Is money tight this year? Does a bear do its business in the woods? I’ll be saving some cash by taking my holiday in the great outdoors this summer. First thing to look at is camping food. Or more specifically, how to cook it.
Camping makes sense, as a cheap way to take a break. At the moment I don’t know if I’ll head to a field on the coast, or go to a festival with its in-built entertainment. Or do both.
One thing I do know is that I’ll want to eat. Festivals will have plenty of food options on hand, of course. But there’s still that need for a bacon (or vege bacon) sarnie in the morning! And when I’m camping (by car of course; not up for hiking with a five year old just yet) I’ll need to be able to cook.
Campsites are even easier to locate. One good resource is The Camping and Caravanning Club, although you may have to join to access some sites.
What to use
I have to admit we’re still debating this one in our house. I would prefer to invest in either a couple of Primus stoves, or a gas burner, dual hob, preferably with grill. My other half just wants to get whatever the cheapest own brand is from somewhere like Halfords.
He doesn’t want to be lugging gas bottles around. I say he’s missing the point of going camping with your car.
PlayPennies parent of two, Paul, is a Camping Gaz man all the way. “I just never thought of taking anything else along. Just need to plug in a gas bottle and you can get these for Camping Gaz just about anywhere.”
Right now it seems like lots of outlets have the Camping Gaz Chef double grill on sale. The cheapest I could find it was £30 at Sports Direct, delivery is £3.99.
Nicki puts in a vote for her Primus stove, which can power a lantern too. I’m not sure I’ll be able to take the advice of mum of three, Rebecca, just yet. Maybe something to aspire to! “We go camping every year but do it 5-star, which involves a trailer /powered site/fridge /mini oven /heater /toaster /kettle etc. Last year we even cooked a roast that made everyone else in campsite extremely jealous.”
Keep in mind that some festivals ban gas bottles, and certain other types of fuel. Check on this carefully to avoid having your gear confiscated at the gate, and being left with a cooler of food and no way to cook it.
Those that use gas, or liquid fuel like Primus, are just the two options that I’m most familiar with, as I’ve used them before. Alternatively, as Sho, an expert at taking her family on holiday on a shoestring, told us “most campsites allow BBQ type fires. You can get a disposable one and use it more than once then just bin it when you leave.” The Camping and Caravanning Club has a good guide to stoves HERE.
How to store
The universal, most offered advice I came across when it came to storing your food is to not use a generic, cheap, own brand cooler from the supermarket. This is, apparently, a false economy. Invest in a good quality cooler, one that will keep the ice (used to cool things) solid for days rather than hours.
Kat has had plenty of experience of camping. She advices that, if you're going to be near a car, “you can pack a cooler with all sorts of thing. We usually freeze bottles of water to keep things cool and then as they melt you have cold water and then just fill them back up as you go. It might be worth looking into a small travel fridge that plugs into the campsite’s electric if you're going to be doing a lot of camping, they even make some that will plug into the cigarette lighter in your car, but they do tend to wear down the battery if the car's not running.”
Here’s a great tip from mum of two Celine, and something I wouldn’t have thought of. “If you're not hiking I'd take a cooler box with those awesome little freezer gel packs - most camp sites will pop them into the shop freezer for you.”
Once you’ve got your food ‘hardware’ – that’s the cooler and stove – you’ll want to use it. I am gathering all the tips I can from our canny PlayPennies parents, and from around the internet. Next week we’ll look at some yummy, and cheap, ways to eat for next to nothing while you’re living in the great out doors.
Here’s one last tip. Remember that tinfoil is your friend! You’ll want to take at least one roll. You can use it to minimise cleaning – cover the grill before cooking bacon. Wrap up food to keep it warm, and use the tin foil as impromptu plates, serving dishes, and saucepan lids. Or to cook baked potatoes on an open fire. If the wrapping isn’t going onto a heat source, grab some wrapping foil as well. This is much cheaper – the Sainsburys Basics wrap is about 30p – than using tinfoil.
Please share you experiences of camping food, and cooking, here! And help other PlayPennies parents to save money.