When you’re camping, it can be easy to opt for instant meals. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But I’d argue that cooking in the great outdoors brings more than just a delicious dish; half of the enjoyment of camping trips is the time spent around the stove chatting with friends.
You can, however, make things a little easier on yourself with some at-home prep. There are a lot of basic camping staples that are easy to make at home. Bonus: These DIY foods allow you to get a little more creative with flavors than the stuff you buy from the grocery store, and they’re also a great budget-friendly option for keeping meal costs down.
Here are five camping staples I like to make ahead in the comfort of my own kitchen.
Make a batch of granola at home and you’ll have an easy camp breakfast. If you’re car camping, you can bring a little yogurt in your cooler, or if you’re feeling daring on a backpacking trip, serve it with hot chocolate like you would cereal with milk. Granola can also easily double as a snack too, and because you’re making it yourself, you can be sure to make it chock-full of dried fruits and nuts.
2. Granola Bars
If you can make granola, you can make granola bars. There are plenty of granola bar recipes to take inspiration from, and making them yourself allows you to experiment with different ingredients — not to mention that you cut down on all that wrapper waste. I like making granola bars with peanut butter, which tastes great and also helps hold the bars together really well.
3. Pancake Mix
There’s nothing like a long morning at camp with hot coffee and a stack of pancakes. I actually never liked pancakes until I started making my own mixes, which allowed me to control how sweet they were and what I spiced them with.
I start with about one cup of flour (I will often do a blend of whole-wheat and rye flour) and add 3 to 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 tablespoon of salt, and then whatever spices I want in the mix (like cinnamon or cardamom). Mix one part mix with one part water to make the batter, and then you can add whatever you want to the pancakes, like chocolate chips or foraged berries!
4. Spice, Seed, and Nut Mixes
Come up with a signature spice blend and bring it with you on the trail to add flavor to meals. Want to enjoy a pumpkin spice latte in the great outdoors? There’s a blend for that, too. Another thing that’s easy to make at home and pack with you are seed and nut mixes, like the Egyptian dukkah, or a vegan Parmesan, made with toasted nuts and salt.
5. Hot Chocolate
A little cocoa powder, chopped dark chocolate, and sugar will take you far. Hot chocolate mix is fun to make at home because you can add a lot of additional spices to it, like chili powder or cinnamon.
Find more outdoor cooking tips and recipes in Anna’s new book: Best Served Wild: Real Food for Real Adventures, $18.