Tucking into a scrumptious meal is one of the highlights of any camping trip. However, it’s a common misconception that camping food needs to be expensive.
In fact, in a world that’s full of freeze-dried camping meals, it’s easy to get lured into the idea that you need to spend a fortune to eat well outside. Thankfully, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’re looking to eat well on your next camping trip without spending your life’s savings, we’re here to get you started. Up next, we’ll introduce you to 14 of the cheapest camping food options available so you can dine own style without breaking your budget.
The 14 Cheapest Camping Food Options To Try
1. Fruit & Nut Oatmeal
An absolute classic, fruit and nut oatmeal is a time-honored tradition on any camping trip. The best part about oatmeal (besides its affordable price point) is that you can make it however you’d like.
For car camping trips, you could load up your oats with the fruits and nuts of your choosing. Think bananas, apples, and the like, then top with maple syrup for extra nutrition. If you’re looking to cook over the stove, though, we’d recommend using milk and steel-cut oats (rather than quick oats and water) for extra flavor.
If you’re backpacking, consider packing quick oats, chopped nuts, chia and flax seeds, and dehydrated fruits.
Frequent campers can even dehydrate their own fruit at home with a dehydrator, like the COSORI Dehydrator. Although buying your own dehydrator comes with a sizable upfront cost, it will save you money in the long run, especially if you camp on a regular basis.
2. Mac & Cheese
Mac and cheese is a quick, easy, and inexpensive option for any camping trip. Plus, you can easily customize mac and cheese to suit your unique tastes.
If you’re at a roadside campground, you can make your own mac and cheese from scratch using pasta, butter, flour, milk, and lots of cheese. Or to keep things simple and lightweight, you can always opt for boxed mac and cheese from the store.
For added veg and protein, consider mixing in peas (you can get dehydrated peas for backpacking) or bacon bits in your mac and cheese. Then, add salt, garlic, and pepper before serving for maximum flavor.
3. Yogurt & Granola
A popular breakfast choice for car camping and backpacking, alike, yogurt is another versatile meal for campers on a budget.
For family camping, consider buying the larger tubs of yogurt at the store and making your own granola at home to cut costs. Then, top with fruits, nuts, and seeds for added nutrition.
Alternatively, for backpacking, you can bring granola and dehydrated yogurt, like this dry yogurt from Hoosier Hill Farm. Dehydrated yogurt can get pricey, though, so we’d recommend dehydrating your own yogurt at home or opting for dehydrated milk, instead.
4. Hash Browns
One of our personal favorites, hash browns are a great savory breakfast for any camping trip.
Depending on your personal style and taste, you can either pack frozen hash browns, as you can get in your local supermarket, or you can make your own from scratch. That being said, shredding potatoes can be a lot of work, so we’d recommend getting dehydrated hash browns, like Idaho Spuds, instead.
Then, all you need to do is rehydrate the hashbrowns for 20 minutes before frying them on a stove-top skillet or over the fire. For extra flavor, nutrition, and protein, we recommend adding veggies, bacon bits or sausage, and cheese to your hash browns.
5. DIY Pizzas
Pizzas are a fan-favorite at home and in camp, so they’re a must on any menu. If you prefer to keep things simple, you can buy pre-made pizza crusts and then cook them over the fire with the toppings of your choosing for the perfect campfire pizza.
Alternatively, you can make your own pizzas from scratch, either in the backcountry or at a campground. For a fun, delicious meal that you can take on any adventure, check out this great tutorial from the folks at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) on how to make a pizza on a camping stove:
6. Sandwiches & Wraps
A simple solution for those long hiking days, sandwiches and wraps are a mainstay of any outdoor adventure.
Since bread doesn’t keep very well in a backpack, we recommend traditional sandwiches for car camping adventures. If you’re at the campground, load up your french bread sandwich with veggies, hummus, deli meats, or whatever else you fancy during your trip. Then, you can cook your sandwiches over the campfire for an extra-tasty dinner at camp.
On backpacking trips, consider using tortillas to make hearty wraps. You could either make cheese, sausage, and veggie tortillas, or you can go for an old school classic with peanut butter, Nutella, and jam, wraps instead.
7. Burgers & Hot Dogs
If you love barbecues, then don’t forget to pack burgers and hot dogs for your next camping meal. You can grill your burgers and hot dogs over the campfire and serve them with a side of fries or chips for extra pizazz.
Alternatively, consider buying a few pre-made crescent rolls from the supermarket to make Curly Dogs over the campfire. To do this, you simply need to wrap the croissant dough around the hot dog, then you need to cook the whole thing over the grill for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Yum!
A solid breakfast choice in the great outdoors, you can buy pancake mix at any grocery store on the cheap. Then, when you’re at camp, you simply need to add water and your favorite toppings before frying the pancakes on the griddle.
For extra flavor, consider making blueberry or chocolate chip pancakes and then topping with maple syrup. You can also fry up some sausages as a side dish for added protein.
One of the most rewarding camping meals, burritos are a highly customizable and affordable choice that’s perfect for large groups.
To have a burrito night on your next camping trip, you’ll need to make rice, beans (Santa Fe Dried Refried Beans are our favorite for backpacking), and ground beef. Then, add toppings as desired, such as salsa, sour cream, cheese, and the like.
If you have leftover tortillas and toppings after dinner, you can even use your leftovers to make breakfast burritos the next morning with scrambled eggs and sausages. What could be better?
10. Cinnamon Rolls
Perfect for the more culinary-minded among us, cinnamon rolls are a delectable breakfast option.
If you’re not feeling particularly crafty, you can always buy the tubes of pre-made cinnamon rolls from a grocery store and cook them in a cast-iron skillet. For folks who’d like to have a bit of fun with their breakfast, you can always make backcountry cinnamon rolls from scratch.
To get started, check out this video from Canoe & Kayak Magazine, which shows you how to make home-made cinnamon rolls from start to finish:
11. Scrambled Eggs & Veggies
A fun choice for a hearty breakfast, scrambled eggs and veggies are a great protein-packed way to start your day.
If you’re at the campground, you’ll simply need eggs as well as the chopped veggies of your choosing. You can also add chopped sausage or bacon bits if you’d like some extra flavor in your scramble. Alternatively, you can get a little fancy with your meal and make an omelet instead of a scramble.
While in the backcountry, we’d suggest using Ova Easy Egg Crystals as a substitute for fresh eggs. Since eggs can be tricky to dehydrate, we don’t recommend dehydrating them at home.
However, you can use these egg crystals to make pretty much anything you’d make with fresh eggs (though omelets are fairly tricky to accomplish). You’ll simply need to rehydrate them and cook them in a fry pan, just like you would with fresh eggs. Then, add dehydrated veggies, bacon bits, and sausage chunks for added nutrition.
12. Baked Potatoes
As simple and timeless as can be, baked potatoes are a must while cooking over a campfire. All you need for a baked potato dinner is a russet potato (or a sweet potato, if that’s more your style), a roaring campfire, and some aluminum foil.
Wrap your potatoes in the foil and place them in the coals of your fire for around 30 to 40 minutes. Then, top with cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, broccoli, or whatever else you’d like.
That being said, since carrying around whole potatoes isn’t very practical while backpacking, we’d recommend opting for mashed potatoes, instead. You can get dehydrated mashed potatoes at the supermarket, rehydrate them with boiling water, then top with cheese and seasoning for a tasty meal.
13. Mess-Free S’mores
There are few things more classic than s’mores at a campfire. While it’s hard to beat the traditional graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate combo, you can also try your hand at mess-free s’mores with the kids on your next trip.
To make these mess-free s’mores, you’ll want waffle ice cream cones, chocolate, marshmallows, peanut butter, and any other toppings that you enjoy. Fill up the ice cream cone with your preferred toppings, wrap it all in aluminum foil, then place the cone in the coals of your fire for a few minutes before enjoying.
At the end of a long day of hiking, there’s nothing better than a chocolate-filled dessert. While they might seem complicated to make, brownies are actually a quick and easy sweet option for backpacking and car camping trips, alike.
The simplest way to make brownies in camp is to buy a box of brownie mix and cook them in a skillet over a campfire until they’re ready.
Alternatively, you can make what we like to call “brownie scramble” by placing the brownie mix in a greased skillet, then scrambling with a spatula, like you would with eggs. It might seem odd, but doing this helps the brownies cook really, really fast, and they taste just the same (even if they don’t quite have the aesthetic appeal of traditional brownies).
How To Store Food While Camping?
While camping, you can store perishable food items in a small cooler or portable fridge. Alternatively, you can store non-perishable food items in pretty much any container that you want, such as a backpack or bear canister.
However, it’s important to follow local regulations about food storage, especially if you’re camping in bear country. In some camping areas, you may need to store all your food in a dedicated bear box or bear-proof canister.
How To Heat Up A Meal On Camping Stove?
Figuring out how to heat up a meal on a camping stove starts with determining whether you simply need to rehydrate your food (for freeze-dried meals) or if you need to cook the entire meal.
For freeze-dried meals, you simply need to boil water on your stove and then follow the preparation instructions on the package. To cook a meal on a camp stove, you’ll turn on the stove, grease a pan or fill a pot up with water, and cook your food just like you would at home.
How Do I Plan A Meal For Camping?
Planning a meal for camping adventures begins with selecting food that you enjoy but that’s easy to cook. You can often enjoy many of your favorite at-home foods while outside, so long as you’re creative with your food storage and cooking techniques.
Then, you’ll need to figure out how much food is in a single-person serving for your recipe and then multiply that amount by the number of people in your group. Once you’re outside, you simply need to cook up a delicious meal and enjoy!