Chomp & Romp – Camping Food for Kids

Get tips to feed a family on the trail with advice and family camping meals
July 1, 2014

With summer holidays come opportunities for you to spend extra time outdoors as a family, and may even allow for an overnight camping trip together.

“I’m hungry, are we nearly there?”

Be warned though! You’ve got kids in tow, right? So no matter how romantic thoughts of sleeping on a beach or pitching the tent on a mountain may be, the reality is that longer trips with the whole family means more meals to carry, cook, eat and clean up after. So it’s important to plan family camping meals appropriately to feed your kids on the trail.

Mess-up the culinary plans and underfeed your young adventurers at your peril: you’ll have rumbling tummies and grumbling bunnies (not happy ones): “I’m hungry, are we nearly there?”

Food for when you’re on the trail

A bag of sweets to eat on a long car ride is a tried and tested way of taking the mind off the tedium – for young and for old. So why not apply this to a long hike?

Meek family on the trail

©Meek Family

Sweet hiking snacks for kids serve as a great source of a cheap and instant morale boost, but they also enable you to covertly engage your children in the somewhat more educational aspects of a hike. They are a neat way of getting kids to look for navigational checkpoints (on the map and on the land) as well as generally just to keep them interested! e.g. “When we’ve climbed to a spot height of “x,” or, when we are at grid reference “y”… we’ll have a sit down and have a snack.”

Of course, alternative healthy ‘treats’ can be used too: dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, and more are great ingredients in trail mix for kids (though you may still want to make sure there are some M&Ms in the bag). Other sweet hiking snacks for kids like Snickers bars, granola bars and more provide protein and carbs to keep your little adventurers going while satisfying their sweet tooth.

Light camping meals for lunch on the trail

Lunch for us is usually something snacky that we can eat fairly quickly during a brief-ish stop (20 – 30 minutes). Stopping for longer runs the risk of the kids getting cold and miserable, stiff and cranky, or just plain lethargic and difficult to re-motivate (yes, this applies to pre-teenage kids too).

So, we tend to take a picnic: sandwiches or wraps, fruit, snack bars- that kind of thing. Sometimes we don’t even stop to eat – we just chomp and romp.

Family camping meals for dinner

One thing we always carry when out on an adventure – as well as a first aid kit, of course – is our ‘tuck sack.’ The tuck sack is one of our Meek family Ad-ventions. It’s a rucksack full of everything you need to cook a healthy, warm meal for a family.

Our tuck sack contains:
-       A small camping stove and spare fuel
-       A fire starter
-       A single pan
-       Cutlery, crockery and basic utensils
-       A bottle of water
-       Ingredients for a meal
-       Wet wipes of some sort (for washing up)

When cooking camping food for kids, go for quick, tasty and healthy meals. Meals that don’t take long to make, but are guaranteed to go down well without any fuss.


©Meek Family

Sell the ‘getting involved idea’ to reluctant kids by highlighting that it is a chef’s privilege to taste the ingredients as they are being prepared. Eating the crust of the bread or munching a carrot stick or two helps to keep hunger at bay for a little longer.

Mopping up plates with bread or wet wipes can makes cleaning up quick and easy – although the former is the tastier of the two options. If you have to use wipes, spend a bit more on the biodegradable ones as these are more easily disposed of.

Breakfast – fuel up before you head back

No-one really feels like eating when they first wake up, do they? But kids on adventurers can be a little unpredictable. It might be the energy they burned the previous day or during the night (to keep warm), or just the fact their eating habits have changed slightly. Whatever the reason, go prepared for your adventurers to wake up hungry, or even ‘starving!’

©Meek Family

©Meek Family

We normally just pull out some fruit – bananas are often popular first thing – or we take some quick-cook oatmeal.

This is perfect for a family breakfast in the outdoors because it’s quick, nutritional, warm, can be flavored easily with a dollop of jam or honey, and it is a slow-energy releasing food - just what you need to fuel the troops back to base camp with smiles on their faces.

Anyway, are we nearly there yet?

We certainly are. That’s enough food for thought for the time-being.

Here are a couple of family favorite recipes for food for the trail:

Curried beans and rice

Most people have an emergency can of beans somewhere in the cupboard and it’s always a handy, quick meal when short on time. But canned beans can get a bit boring, so why not spice them up with a pinch of curry powder?

This is a very simple curry that can be made quickly and easily using a few basic ingredients.

Ingredients for curried beans and rice:

  • Cans of baked beans x 2
  • Rice (pre-cooked) packet x 2
  • Curry powder (mild)
  • Naan bread

What to do:

1. Tip the beans and rice into the pan and warm.

2. Add a teaspoon of curry powder (or to taste)

3. Once warmed, serve with naan bread and add any additions such as finely chopped onions, chopped banana, yogurt or mango chutney.

Sausage Orzo casserole

Sausages are always a favorite in our household and a quick and easy meal is sausage and pasta. When we discovered orzo, this meant our sausage and pasta casserole took on a different feel. The small pasta pieces are very similar in appearance to rice and cook quickly – ideal when cooking outside for a one-pot meal.

Ingredients for Sausage Orzo casserole:

  • Oil
  • Orzo (half a packet - 250g or 8oz)
  • Onion, chopped
  • Red pepper, chopped
  • Sausages
  • Stock cube
  • Tomatoes & basil (chopped)

What to do:

1. Heat oil in the pan and fry the sausages until browned.

2. Add the onions and peppers.

3. Remove the meat and vegetables from the pan.

4. Add water to the pan and once boiling add the orzo.

5. Once the orzo is al dente remove some of the stock and add tomatoes and herbs (of your choice) to your casserole.

6. Add the sausage and vegetable mix back in to warm and then serve.


Tim Meek

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