Every summer, my family goes on a two week-long camping trip to a national park. Last year we went east to Acadia in Maine; this year we’re heading west to Colorado to explore Rocky Mountain National Park! Filled with hiking, exploring, cooking by the campfire, and playing family board games at night, these camping trips have become my favorite family vacations! The time we spend together is priceless and with my boys nearing the teenage years, I’ll take all the time I can get with them before they’re “too cool” to spend time with us.
There’s a ton of packing that goes into camping for two weeks, from clothes and gear to cooking essentials and food. On our first trip we just threw in everything we thought we’d need and didn’t end up using half of it, including the food. Unfortunately we ended up throwing away way too much food and I still feel guilty about it (that was two years ago!). So since then I have focused my packing efforts on being smart about food choices and storage so that we’re practicing good food conservation and only bringing along what we actually use. In an effort to help you live more efficiently, I want to share some of my amazing ways to not be a food waster while RVing or camping to help you do the same.
Don’t Buy Everything Ahead of Time
While the thought of having to leave your campfire to run to a nearby grocery store for food probably makes you go, “Ugh!” it will help you keep the food at your campsite to a minimum. If you go on a big shopping spree before your trip and toss tons of food in your cart that you may or may not need, you’ll likely end up needlessly bringing along food that doesn’t get eaten or, worse, spoils. Of course, it’s ok to bring along your camping staples like spices, mac n’ cheese, rice and pasta mixes, chips and munchies, butter, s’mores ingredients, etc., but show some restraint when it comes to food that needs refrigeration, like cheeses and yogurts, or foods that have a short shelf life, like bread and pastries. Buying these locally means they don’t have to endure a few days of travel in a hot RV and possibly a lack of refrigeration going down the road.
Plan Your Menu Ahead of Time
While you don’t want to buy all your food ahead of time, it’s smart to put together a menu for most of your meals. This way, you know which non-perishables you can safely buy before you go, and once you arrive and set up camp, you’ll remember what you’ve bought to go along with food you’ll need to buy. With all the preparation that goes into packing up and hitting the road for a week or two, it’ll be easy to forget the food you’ve tucked away in your RV’s pantry. With a menu, you can look at it to see that you’ve already bought rice pilaf to go with chicken that you’ll buy locally, or that you have ground beef in the freezer for burgers in a few days. Consider your menu to be your little reminder of what you already have and what you’ll need.
Another perk of buying local is the opportunity to taste and sample foods that are unique to the area where you’re camping. While in Maine we lived off of lobster fresh off the boat and Maine blueberries, both bought just a mile or two from our campground. We also hit up roadside stands every other day to buy fresh veggies and fruit, two things that spoil way too quickly.
Proper Food Storage
So you’ve stocked your RV’s pantry with the non-perishables you’re going to travel with. Are you prepared to keep them fresh once they’re open? Do you have any food storage containers for leftovers? Don’t overlook the need for glass or plastic food storage containers, chip clips, re-sealable bags, and other items that will keep your food fresh. With all the food storage gadgets out there, there’s no reason a box of crackers or leftover chicken casserole has to go stale or get funky in the fridge and reach its demise before its time. Assume you’ll need to keep pantry and fridge food tightly sealed shut and invest in some storage solutions.
Freeze Food Before You Go
A great way to keep meat fresher longer is to freeze it before you leave for your trip and then toss it in the fridge when you head out. Buy plastic freezer bags that will prevent freezer burn and fill them with chicken, ground beef, steaks, seafood, and anything else you plan to grill or cook over the fire. Otherwise you’ll find yourself either hurrying to eat all the meat you’ve brought in the first few days of your trip or you’ll be cursing the spoiled meat when you take it out to cook it.
Camping trips do not call for family-sized bottles of salad dressing or jumbo packages of hot dog buns. Not only do they take up more room (something that RVs are not known for having much of), but you’ll never use all of it. Instead, buy small sizes and quantities meant for travel or individual use. Or better yet, take your condiments and other items from home, like mustard, pickles, dressings, cereals, coffee, etc., and repackage them into small travel containers made of plastic that are safe for travel and take up half the refrigerator or shelf space they do at home. Less to store and less to waste!
When You’re Gone
When you leave your campsite to head out for a fun day of exploring, don’t leave food sitting out! This might seem like a no-brainer, but with all the prepping for a day away from camp, it can be easy to forget that your cereal boxes are sitting out on the picnic table or your juice container is on the counter. You’ll come home to stale cereal and warm juice that probably has to be thrown out. Make sure you put things back where they belong, whether it’s in the fridge, pantry, or in cupboards. Keeping food in a cool, dark place will help keep it fresh and you won’t run the risk of attracting wildlife with the scent of food.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
It’s hard to know just how much food you’ll need when you’re calling the great outdoors home. Your routine will change and your activity level will most likely go way up with all the outdoor activities you’ll be doing. So a good way to make sure you don’t bring enough food for a small army is by planning to eat a hearty breakfast every morning and then eating lighter throughout the rest of the day. This will give you the energy you need to get you up those mountains or rafting down the raging rivers and it’ll help keep your fridge free of food you might not even be there to eat. After all, when you’re gone all day horseback riding, swimming, or mountain biking, who has time to go back to camp for a ham sandwich? Bring along snacks like energy bars and nuts for some needed protein that won’t spoil.
Americans waste 35 million tons of food a year! Unbelievable! Just think of how many hungry people could be fed with our “trash”! Be smart about how much food you pack and how you store your food when you’re living the RVing life so you’re not contributing to this staggering statistic. If you make a conscious effort to be food wise when camping, it’ll also be easier for you to follow the principle of “leave no trace” in the great outdoors—something we should all strive for to help preserve the outdoor playground we all know and love!
Do you have any food conservation tips to share? Tell us and we’ll give them a try! Are you in the market for a new or used RV so you can start enjoying the beauty of nature that surrounds us? Check out our huge selection at Gillette’s Interstate RV in East Lansing, MI, that’s overflowing with all the top RV brands at the lowest prices in the nation! We gladly offer special no-money-down financing to make purchasing a new RV affordable and stress free. And with our unprecedented nationwide delivery service, you can take advantage of our amazingly low prices even if you live 1,000 miles from Michigan! Our trusted, insured team of drivers will deliver your new RV from our store right to your door. It’s never been easier to hitch up and hit the road—call, click, or visit us today for an amazing deal on your new RV!