Camping meals for kids

The Lorrimers sold their home in 2015, piled their three kids in a camper van, and have been travelling around Australia ever since. Their and other people's incredible travels were featured as part of World Ready here! 

 


Camping is a great way to teach basic life skills to your children and cooking is a great place to start.  You can demonstrate how to cook with minimal resources, how to stay safe around a fire and even show them where their food comes from.

As a mum of three kids, a lot of questions flow through my head before we head off… what food did I actually pack? Do we have the required utensils to cook? What is something simple and easy to prepare? And, we’d better get the fire on!

To keep it simple, there’s a few strategies (and meals) I rely on to make cooking and camping a little bit easier.

Cooking in Advance

Before we get into recipes, I want to share my number one tip: prepare some camping meals before your camping trip. The week before a camping trip I always cook up a few meals that freeze or refrigerate well.

Because we’re constantly on the move, we carry a 60L portable fridge that lives in the back of our ute. I simply put my freezer meals (which I pack flat into a zip lock bag) straight in. That said, you don’t need a fridge to be prepared. This also works well if you’ve got an esky and just going for the weekend.

Preparing in advance is super convenient, especially on the first night. After you’ve set up your tent, unpacked the car, and wrangled the kids, all you have to do is grab a flatpack and heat it up over the fire (or pop it on the gas stove).

Some meals I like to prepare include tuna bake, zucchini slice, spaghetti bolognese or meatloaf. They travel well and reheat easily.

Image of prepared pasta and bolognese in freezer bags and in three waiting bowls.
Prepared pasta and bolognese. Hit up in the camper van or over a fire.

Cooking Equipment

When you’re planning meals, either to reheat or to cook on the fly, you’ll need to consider what cooking equipment is available and what you’ll need to bring.

While campfires are excellent, you can’t always rely on them. Fire restrictions can come into place when you’re on site, so you should always bring another heat source just in case. But if you’ve got the all-clear, some handy cooking items to take with you include a camp oven, two-burner gas stove, a BBQ, jaffle iron, a billy, a gas fire lighter and compressed fire lighters.

If you want to pare it back to the essentials, consider a BBQ or a two-burner gas stove.

Make room for all the other eating essentials too: plates, bowls, mugs, cutlery, utensils  a collapsible dish rack, a water jerry, and a fry pan. To keep track of it, I recommend that you write a list of items or add it to this camping checklist.

Our Camping Meal Staples

Breakfast

Our go-to breakfast for the kids is either baked beans on toast or porridge. It’s simple and easy to prepare and takes up very little space. Just heat up your baked beans or porridge over the campfire or your gas cooker.

Lunch

As for lunch, we keep it pretty simple with sandwiches. Vegemite or ham and cheese sandwiches keep the kids happy and their tummies full. Quick and easy to prepare!

Snacks

You can never have enough snacks! Kids just seem to graze all day long especially when camping. We take plenty of fruit, muesli bars, popcorn, rice cakes, boiled eggs, mini bites or veggie chips. The kids enjoy them and I know they will be eaten without complaint.

Family Favourites

Some days it’s nice to get back to camp and heat up a precooked meal, other times we love to sit around the campfire and get the kids involved in cooking their own dinner.

I find that our kids really do enjoy this way of cooking and I believe it’s really important to teach kids to cook -- especially when you’re using minimal resources. Here’s a few things of our family favourites:

Fish

Our whole family love to fish and we also love to eat it. And what better way to get everyone involved than to catch your own dinner!

Kids will learn an important lesson, that good things come to those who wait (although if you’re lucky, they won’t have to wait too long). Once the fish is caught, you can fillet and debone it. The kids love being part of the process and get to see how their dinner goes from the water to their plate.

A cheap and simple meal is popping your fish onto a pan to cook over heat or a fire. We love to batter ours with flour and beer, cut up some potatoes into chips, and toss them around on the frypan too. Serve with a simple salad. Alternatively, take some wraps and whip up a fish taco. Fish takes no time at all to cook up. If frying it up, allow a couple of minutes on each side to cook. Alternatively, if using batter, add a reasonable amount of oil to cook your battered fish.

Image of our son Jack casting a net to catch dinner
Catching some dinner.

Snag in bread

It’s an Aussie staple and a must have when you’re camping. A sausage in bread with onion and sauce is delicious and the whole family will love you for it.

Super easy to prepare and cook, and it feeds the whole tribe. Kids don’t like sausage? Ensure you pack rissoles or hamburger patties instead.

Damper

If you’ve got a camp oven with you, this simple, easy recipe is a winner. There’s plenty of room for variations so you can make it your own. A basic damper that will never fail you is:

  • 2 cups of self-raising flour,
  • 2 pinches of salt 
  • enough water to combine
  • then add what you like.

 That may be some chocolate for dessert, or ham and cheese for a savoury damper. Wrap up in some aluminum foil, pop it in the ashes of your campfire and check it after half an hour. It might need a few more minutes after that outside of the foil to get nice and crisp. 

Jaffle

A jaffle iron is a great addition to your camping kit. Spray some olive oil or coat the waffle iron with butter, place your bread down and fill with whatever you like. We love to put baked beans in ours. Put on the coals of the campfire and wait about 10 minutes. This is a delicious meal for breakfast!

Image of Bec's son smiling while holding a baked bean jaffle.
A baked bean jaffle is an easy and filling breakfast.

Quiche

We love quiche: quick, simple and easy to make. This can be cooked in your BBQ (if it has a lid to  create an oven) otherwise grab a large skillet.

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup bisquick®
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 450g sausage (precooked, or browned at campsite)
  • 1 cup shredded swiss cheese

Step 1. Preheat BBQ and lightly spray with olive oil.

Step 2. Whisk Bisquick, milk, butter, salt and pepper together.

Step 3. Pour in the egg mixture and top with sausage and cheese.

Allow 20 minutes to cook or when and inserted knife comes out clean.

Ravioli

Now this one is the easiest of them all. You can find a large packet of ravioli in the refrigerated dairy section and they come in various flavours. It sits nicely in your esky or portable fridge and takes about 5 minus to cook in boiling water. I often boil up some mixed frozen vegetables too (peas, corn and carrot).

Serve up with a pasta or pizza sauce mixed through and you’ll have yet another speedy, uncomplicated meal.

Tuna Bake

A simple dish that keeps the kids chock-full. Ingredients include pasta, large can of tuna, can of corn kernels, and a bottle of tuna bake sauce (we love the spinach and garlic one).

Cook the pasta and add the rest of the ingredients and top with grated cheese. Place in your skillet or BBQ (with lid) for 40 minutes.

Pancakes

Not only a great breakfast dish but an even better snack! To avoid using too much plastic in your cooking, consider making banana pancakes rather than one of those bottled pancake mixes. Just mash up some banana, eggs, and self-raising flour with a pinch of salt...throw in some sultanas for extra sweetness, and place on the skillet. 

Camp Oven Cook Up

A camp oven is a fabulous addition to your camping kit, as long as there’s no fire ban. After building your fire, let some coals settle, stoke them to the side and pop your camp oven on.

You can basically put anything in your camp oven and we typically do a stew or casserole, perhaps a roast even a roast. Here is a casserole recipe we love to make in our own camp oven:

Honey Chicken casserole:

  • One packet of french onion soup mix
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1kg chicken pieces


Method:

Mix the soup mixture, honey and water. Add the chicken pieces to the camp oven to lightly brown. Add the soup, honey ad water mixture to the chicken, then cover and cook on low heat until the chicien is cooked through. This takes about 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Image of Justin Lorrimer casting a net
Justin Lorrimer casts a net.

My final tip? Please ensure that you bag up all your rubbish during meal preparation and place it in a bin provided. Better yet, pack it out with you and dispose of it at home. Leaving your campsite clean and tidy for the next family is always a good lesson for the kids too.

Consider ways to reduce your use of plastic as much as possible. Camping can create a lot of waste if not done thoughtfully. Seeking fresh ingredients that aren't wrapped up in plastic and using your own Tupperware to store food is ideal. 

Camping doesn’t stop you from eating well in the wilderness with your kids – all you need is a little preparation. These quick and easy recipes are a great way to get your kids involved and make cooking part of your camping adventure. 

Before you head off, grab a few more handy tips and learn how to master camp cooking.