Here’s Exactly How to Plan Camping Meals for Your Next Trip Without Overwhelm

I know that planning camping meals can be overwhelming. To make it easier and faster, I created a simple 4-step system. It will help you make the perfect camping meal plan without the stress. Let’s get started!

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how to make the perfect camping meal plan Pinterest pin

In this example, I’m going to plan camping meals for a 3-night trip. I’ll to show you exactly how I plan meals, grocery shop, and prepare what I can at home.

These 4 steps help me stay organized. They also stop me from being overwhelmed. This is especially true for longer trips or larger groups.

If you prefer to watch, I walk you through the entire process in the video below:

How to PLAN CAMPING MEALS (4 Easy Steps to Eliminate Overwhelm)

How to Plan Camping Meals

Step 1: Check for local fire restrictions.

The first step is to check for any local fire restrictions. This is often overlooked. But, it’s important.

For example, if you plan to cook dutch oven meals over the campfire and don’t realize that there are fire restrictions until you get there, that’s going to be a bit of a problem right?

The fire restrictions, or lack of them, will help you choose how to cook.

Will you use a camp stove or a campfire? Maybe both!

After you’ve checked for your local fire restrictions, move on to step 2.

Related >> How to Make a Campfire (step by step printable)

two people cooking around a campfire while tent camping

Step 2: Create a High-Level View of the Meals You’ll Need

Step 2 is to create a high-level view of the meals that you’re going to need.

What is a ‘high-level view’, you ask?

I start by listing out all the days that I’m going to be camping.

In my example, I’ll be camping Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Under each day, I list out the meals that I’ll need.

  • For example, on Sunday we’re leaving home. I don’t need to worry about breakfast, so I just write lunch and dinner for that day.
  • On Monday, we’ll be at camp all day so I need to plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Same for Tuesday.
  • We’re driving home on a Wednesday so I don’t need to plan for dinner that night because we’ll be back at home.

This high-level view shows me exactly how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners I need to plan for.

This is a great starting point.

example of step 2 when planning camping meals

Now you have a good, high-level view of what you need. Next, you can start to fill in the meals and the recipes for each of these days.

Keep it simple or try new camping recipes, it’s up to you!

Simple camping meal ideas I love:

  • pancakes and eggs
  • cereal
  • oatmeal
  • mac and cheese
  • ramen
  • Indian food packets with rice
  • cans of soup or chili
  • quesadillas

All these meals are very quick to make at camp and don’t need much planning or prep ahead of time.

If you love to cook like I do and you want to try new camping recipes, I have so many resources for you here on the blog.

Check out my camping recipe index. You can see all my camping recipes and sort them by meal or cooking method.

You can print off these recipes for free and take them with you on your camping trips.

Amanda cooking veggies in a cast iron pan over the camp stove

This is how you get the high-level view of how many meals you’ll need and what you want to pack and cook for each of them.

In the video above, I show you exactly what I planned for my trip.

Note About Leftovers: Consider packing leftovers as a camping meal! For example, Nick and I had some friends over for dinner right before a camping trip and Nick made a ton of pulled pork.

We had leftovers, so I worked them into my camping meal plan for my upcoming trip.

We had pulled pork sandwiches for dinner one night. It was delicious and all I had to do was heat up the pork and make a side of coleslaw at camp!

Lastly, after I fill in all the main meals for a camping trip, I like to list out all the snacks I want to bring too.

I like to have a variety of snacks that are easy for everyone to grab as they’re hungry throughout the day.

Some of my go-to camping snacks are:

  • string cheese
  • yogurt and granola
  • apples
  • chips and salsa
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • energy bites
  • protein bars
  • beef jerky

Whatever snacks you like, list them out here to make packing easier.

get my free

Camp Cooking Starter Kit

Printable camping recipes, a gear checklist, and a camping meal planner so you can go camping with confidence (and good food!)

In my Camp Cooking Starter Kit above, you’ll get a camping meal planner to fill in. You’ll also get a camp kitchen checklist and recipes to get you started!

Now on to step 3!

Step 3: List everything you can make at home.

Now look at your meal plan and list out anything you can prepare at home.

For example, in my meal plan, I’m going to make my One Pot Thai Chicken Curry on the first night of my camping trip.

At home, I’m going to wash and chop the veggies that I need for that recipe. This is one less step for me at camp.

example of step 3 in the planning camping meals process

If applicable, the recipes on my website will have a ‘make at home’ section to make things easier for you.

Now we are ready for the final step.

Step 4: Plan your backup meals.

Backup Meals are extra meals you have on hand. You use them if you need to stay out longer than expected or change plans.

These meals have a long shelf life and don’t need planning. Examples are ramen packets, Indian Food and rice packets, and boxed mac and cheese.

It’s good to have some of these backup meals in your camping pantry.

Now you have completed your camping meal plan!

Once I hit the road, I don’t stick to my camping meal plan rigidly. If I want to make slight adjustments to it, that’s fine. This is to help me plan and pack to make sure I have enough food for the entire trip.

When I get to camp, I’m organized and not overwhelmed. I can enjoy cooking and eating outdoors with family and friends.

a plate of grilled chicken with rice and pineapple salsa for a camping meal
Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

Creating Your Camping Meal Plan Grocery List

Now that you have finished planning your camping meals, the next step is to make a grocery list.

In the video at the top of this post, I show you how I use a free program called Notion to create and sort my grocery list. This is optional, but if you already use Notion, this is a pretty cool way to use it for camping.

example of a Notion database for a camping grocery list

When it comes to a grocery list, good old pen and paper always works too!

I like to look at my camping meal plan and write down every single thing that I need to pack.

Some of those things I’ll already have, others I’ll need to go and buy.

The day before my camping trip I go to the grocery store and buy all the camping food I’ll need.

Then, look at what you wrote in Step 3 for the make-ahead options. Start to prepare those things the day before you leave, or the day of.

Pack each item one by one as you check it off your master list and you can be confident that you have everything you need!

I hope this helps you plan the perfect camping meals for your trip!

Check out some other camping resources here for more tips:

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  1. Thank you! I am finally moving up from PB&J’s and wanting to start cooking at my camp sites and was getting overwhelmed with the planning/ prepping for meals for three people. The breakdown and tips were easy to follow and cant wait to see what all I will be cooking up.