Need a simple, frugal camping menu plan that uses real food? We got you covered! Get the free printable below. Plus 5 tips to help you plan your own easy, healthy, budget-friendly camp food.
If you like this post, you might like more of our budget-conscious travel (and travel food!) tips here.
And you might like our minimalist camping packing list printable here.
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Honestly, until a few years ago, camping just for fun – the mother of all cheap vacations – was an extravagant expense that we didn’t prioritize in our budget.
That being said, I’ve been cooking with real food for over half my life. During our almost-homeless days, we found ways to eat cheap and well in kitchenettes, gross apartments, and on the road.
When we went camping recently, I promised on Instagram that I would share two things with you:
- Our minimalist packing list
- Our real food menu plan
This is our simple, real food, camping menu plan.
How Can I Eat Healthy While Camping?
When it comes to camping food, a lot of us picture hot dogs and marshmallows. Maybe granola bars and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – slightly soggy from the ice melting in the cooler (oh, wait, is that just me?).
However, when we go camping, we like to find ways to eat well and enjoy the great outdoors. We pick our favorite camping treats – hot dogs and marshmallows, every time – and we keep the rest of our menu simple and real food.
The key is to figure out which foods you can make with the same few kitchen tools and just those few ingredients you can fit in your car.
We don’t own a camp stove or hot plate (that minimal packing and storage thing) and I don’t want to spend all my beach or hiking time tending a cooking fire.
I only bring 2 cooking appliances to help us eat a wide variety of simple, real food meals:
-My Instant Pot (that’s the model I have and I love it)
– An Electric Griddle (this link is my exact griddle as well)
With these 2 appliances we can do all this:
– Heat water (for coffee and washing dishes)
– Cook eggs
– Make rice
– Slow cook or pressure cook meals
– Fry bacon
– Cook Pancakes
– Pan-fry bread (for “toast”)
– Make oatmeal
– Keep food warm if we don’t eat it right away
What if I Don’t Have an Instant Pot?
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, don’t worry. Just pack your slow cooker and cook your meals 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. You can even do that with oatmeal (there are many recipes online)!
However, if you do not have an instant pot, I recommend also packing an electric kettle so you can boil water for coffee or tea.
How Can I Eat Cheap While Camping?
Camping is the ultimate budget-friendly getaway. But you can easily blow your budget on the fun snacks and camping food.
Since we’re usually camping on a tight budget, we pick just a few camping treats (again, marshmallows and hot dogs, every time), and the rest of our meals are simple, budget-friendly meals.
We make all of our food with just 2 appliances, like I shared above:
- My Instant Pot (or slow cooker + electric kettle)
- An Electric Griddle
Both of those appliances are perfect for budget-friendly meals: rice, beans, chili, soup, oatmeal, eggs, toast, pancakes, quesadillas, etc.
Budget-Friendly, Real Food Camping Menu
Some people camp because of the food, and some people just want easy food so they can keep hiking or swimming.
This menu plan sits in the middle. If you love to cook over the fire, these recipes are perfect for you. There’s a pancake recipe for your cast iron griddle, hearty stew for your dutch oven – you’ll love it.
The only thing I didn’t include is the classic foil-packet dinners. Plenty has been said on the subject by voices who have more experience than me.
On the other hand, if cooking outside sounds like a nightmare, and you’re only going camping because your kids and spouse bribed you with an air mattress and promised family time, you’ll like this menu plan too.
Your Simple, Healthy Camping Menu
When we camp, we keep food simple and minimal.
I have made the mistake of overpacking food, and it’s frustrating. The lack of refrigeration makes saving leftovers tricky after 2 days.
We usually camp at the beach or with friends, so my focus lies less with the food and more with the people. On vacation, family time is important. I cook a lot at home. When we camp, we play.
You can certainly take this menu plan and make it more complicated if that’s more fun for you. However, if you stick to the plan, you’ll make great food, keep it budget-friendly, and spend a minimal amount of time cooking.
5 Tips for Easy, Healthy, Budget-Friendly Camp Food
- Don’t buy a whole bunch of “special” food simply because you are camping. Decide what is most important and just stick to those. For us, our treats are smores and hot dogs.
- Don’t try all new recipes on your camping trip. If you’ve never made foil packet dinners, don’t plan them for every meal. Try it for one meal this time, and if you love it, make more next time.
- Make a rain contingency plan. In case it rains, have a back-up plan. Hot dogs cooked over the fire are amazing, but if you can’t build a fire, make sure you have an electric griddle or Instant Pot so you can still eat dinner.
- Eat leftovers for lunch. Unless you have an amazing cooler, you’ll get 2 good days of cold food. You can go pick up more ice, but I also like to make sure we eat all the food we bring with us. We always plan leftovers for lunch.
- Make a few things ahead of time. In order to save time and effort at the campsite, I cook a few things ahead of time. Not much – packing for camping is a big job, and I don’t want to cook 4 days’ worth of food on top of that. You’ll see in the menu plan what I suggest cooking ahead.
Healthy Camping Menu Plan Printable
Here is the menu plan we typically use every time we camp. We might change a meal or two depending on the season or the weather, but this menu plan keeps our camping trip simple, delicious, and budget-friendly.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, don’t worry! See our note above.
Full disclosure: We believe a camping trip without hot dogs or sausage and smores roasted over a fire is not a real camping trip. I included those in the menu plan. We won’t win any health points for them, but we build great memories. I typically use more allergy-friendly and “healthier” options.
What You Can Do Now:
What do you eat when you camp? Share your favorite camping meal below!
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Great ideas! I use a similar plan for our beach vacations where we stay in a hotel (under a certain price point, includes breakfast, room has fridge and microwave). I’ll combine some of your suggestions with our favorites when we head to the beach in a couple of weeks 😊 Thanks for keeping it simple!!
So glad this helped, Lynn! Enjoy the beach!
I am so intrigued by this- I assume if you are bringing an instant pot you have electricity, but you mention tent camping. What am I missing?
Hi C! Where we live, campsites typically have an electric outlet, a water spigot of some kind, and are within walking distance of a bathroom. So it’s not full primitive camping. People have the option of camping in tents or trailers on these sites. So even though we are tent camping, we still have an outlet we can use.