Having kids may have put backpacking plans on hold for the foreseeable future, but our children have not stopped us from camping. In fact, camping is one of our favorite things to do as a family. As a parent, it gets exhausting to feel like we are always disciplining, so often saying No. “No, it’s too expensive.” “I can’t now, I’m washing dishes.” “Please don’t put things in other people’s noses.” In other words, we feel like fun-haters.
But camping. Camping is a “Yes” time more than any other. Yes to juice boxes and potato chips, instant oatmeal, and trail mix with M&Ms. Yes to grazing all day without asking “Can I have a snack?,” yes to hot cocoa every morning. Yes to cooking food on sticks over a fire, to letting caterpillars crawl all over you. Yes to the kids sleeping in their own tent, to wearing headlamps and playing War with fart cards into the night.
And since we car camp now instead of backpacking, yes to bringing a cooler.
Every time we camp I spend a week rehashing “Okay, now what do we usually bring?” I have lists all over the house – “Buy juice boxes,” “Make pimiento cheese,” “Don’t forget ice!!” This time, as I prep for our trip to Mount Rogers, the highest natural point in Virginia (5,729 feet), I thought I’d write out a checklist and post it here so next time I’ll know where to find it. I’m always looking for new food ideas for camping trips, and thought some of you may be too.
Our meals are simple – instant oatmeal and boiled eggs for breakfast, except on the morning after dessert-experimentation night. Assuming my Dutch oven plans work, we will eat blueberry crisp for breakfast that next day. For lunch we eat fruit; crackers or sandwiches with pimiento cheese, chicken salad, or peanut butter and jelly; and pudding (or deluxe graham cookies with peanut butter – YUM) for dessert. Yes, we eat dessert after lunch.
We’re trying something new this time with dinners. We’re still roasting hot dogs one night (and a Bratwurst for me – hot dogs make me gag), but we’re also going to attempt to cook a dessert on the campfire. We’ve got S’more supplies as backup. Just in case. On the second night, we’re going to make pizza over the fire using a cast iron skillet and Boboli crusts. We have never tried this. Cross your fingers for us. We don’t have backup for the dinner. Only for the dessert.
Here’s what’s in our cooler:
Juice boxes, Cokes
Applesauce, Handi-snack puddings
Pineapple, grapes, cherry tomatoes
Half & Half
Pimiento cheese (recipe below)
For hot dogs:
Hot dogs, 1 bratwurst
Ketchup, mustard, relish
Shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses
Pizza sauce, pepperoni
Hershey bars (duh)
Blueberries and topping (in separate containers) for Dutch oven crisp*
I also bring three bags of food, separated by meal. That makes it easier to locate nourishment when we’re tired and cranky, and the car is bursting with crap that falls out every time you open the hatch.
In our breakfast bag:
2 boxes instant oatmeal
jar of sugar
For lunch and snacks:
Giant box of Triscuits
Loaves of bread
Trail mix (recipe below)
And for dinner and dessert:
Hot dog buns
Can of baked beans
Boboli pizza crusts
Box of heavy duty aluminum foil
Small bottle of olive oil
Marshmallows, graham crackers
* I will try to remember to document our first attempt at Dutch oven cooking over a campfire. If we succeed, I will share the recipe. If not, here are a couple of our favorite camp recipes as consolation.
Pimiento Cheese Recipe
12 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded with a large grate
3-4 Tbs Duke’s mayonnaise
1 Tbs minced onion
1 4oz jar diced pimientos with liquid
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Transfer to sealed container and store on ice in cooler.
Trail Mix Recipe
1 jar honey roasted peanuts
1 bag M&Ms
1 8 oz package Craisins
1 cup cashews
Dump everything into a gallon size zip-seal bag. Shake it up. Store in the front seat with Mom for emergency anti-grump, or in the lunch/snack bag.
So that’s what we do If you’ve got any favorites, please tell me in the comments. I’d love to hear them!
3 thoughts on “Here’s what’s in our camping cooler”
Great planning! I’ve never tried Dutch oven dessert, so I’ll be interested in how it turns out. The key for us is to keep it simple and prep all food ahead of time. Happy camping!
when we used to camp as a kid, my Mom used to pre-season/marinade tri-tip. She kept it in zip lock bags in the cooler. She’d make that tri-tip and potatoes on the camp fire and oooohhhh my gosh it was good! My Mom was the MASTER at camp fire cooking. NOBODY went hungry at my Mom’s camp! She’d bring enough food to feed all the other campers too…and any critters that wandered by…we had a SKUNK camp with us once! He was there the entire time and the only stink we encountered came from DAD (but we were reeeaaallly careful to not scare the little stinker!) We went camping at the beach every year. It’s the only time I can remember WANTING to wake up at 5am (so we could comb the beach for shells while the sun came up)
I want to camp now after reading your camping entries!
Taco ingredients are always packed when we camp. If you can find a supplier for dry-ice, you’ll never miss the heavy, wet ice-cubes, except for cocktails.
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