The other day I was talking with a mom who was lamenting her lost love for camping. She told me that as a child she loved camping. Now, as an adult and mother of three, she finds it exhausting. At the time of our conversation, she was thinking of giving it up altogether.
Her main complaint was that she spends most of her “relaxation” time cooking and then cleaning up the meals. This was my advice: simplify the meals.
As Kenon grew up, tent camping evolved into RV glamping. This made it much easier for his mom to provide “more” elaborate meals than your average car camping scenario. (Plus his mom is an incredible cook and a whiz in the kitchen). I am also a Pinterest fanatic and I was fascinated by all the beautiful, multi-ingredient campfire meals posted by all the Pinterest moms out there. When I started camping it took me a while to realize that I did not have to live up to this standard. For one, all we had was tin foil and weenie roasters. We’ve now evolved as far as a two-burner Coleman camping stove but I am still very limited. Plus I LOVE to relax and all the cleaning up from the multi-ingredient, tons of dishes meal takes forever!
My other frustration with elaborate camping meals was that it takes so much to figure out how to pack all the ingredients into the cooler and other containers. Then, after all the work, we often get distracted by some local cafe and we end up eating out anyway. I kept thinking to myself, “why am I putting so much effort into food that we don’t even eat?” And “Why did I take so much time to make this meal I am not even enjoying because it was SO MUCH WORK?”
My solution: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches.
Stick with me for a minute! Kenon and I eat fairly healthy at home. From Sunday night to Friday lunch we get a lot of fruits, veggies, and proteins. We stay away from most (note: not all) sweet treats and fatty foods. A PB&J on the weekends is not going to send our health in a spiral. Plus, these are days spent soaking up the sun, getting exercise, and breathing fresh air.
A loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and some knives are all that is needed for lunch time. I especially love this because everyone in the group can eat at different times. Whenever you get hungry, just make yourself the easiest sandwich on the planet. Pair it with accessible fruits, veggies, and string cheese and everyone can easily build their own meal. At Pinnacles National Park a few weeks ago we were able to pull this stuff out of the car and have a quick meal right in the parking lot before continuing with our day. 20 minutes to prep, eat, and clean up.
I keep the bread in a ziplock bag to keep it sealed and fresh. I can even store it in the cooler this way without it getting soggy. I prefer plastic jelly containers because the are more durable when rolling around in the bottom of a cooler.
My best friend and almost sister-in-law has Celiac Disease and often travels with us. She needs gluten-free bread but the rest of us would prefer the real thing. Her allergy is so intense that I cannot even dip my knife into the same peanut butter jar that she is using if I already touched my bread with the knife. We had to come up with an easy solution to this problem so we could keep the PB&J train going. This friend and my mother-in-law came up with the perfect solution:
Buy “To Go” packs of peanut butter and use the restaurant-size little rectangles of jelly. This way, everyone gets their own, nothing is contaminated, and everything stays fresh! Nobody needs to remember to put anything away because you just toss the package in the garbage when you are done. These are also easy to throw in a pack if you want to have lunch while day hiking. If you are eco-conscious, you can always pre-package peanut butters and jellies in mini Tupperware containers before leaving for your trip.
Follow my journey for more little-to-no prep camping meal ideas and other tips to make camping easy!