easily cooked up pancakes, chicken, chops, eggs, bacon, vegetables and fish with no problems at all!
Don’t forget a sharp knife.
Vegetables and fruit are more readily eaten when they’re cut up. If you’ve got a crappy, blunt knife you’ll procrastinate with preparing fruit for a snack or you won’t be bothered to add any vegetables to your meal. I specifically purchased a sharp knife for my camping kit so I can easily include vegetables in as many meals as possible.
Bring drinking water.
If you’re not keen on the water available at your campsite or there isn’t any available, you’ll need to bring your own. I definitely enjoy a beverage or two when I’m out in the bush. A cold cider with dinner does the trick on a hot day and a hearty red wine around the fire on a cold night is so cosy.
Too much alcohol, however, isn’t a good idea, so be mindful of how much you do drink and try to alternate your drinks with water. Also, ensuring that the family and I stay well-hydrated, especially in hot weather, will keep us all healthier and happier. We bring at least one 25L water bottle with us on a 2 night trip. Sometimes more.
Snack on nuts and fruit.
If you’re feeling super fancy you can even create an evening snacking platter with fruit, nuts, cheese, wholegrain crackers and a yoghurt-based dip! Noms. I found that it’s easy to whip out a bag of chips, but that doesn’t need to be every snack time. The family enjoyed that I took the time to create a whole foods platter plus it was more filling and much more nutritious!
Frisbee is great exercise, especially if you’re really bad at it like me. You have to keep running to fetch it when you can’t throw it straight or catch it properly!
We also like to go on a daily walk through the bushland and if we’re near the beach or next to a river, find the time to go swimming! Don’t make the exercise a chore. Make it a game, a relaxing walk or swim or some healthy competition with the family!
Add flavour with spices.
I like to keep my camp meals as simple as possible but it’s really important to me to build my meals out of whole foods as much as possible. To change up the flavours and add interest my camp kitchen box has jars of my favourite spices. Peri Peri, Moroccan, Harissa and Mexican are a few of my favourites. All I have to do is sprinkle my meat, chicken or fish, and voila! Delicious flavour!
One particular evening I was planning on making a green curry for dinner. I realised once we’d set up at camp that I’d forgotten the green curry paste. A very key ingredient for curry! Bummer! But I did have a jar of Moroccan seasoning. So, I gently simmered a good 2 tbsp in some olive oil and then added chicken, vegetables and coconut milk for a very tasty and hearty meal. It was perfect for the cold spring evening we were out and is now a favourite of the kids!
Make time to eat well.
Time is a huge barrier for eating well, especially when we’re going about our day to day lives (if it’s a troublesome barrier, I’d recommend purchasing my eBook – The Tale of the Headless Chicken, it will really help you eat well, despite the busyness).
Camping is an opportunity to slow down. It’s literally completely OK to achieve absolutely nothing, if that’s what you want to do. I actually enjoy all the extra time to potter and prepare a yummy, healthy meal. It’s nice not to have to rush! And if you’ve created a meal plan and shopped accordingly, you’ll have everything you need! Easy!
Basic requirements for healthy camp cooking:
- portable, 2-burner, gas stove
- gas bottle
- non-stick frying pan
- chopping board
- sharp knife
- mixing bowl
- extra-virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper
- billy or kettle