In this article
Balanced camp lunches & dinners with kids?
SAVE THIS POST for camp cooking ideas!
Easy camping meals for families can be so tricky. After a day of adventures and challenges, it’s not easy to come back to camp to make a meal. Especially when camping over multiple days, balanced meals can be so important for parents and kids. Keeping whole foods and nutritious camping food ideas on your camp menu helps everyone feel better. Plus they have more energy and stay healthier at camp and at home.
Our own camp day meals vary a lot. After breakfast, sometimes we are away all day, and sometimes we spend the morning or afternoon at camp. Dinnertime might be chill… or rushed, especially if we’re just arriving in a new place. But we always strive to keep balance in our meals—while allowing for full-on comfort food nights too!
Instead of easy camping recipes, here are some simple overall ways we structure camp lunches and dinners that are balanced and tasty, even when traveling on a family camping trip for weeks on end.
Mid-day camp lunches vary + our secret veggie intake weapon
Our camping lunches range from grand to simple. We find that lunches are a great way to work easy camping meals into the day. On days when we plan to hang out at our campsite, lunch might be a big affair. Then we follow up with a simpler dinner (or vice versa).
Sometimes we put out a spread of cheese, veggies, fruit, bread, crackers, and maybe a bit of charcuterie, along with hummus or a vinaigrette. It’s a wonderful way to graze in the sun, lingering over conversation or planning. If we’re fresh off a camp grocery run, we might also treat ourselves to a smoked salmon or cream cheese veggie dip.
A smorgasbord lunch is especially helpful on a day when we just don’t want to fire up the ole camping stove.
Grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas
Other times we might brown up some grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas in our workhorse cast iron skillet, with sliced fresh veggies and fruit on the side.
Salad kit secret weapon
If we are hanging out at camp, don’t be surprised to see us adults tuck into a big salad. Ready-made bagged salad kits have become one of our camping secret weapons.
Whenever we make a camp grocery run, we pick up a few kits for the cooler. Sometimes we augment them with a few ingredients, such as a bit of fresh or dried fruit, nuts, beans, or sliced up meats. The kids often try a little bit, but these bagged salads make it much easier for us parents to keep up a good veggie intake while camping.
Simple wraps also figure into our lunch lineup, especially if we’re an outing, such as a hike, will have us away from camp during lunchtime.
Cheese, deli meat, and veggie wraps are an easy camp lunch that’s quick to prepare. For condiments, we might have on hand some mayo (Connor’s really gotten a taste for it), or mustard and hummus for us adults. Wraps also bag up well for stashing in a backpack until bellies rumble.
Lunch can also be a meal where we go big. Instead of dinner being our main meal of the day, we focus more on breakfast and lunch. A smaller dinner makes for less prep, but for us it depends on the day.
Easy camping dinners are where we might have a lot of fun… or sometimes we just need to get it done.
Those salad kits we mentioned? If we don’t have one with lunch, a salad kit is likely to make an appearance a dinner, either as a main course or side for us parents. Sometimes we’ll set up bread or veggie dish in tin foil packets for camping over the campfire too.
Often our dinners focus on some simple kiddo crowd-pleasers and one pot meals, which we parents can build up to our own taste. However simple or grand the dinner plan, here are ways we keep dinner tasty and nutritious with easy camping meals:
Browned pre-cooked meats
Sometimes we plan ahead and cook up raw meat at home (such as chicken breasts or thighs), freeze it, and kept it cold in the cooler. Or, during a camp grocery run, we’ll pick up pre-cooked meats such as ham steak or kielbasa. Either way, a quick slice and browning in the pan, and these add protein and rich flavor to our dinners.
Mac and cheese
The kids love mac and cheese, and we keep a few boxes on hand for camp lunches and dinners. We’ll serve pepper strips or raw cabbage ribbons on the side for the kids camping. For us adults, we’ll use the mac and cheese as the base for a veggie and meat bowl, with plenty of hot sauce at the ready!
Rice or pasta mixes
Versatile, cheap, and easy to prep, these box mixes have become a mainstay for our balanced camp dinners. Sometimes we’ll fix up mac and cheese for the kids, and a rice mix for us. In ours we might also add in any combo of mushrooms and/or diced tomatoes (canned or fresh), sausage, chickpeas, black beans, and/or sautéed veggies.
At home, we cook up soaked, dry beans in our Instant Pot. When camping, we keep a few cans of beans on hand, usually chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, or navy beans. Along with adding lots of nutrients to our meals, versatile canned beans make a great foundation for a bowl. They also go great on one of our salad kits.
We parents eat many of our meals as bowls, such as rice and veggie bowls, or burrito bowls. We find it helps us portion better and keep our meals more balanced.
Bowl pro tip: Start serving up your bowl with the veggies, not the grains! We love grains, but we find it’s easier to make sure we get plenty of veggies by putting those in the bowl first.
We work hard to minimize food waste, both for sustainability and to make it easier for our family to afford family travel. Especially on our last night at a campground, we’ll use dinner as a chance to freshen up (and use up) any leftovers.
Balanced, easy camping meals for families are possible!
We get it. When you camp, it can feel so tricky to eat balanced meals. Sometimes you just want to indulge (and we love that too!). Your camp kitchen setup can feel unfamiliar. It’s easy to feel pressed for time, or tired after a big day.
But whether you are camping for a weekend or for weeks on end, balanced yet easy camping meals for families help your whole family feel better, have more energy, and keep up better nutrition when away from home. Our camp lunches and dinners help us spend less time cooking and cleaning up. WE have more time to enjoy America’s Great Outdoors—and we feel ready for our next camping adventure!
But what about camp breakfasts?
Easy camping meals for families aren’t just for lunch and dinner. We didn’t forget the most important meal of the camping day! Check out our family camping article on easy, balanced camp breakfast ideas for kids and parents: