Planning a menu for your next trip? It needn’t be complicated. Here are a few tips for organising your campsite pantry.
HOW ABOUT PRE-PREPARED MEALS?
There’s nothing better than ripping into a hearty meal after a long drive—just heat and serve with little fuss.
Pre-preparing meals ahead of a short trip is one way to save some time at camp, but they do take up a fair bit of cool-storage on tour.
If you’re into stews but not great with coals, thermal-insulated cookware is a fantastic alternative on tour.
They’re bulky but will retain enough heat to slow cook pre-heated recipes safely without a power source as you drive from camp to camp.
Fridges require less effort to keep items cool if they’re well packed and the items are pre-chilled—so long as there’s sufficient air flow.
Chill your van or camper fridge before you leave—a day should do the trick, gas or electric. Just be sure to use a 10-15A adapter if you’re hooking up the van to a domestic power point.
A few frozen bottles of water is one way to support cold-storage, especially if you’re travelling somewhere hot. (Squeeze the bottle, as water expands as it freezes).
A frozen piece of meat such as a roast cut achieves the same result, just defrost it over two or so days in the fridge before use.
PACK THE CAMPSITE PANTRY FOR ONE POT MEALS
When you’re planning camping meals, think about the tools you’re working with.
On the road you’re dealing with smaller sinks, less power, fewer utensils, burners that are closer together and occasionally a limited water supply—especially if you’re heading off grid.
So it’s worthwhile having a few good one-pot dishes up your sleeve that take up less preparation space, use fewer elements and minimise cleaning up.
Long-lasting veggies can really bulk out a meal—whether that’s butternut pumpkin, capsicum, cabbage, beets, carrots, onions or spuds.
Choose what you’d use at home. Frozen veggies work too, if you have the freezer storage.
For you need inspiration, check out Macca’s take on Spanish eggs.
Now’s a good time to check your cooking appliances and power supplies. And to think about contingency plans, which will depend upon your set-up and destination.
Is there a pub nearby or supermarkets? SWAP’n’GO outlets? When are they open? Or are we talking cold beans out of the can?
Are you in a caravan park? What food services do they offer?
And phone reception. As some take away outlets deliver to campsites. Ahem, so I’ve heard.
How long are you travelling for?
If you eat meat, without a doubt, if it’s sealed in cryovac it lasts longer in the fridge. But some cuts will keep better than others. Bacon and sausage last the longest.
As a general rule use minced meat, poultry and diced meat first. Watch for bones in cryovac packs too as they don’t seal as well.
In the city, most supermarkets carry cryovac meat but smaller towns will have less choice. Many regional butchers will prepare it for you though.
Once you’ve decided on your meat, pack in the order according to when you plan to eat it—especially if you’re travelling with a chest-style fridge.
JUST ADD WATER!
What constitutes a camping cooking essential depends on you.
But anything that expands with water usually lasts longer and takes up less room. Lentils, rice, pasta, oats—they’re all great if it’s what you regularly use.
Especially if you have an on-going water supply.
Whatever you opt for, seal it in containers. Broken packets are nightmares at camp. And there’s wildlife to content with as well.
Remember your flavours.
Salt, pepper, dry stock, sauces, fats and oils, thickeners (like flour), sweeteners and spice blends—you’re carrying less than what you have at home, so think strategically here.
Decant into smaller containers what you use little of. The same goes for coffee and tea. I take my stove-top espresso maker wherever I go.
And if you have a good quality bread knife and enjoy bread, consider an unsliced loaf if you’re away from shops for extended periods. Wraps are convenient alternatives as well.
THE HEAVIER STUFF
Long-life groceries like juice, milk and milk alternatives in tetra packs are really convenient, as are tinned items, say beans, fruit, tuna, tomatoes. They are quite heavy, so factor this in.
If you have a pull-out pantry, marking your tinned with a black pen can save some time.
I love nuts and dried fruits. But there are plenty of fruits that last a long time, even delicate fruit will last longer if it’s stored chilled in a sealed container with some paper towel.
Also, consider where you’re travelling. Are you passing biosecurity borders? Will you need to chuck anything out?
In fact, if you’re travelling through a food bowl region—your freshest picks could be by the side of the road.