How to Plan Camping Meals and Menus

camping and campfire meals
camping and campfire meals

Planning your camp meals…

Before you can plan your camp meals and menus you need to answer some questions that will determine what type of meals and food, you should consider:

  1. How much cooking do you want to do?
  2. Are your camp cooking options limited by the campsite?
  3. How much time for cooking/eating does your activities itinerary allow?
  4. Will camp meals be a big part of your trip, or just a necessity wedged in-between activities?
  5. What age group will you be cooking for?
  6. How will you be cooking; campfire or grill or stove, or a combination?
  7. What kind of camp cookware will you have?

A typical camping trip meal plan might include:

  • An easy dinner, (or lunch and dinner), on arrival day; hot dogs on sticks or tin-foil meals
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each full camping day
  • A light breakfast, (or maybe lunch too), on departure day
  • A campfire treat for each evening
  • Snacks/fruit for in-between meal munching
  • Non-meal beverages

Arrival day meal:
Arrival day is a hectic time, getting everything unpacked, set up, and organized, so unless you specifically want a big first meal, the best plan is for a light and/or easy-to-cook first meal.

Even better is to pre-prep your arrival day meal at home so that it is as easy as heat and eat.

5-Star Camping Tips

Gus’ 5-Star Tip
A traditional and easy arrival day dinner – Hobo Tin-foil Meals
Foil-pack meals are an easy meal to prep and cook on-site, but for an even less stressful arrival day meal you can pre-prep these foil-packs at home, and then just pull them from the cooler and toss them on the grate or campfire coals for a great “first meal” without any work.
Camping foil-pack Meals

Gus’ Arrival Day Dinner Tip
Hot Dog Spiders and Mac & Cheese.

If you are camping with young kids, Gus has the perfect arrival day dinner. It’s fast, easy, and will wow the kids.

He pre-cooks a batch of Mac & Cheese at home and portions it out in individual foil packs, (about 1 1/2 cups per kid). When it’s dinner time, he just pulls the hot dogs and foil packs from the cooler, preps the hot dogs, tosses the foil packs around the edges of the coals, and lets the kids cook their own hot dogs on sticks.

By the time the hot dogs are done the Mac & Cheese is warm. The kids love it.

Departure meal: Breakfast is typically the last meal of a camping trip and because it is pack-up time it should be a non-cooked light breakfast as listed below.

Examples of hearty vs. light meal choices:

First Full Camping Day:
*modify for each following day based on the camping agenda and for variety.

Breakfast: – Hearty Light & Easy
  • Bacon or sausage, or other meat
  • Eggs – cooked to order or omelets
  • Hash browns/grits or pancakes
  • Toast or biscuits (pre-baked)
  • Coffee/juice
  • Bagels and a spread, and/or
  • Poptarts and/or
  • Oatmeal, (instant), and or
  • Cold cereal and milk
  • Fruit
  • Juice
…. or you could go all-out with a 1-skillet breakfast like this

campfire skillet breakfast

Mountain Man Campfire Skillet Breakfast

More easy camping breakfast meal suggestions

Camping Breakfast Meals

More camping breakfast ideas

Lunch – almost always light and easy
  • Sandwiches – cold-cuts, PBJ, or grilled
  • Chips and/or
  • Cold salad – pasta or potato
  • Fruit
  • Drink


Dinner: Hearty Light & Easy
  • Meat/potato/veggie or
  • 1-pot skillet meal or
  • Dutch oven recipe meal
  • Bread – biscuits or rolls
  • Coffee and drink
  • Hot Dogs or Burgers and Mac-n-Cheese
  • Tin-foil meals (these should be made in-camp as part of the camping experience)
  • Soup and sandwiches
  • Coffee/Beverage


Desserts: Dessert examples:
Having desserts after dinner is your choice. You can have a dessert after each dinner if you want, (Gus doesn’t), but at least have one for your final night’s camp dinner. (Gus does!)
  • Monkey Bread (Boy Scout Favorite)
  • Dirt and Worm Pie
  • Pie – ready-made that can be heated in the camp oven (if needed)
  • Chocolate Banana Boat – easy, a banana and one melted Hersey Chocolate candy bar


More easy camp dessert ideas

Camping Dinner Meals

More camping Desserts

Every camper likes to snack, but a supply of snacks is mandatory if there are kids in the group.

Snacks for all day: Snacks for evening:
  • Trail mix
  • Granola bars
  • Fruit
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Snack crackers
  • Pop-Tarts
  • Donuts
  • Popcorn
  • Toasted marshmallows
  • S’mores
  • Hot chocolate w/marshmallows

  Beverages: This is mostly determined by the type of campers in your group.

  • Bottles of water
  • Powdered drink mix
  • Juice boxes
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Sodas

Tip: Instead of beverages in bulk containers, or made in bulk batches, – these beverage types, (below), make camp life a lot easier:

  • Coffee – use single serve coffee singles, (just like teabags), just heat the water and make cups of coffee as you want them
  • Cold beverage – Use flavored powders that can be stirred into cups or bottles of water as needed. (you can even buy mix packets that are pre-measured for 16oz bottles of water, but these are a little more pricey than a jar of pre-mix powder you spoon out)
  • Juice boxes or pouches** – these do add more bulk and weight to your camp supplies and cooler storage, but they are very convenient for quick “grab and go”

    **Note: Juice boxes or pouches ARE NOT recommended for warm weather camping with kids – they get left laying around camp and are super ant & bug magnets!

With all that in mind…
The quantities of each food item needed per person may also affect your menu decisions. If you are on a strict budget or have limited cookware or packing space available, the “normal” per-person portions may restrict your meal choices. Here is a typical per-person portion chart for different food items that might be helpful.

Ready to start your menu?

Grab your pad and pencil, (or print this Menu Planning Form), and follow these:

Step-by-Step Meal Planning Directions.
*This planning is for determining what ingredients, and how much of each. And cooking gear and time needed.

  • When ALL individual meal choices are decided, review them day by day to make sure they fit the flow of your planned camping activities for each day.
  • Review them for non-recipe condiments that will be needed. ie. butter, mayo, mustard, etc. Especially ones that you would not normally have on hand.

Determine what and how much camp food you need

  1. Plan similar meals for each day first. ie. Do all breakfasts, then all lunches, etc.
    • This will help you consolidate similar meal ingredients used in separate meals. Which helps you spot problems or duplications.
  2. Meal by meal, list the ingredients and quantity needed. Then combine all duplicate meal recipe ingredients ie. eggs – used in two breakfast meals, or potatoes, used in two dinner meals.
  3. Determine all beverage quantities needed. ie. coffee, 6 cups per day, (3 campers x 2 cups each) times 3 days = 18 cups coffee.
    Cold beverages average 16oz. per camper per meal. etc.
  4. List all condiments needed. ie. butter, 1 tbsp. per biscuit or toast. 2 tbsp. per baked potato, times the number of campers times the number of meals used. etc.

Free camping food, meal, and menu forms to help your camp menu planning:
• Camp Menu Meal Planning Form
• Camp Food Portions Chart
• Camp Food Grocery List

Tip: Be sure to check out this Camp Food & Meals – Pack Smart post for great tips to reduce your camp food storage and cooler requirements.

Camp Cook Food Tips

And the Camp Menus section has complete weekend camping trip menus, including cookware and grocery shopping lists.

Here are some samples of other camp meals and campfire cooking gear that make outdoor cooking a lot easier. Once you have one of these camp tools you will wonder how you ever did without it. Especially when you see how inexpensive they are when you buy them online.

Pie Irons for Campfire Cooking

If you go camping with kids, you should have at least one Pie Iron, (preferably one for each kid), in your camping cookware. They are versatile – you can make anything from grilled cheese sandwiches to instant fruit pies.

And they are so safe and easy to use that you can let your young campers make their own fun camping recipes for kids.

Just pop in the ingredients, close, cook over the campfire, and out comes delicious sandwiches, or biscuit-dough fruit tarts, or dozens of other camp food choices.

Here are some related pieces of camping gear you might like:

Related Guides:

Cast iron camping cookware
Basic Camping Cookware You Need

With just these basic items you can prepare most of the camp foods used in the majority of camping meal menus.
Full camp cooler
Camp Meals – How To Pack Smart

These camp cooking tips will show you how to save time, weight, and bulk, and get out of the camp kitchen sooner.
campfire cooking over flames on grill
Campfire Cooking Tips and Recipes

Everyone enjoys kicking back with a delicious camp meal. Especially if it is a campfire cooking recipe.

Related Topics:

Camp Meals and Cooking – Pack Smart – Save Time and Weight

You might also like:

Return to Home page.