(In theory) we’re nearly at camping season again (for the hardy amongst us), and I wanted to share how I make the first day’s food more efficient…and sometimes the second day’s as well. The answer is make ahead camping meals.

None of my camping buddies we go away with do this, but for me, to know I’ve got a meal already made that I just need to heat up on the first night is reassuring and less stressful. After an afternoon of setting up, and possibly a first brief trip to the beach, I just want to have an easy tea.

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What to cook camping meals on

I only generally cook with one single ring gas stove, although I do have a second in case I need a second pan. We tend to stay in campsites with microwaves, so I have been known to be lazy and just use the microwave to heat my dish rather than using the camping stove. But use whatever you have.

Most make ahead dishes need accompaniments which can need cooking too so sometimes a second ring is useful. I’ve tried to suggest other additions which don’t need cooking, so they really are easy just to heat up the one dish.

Some of these camping meals require a campfire to pop the foil packets in, but if you’ve a grill over your gas stove, you can also heat packets on top of that. Just remember that you want to make sure they’re piping hot before serving, especially if you’ve meat in them. You might need to unpack and stir round to make sure all parts of the food are getting the heat.

An alternative is using an enclosed oven like a Dutch Oven over coals, Cobb BBQ or BBQ with a lid to make it like an oven circulating the heat.

One of the great things about camping is that you can put together whatever you want, and generally however weird the combination, children are so hungry from being outside most of the time, they’ll eat it all up.

make ahead camping meal ideas

Make ahead easy camping meal ideas

Meals to reheat:

Bolognese – make in advance, cool and either keep chilled or freeze and let defrost over the day of travel til it’s needed to cook. I find it’s usually only semi defrosted so will last til the second day too if it’s a big batch. Eat with pasta if you’ve a second stove ring or have a precooked jacket potato in foil that you can put in the campfire to heat through.

Chilli – like Bolognese for making ahead and storage. Either cook no hassle boil in the bag rice, or we like it stuffed into pitta bread, or on top of nachos with sour cream, cheese, and guacamole.

Baked potatoes – cook before you go, wrap in foil to cool, then reheat by putting in the campfire.

Chicken fajitas in foil – put ready cooked chicken, onion slices and pepper strips with fajita seasoning (rather than sloppy sauce) into a foil packet, then heat through on campfire or over grill on a stone

Breakfast burritos – precook: diced sauted potatoes, sliced sausages, make scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, fold into tortillas and wrap in foil then cool. Reheat as above

Macaroni cheese or tomato pasta bake with cheese – make ahead of time in foil container portions. Reheat through when needed keeping them above direct heat – ie on grill, to avoid burning.

Mini muffin pizzas or toasted sandwiches – make up mini pizzas with tomato and basil pasta sauce or passata spread on muffins, top with favourite pizza toppings and cheese, do the same making up sandwiches of choice. Pizzas can be precooked and wrapped in foil to reheat on arrival. With sandwiches, either wrap in foil to cook in a pan, or wrap then use toasta bags to cook them on grill or pan.

Cheesy bacon potatoes – parboil diced potatoes, fry pancetta or bacon slices, put in a foil pack, then heat over the stove or BBQ

Cauliflower cheese – I have this for leftovers so easy to make in advance, pour over a homemade cheese sauce, then bake. Put into foil containers and reheat. I also add some cooked sausages or sausagemeat and any other veg for more bulk.

Pulled pork – cook in advance, shred and put in foil to transport. Cook over fire or on stove to warm through, before serving with coleslaw and salad in rolls.

Casserole – make ahead your choice of casserole, cubing the meat to a reasonable size to help with reheating, then pack in airtight container. Just heat in a pan at the campsite. To keep it to one pan, include vegetable and potatoes in the casserole as well.

Pre-prepped camping food ideas:

Mini s’mores pastries – use puff pastry circles or squares, add chocolate bits, marshmallows and broken digestives biscuits or Graham crackers, folder over the pastry and seal the edges, chill, then either cook in advance (bake), or cook over the campfire or on grill

Meat and veg foil packets – marinade chicken or salmon, parboil diced potato, broccoli, put the meat or fish and veg in double layer of foil, add chopped pepper or courgette, fold over tight, then cook when arrived til cooked through. An alternative is to replace the chicken with sausage.

Damper hotdogs – make a simple dough or use croissant dough, skewer hotdogs, roll out dough and wrap around the hotdogs, then cook over the fire or bbq

Kebabs – make in advance with choice of diced meat and veg, then cook over grill or bbq

Campfire cones – make up in advance if using dry ingredients like s’mores marshmallows, chocolate drops, biscuits, bananas, stuffing them into ice cream cones before wrapping in foil. If using other wetter fruits, chop in advance then let children make up the cones when ready to cook them.

These are just some camping food ideas to make in advance that can just be heated up, or cooked on arrival.

What are some of your favourite make ahead camping meals?

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