Driving your RV to camp along the scenic country roads on a Saturday morning is an experience in itself. But let’s be honest – what makes the trip successful and memorable depends on how deliciously yummy and mouth-watering the food is.
It is true that many RVers prefer to buy ready-to-go meals that are both convenient and taste … um … okay. However, for me (and many of you may relate), cooking my own food while camping has a nostalgic appeal and an aesthetic pleasure that I just can’t do away with.
Let me share with you exactly why and how I always cook my own food while camping (and why it’s an amazing idea!).
Why Should You Cook Your Own Food While Camping?
If you are someone who loves to cook and have a practiced hand, cooking yourself is absolutely worth it. Here are a few reasons why you should consider cooking yourself.
Yes, I have actually done my calculations! If you are camping with your family, as I do most of the time, cooking yourself makes more sense than buying ready-to-go meals as you can share and cut down on the per-person cost. While the cost of different items varies from region to region, I can guarantee you that cooking yourself will save you at least 20–30% on your food budget, if not more.
Pro tip: If possible, always research the price of food items at the stores near your camping destination. Compare the prices with the stores near your current location, then buy from whichever is cheaper.
Most people take camping trips to free up their minds and to retreat to forests or national parks. It is only natural that you crave your favorite dish while sitting idly by your RV. Cooking yourself gives you the freedom to cook whatever you want to, be it a loaf of bread and cheese, roasted chicken with rosemary seasoning, or beefsteak and spaghetti.
You can also decide on the nutrition level when cooking yourself. Whether you want to cut down carbs or load up proteins, you have the flexibility to decide as you are in charge. Cooking yourself is healthier as the food tends to be fresh, and you can control your calorie intake, leading to a healthier diet. Plus, most processed foods are extremely high in sugar and/or salt, neither of which is very good for you!
You might have a family member who is conscious of their diet or allergic to certain foods? Well, cooking yourself can be the perfect solution!
Another benefit of cooking your own food is that you can easily store it for later use! In my experience, you can store a lot of food easily in your RV if you know what you are doing (something I had to learn the hard way). Here are a few tips:
- Use ziplock bags: You can use these bags to seal your food and protect them from any contamination. These airtight bags can keep the food safe and edible for quite a while and save you the hassle of cooking again. If there’s liquid inside, double-bag it.
- Use your RV’s fridge: You can use your RV’s fridge to store cooked food, especially food with meat that goes bad fast. Make space by taking out drinks and frozen items and putting them outside until you really need them.
- Make little packets: It is surprising how much extra space you can save by dividing the food. You can make small packages of leftover food and put them in the fridge or in a cooler to eat later.
How to Plan Ahead for Your Gourmet Camping Trip?
Planning ahead of a camping trip in your RV can save you a lot of last-minute hassle while cooking. You can use the following (and extremely helpful) tools to keep a tab on your preparation:
- Checklists: You can cross-check all the ingredients, utensils, and cooking equipment using this.
- Recipes: A few quick recipes to get the party started never hurt, especially if you won’t have internet coverage while camping. (I learned this the hard way on my first camping experience; make sure you don’t make the same mistake).
- Planner: A planner can go a long way in helping you manage your camping trip and avoid any last-minute hiccups. I use Notion to keep all my plans/checklists safe in one place, and it has made my life much easier.
Tips for Cooking Food Over an Open Fire
When you think of camping in your RV, you always think of cooking on an open fire, and I agree. Cooking under an open fire can be a bit challenging if it’s your first time, but it’s equally rewarding. Here are a few tips to get you all set up for glowing fire.
You should be careful when building a fire and opt for a fire pit if available. This will keep you out of harm’s reach while you enjoy a healthy meal. If not available, you can try building a fire on a rock with sand or gravel as the base.
Even though the roaring fire can look irresistible after a long day of driving your RV, you should wait for an hour or more before cooking. The flames can ruin your meal by burning it unevenly. You should wait for the initial flame to die down and cook your meal near the base. You will retain the flavor from the fire and not burn your food this way!
Aluminum Is Your Friend
Many types of food, such as melts, biscuits, steaks, and casseroles can be cooked by being wrapped in tin foil and set in hot coals. Just don’t use this technique over an open flame, or the food will cook unevenly!
Bring A Backup
Sometimes, you end up at a campsite where building a fire is not allowed if the wind speed is too high. Therefore, always carry an electric stove or propane stove as a backup. While less pleasing than an open fire, it can get the work done, and you won’t end up sleeping with an empty stomach!
Pro tip: Make sure you have ample charge in your RV batteries, as an electric stove is quite energy-intensive.
What Cooking Equipment Should You Bring on Your RV Trip?
With limited space in your RV, you need to have a sharp eye on the equipment you will need for that mouth-watering meal. We all tend to have our favorites, but there are a few tools that can make cooking a breeze.
I use this one the most regularly. And I think everyone should have one because it makes cooking so much easier. I absolutely love how we can make chili with dried beans in it in less than an hour. You can also use it for cooking meat, rice, or hard-boiled eggs.
Cast Iron Skillet
A skillet can take care of a lot of things such as frying, roasting, broiling, and even sauteing! In short, it’s a compact powerhouse that can help you cook a variety of different dishes. We use ours to make eggs and french toast for a delicious breakfast.
Cast Iron Pan
A pan comes in handy if you want to quickly cook seat meat or shallow fry some vegetables. You can also use it for multitasking with another utensil, such as a skillet.
Pro Tip: If you can’t afford the weight of cast iron, go with aluminum. It’s lightweight and heats up easily, which is useful if you’re cooking on a low-pressure stove or weak charcoals.
These bad boys are another essential item you should be taking with you. You can cook virtually anything in these, from chicken stews to sauces, large-cut meat to casseroles, and even desserts such as cinnamon buns!
Chances are, you are going to whip up a meal with a lot of meat; after all, that’s what camping is all about! One of the best ways to cook meat is to grill it. You can use a compact grill and keep it atop the open fire to cook your meat as it absorbs all the flavor from the firewood or coal.
Pro tip: Looking to save some space in your RV or short on budget? Don’t worry! A camping pot and a camp cooler are all you need to make your cooking experience unforgettable. A camping pot can cook a range of delights. These include snacks such as nachos, full meals like chickpea hash, and pancakes for dessert as well! A camp cooler can help you store a lot of small items and keep them fresh such as fruits, yogurt, drinks, water, and snacks. Also, don’t forget to pack the obvious stuff (matchstick or lighter, dinnerware, spatula, and a bottle opener).
What Are a Few Meals You Can Cook While Camping?
It will be unfair to leave you without a few tried and tested recipes that will leave your belly full and heart content. These recipes include quick to-dos that are easy to make and gobble up. They also include a few more elaborate ones that are perfect for a starry night with your RV by your side.
You have already heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is even more so important in camping where you need to be up and about at dawn.
- Egg and potato scramble: Scrambled egg with steaming potatoes and a side of bread with cheese is an ideal way to start your day. Adding a few sliced tomatoes and olive oil can really enhance the taste and leave you wanting more. You can cook it in less than 30 minutes with no difficulty whatsoever.
- Cereals and fruits: Nothing beats a simple breakfast with cereals and fruits. It is easy to store and easy to eat, all you need is some milk to eat with cereal, and you have a healthy breakfast ready in 10 minutes!
In my experience, lunch can make or break your camping experience. You may be tired from hiking around midday, or the sun may be shining too bright. This calls for a healthy midday lunch that can replenish that lost energy and give your tastebuds something to enjoy.
- Salad sandwiches: You can’t go wrong with salad sandwiches for lunch. Tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, with your favorite sauce (thousand island, mayo, hot sauce), are all you need to whip up this great meal. It will not take more than 15 minutes to prepare these sandwiches, and you can enjoy them outside your RV, taking in the scenic beauty of your campsite!
- Bagel with cream cheese: This is another easy-to-make lunch that will save you time and satisfy your tastebuds. You can add bacon or chicken to your bagel, along with tomatoes and cheese. Your lunch is ready in 15 minutes, enjoy!
It is vital that you eat a healthy albeit light dinner. This will keep your stamina up and help you sleep peacefully. A few of my favorites are as follows:
- Broccoli Cheese Casserole: You can easily whip up a delicious casserole filled with cheese on your cast iron pan. You can use heavy cream and pepper to spice things up. It is perfect for a small group on a summer retreat! It will be ready in an hour and requires you to know your way around the kitchen.
- Beef Cheese Nachos: You can fry the minced beef in your cast iron skillet with tomatoes or jalapenos while you set up the tortilla chips. Let the cheese melt and add additional toppings such as cilantro if you like. Enjoy a delicious snack while you camp. You can make it in 30 minutes without sweating too much!
- Steak Bites: If you are looking for something heavier to devour, steak bites are a perfect fit for you. You can season your steak with salt or pepper and easily cook it on a grill on an open fire. You can chop it down into bite-sized pieces and enjoy it with buns, bread, or even rice! It is a simple recipe that is easy to cook and is ready in 20 minutes.
Cooking your own food while camping is a great idea as it clears your head and provides you with an opportunity to bond with your family and friends. As the aroma from your cooking melts away in the night sky, I hope you have an amazing time camping and enjoy every bit of it!