It’s summer time! My very favorite time of the year. Hopefully, you spend so much time outdoors you have many needs for picnic food.
We love to throw together a quick picnic. I don’t sweat it, I usually pack leftovers, some fruit, and any kind of special-occasion food I can find (dried apricots, muffins from the freezer) to round it out, and don’t think too much about it.
However, planning makes everything easier, and is necessary when camping. Here’s a simple formula to fill everyone up:
- Main food (salad, sandwich, leftovers)
- Snack or treat
Some menu examples:
- Chickpea salad sandwiches, apples, bell pepper strips, and energy balls.
- Pasta salad, watermelon, cucumber slices, and popcorn.
- Black Bean Salsa served in corn tortillas, strawberries, carrots sticks, almonds.
- Peanut Butter Banana Sandwiches, pears, cherry tomatoes, roasted chickpeas.
- Quinoa Salad, canteloupe, snap peas, oatmeal cookies.
On the other hand, it’s fun to just throw together any random food you have. Some hummus, bread, fruit, nuts, baked potatoes, rice and beans, granola, whatever!
A picnic we enjoyed during quarantine in April.
A collection of random snacks always makes a great picnic! Don’t sweat it!
Leftover roasted vegetables with quinoa, a carton of strawberries, and coconut cashew bars. This picnic was enjoyed circa 2017.
Often, we’ve stopped at a grocery store while traveling to buy food for a picnic. We buy things like whole wheat pita bread, a container of hummus, a veggie tray, fruit (bananas, grapes, oranges, etc.), and nuts. Always filling, and very easy and fun.
Make-Ahead Camping Meals and Picnic Ideas (all whole food plant-based no oil)
Veggie sandwiches–whole grain bun, hummus, avocado, mustard, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, etc. Can’t go wrong.
Chickpea Salad Sandwiches--I’ve made this our automatic picnic meal so I don’t have to think of something new every time. Never any complaints.
Black Bean Salsa with corn tortillas for easy tacos, or mixed with quinoa for salad. What I often take to potlucks.
Lentil Walnut Taco Meat for tacos or taco salad
Rainbow Thai Salads with Peanut Sauce
Salsa, Guacamole, and fat-free refried beans with corn tortillas or baked chips
Crunchy Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad from Cookie and Kate. We love this one.
Summer Pasta Salad from Debra Klein
Burritos—either rice/bean/salsa or these Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos. You can wrap them in foil and heat them in a fire, if desired.
Whole Wheat Pita Bread sandwiches with hummus, cucumbers, and tomato.
Mexican Black Eyed Pea Salad from Letty’s Kitchen. Would be delicious in a pita pocket, on greens for a salad, or served with chips.
Make-Ahead Breakfasts and Snacks
Banana Bread Breakfast Cookies
Tofu Scramble from Nora Cooks, if you have a gas stove or campfire skillet
Quick Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal from Wholesome LLC
Hummus and veggies
Fruit salad or whole fruit
Peanut Butter and banana sandwiches
Carrot Cake Bites
5-Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies from Minimalist Baker
No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies from Minimlist Baker
Oatmeal Cookie Dough Energy balls from Tiffany’s Epiphanies
Lemon Bars from the Jaroudi Family
Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Campfire Cooking (there’s more to campfires than s’mores!)
Oatmeal packets–in containers or bags, put 1/2 cup oats, cinnamon, nuts, seeds, raisins, coconut, etc. At campsite, pour boiling water over it and let sit.
Muffins in an orange–make your favorite muffin batter (or cinnamon rolls!) and put it in a hollowed-out orange. Wrap in foil and bake in the coals. See an example here.
Foil dinners with gravy–Slice onions, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, etc. and season with salt and pepper. Slice hard vegetables thin and soft vegetables thicker so they cook evenly. Cook in hot coals, and serve with this easy gravy you can make at home in advance.
Baked Potatoes with chili or toppings–Double-wrap potatoes in foil, and cover them in hot coals. Let cook for 30-60 minutes until soft when pierced. Take canned or homemade chili to serve on top. I recommend taking pre-baked potatoes and just heating them up in the fire, in case your fire doesn’t get going in bad weather.
Dutch oven chili (I prep this at home and just heat on the fire). This simple recipe from Letty’s Kitchen would be easy to prep! I’ve also taken this Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili on a camping trip. Make cornbread before you go to serve with it.
Easy Campfire Pasta–Pre-cook pasta at home. Take a can of lentils and a jar of pasta sauce, and stir together. Heat on the fire, you’re done!
Moroccan-Spiced Chickpeas–take this frozen to keep your cooler cold, then heat in a dutch oven over the fire. Serve with flatbread. So yummy!
Corn on the cob–Put the ears of corn with their husks on right in the hot coals. They will get soft and hot, and it’s so sweet that it’s delicious to eat without anything on it.
Peach cobbler or Blackberry Cobbler (can omit oil)–assemble in a dutch oven and bake in fire until golden brown and bubbly. Take non-dairy yogurt to serve with it, if desired.
Baked apples–Core an apple and fill with dates, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Wrap in foil and bake in coals until soft.
Sweet Potato or Banana Boats–Slice a banana or a pre-baked sweet potato with slit lengthwise. Fill with chopped dates, peanut butter, chocolate chips, nuts, berries, etc. Wrap in foil and bake until heated through. Eat with a fork.
Bread dough wrapped on stick–take your favorite bread dough, roll into a snake, and wrap around a clean stick. Cook over campfire flames and then enjoy with marinara sauce or jam/honey.
Grilled fruit–fresh pineapple or peaches, roasted over the fire on a stick like a marshmallow. It gets carmelized and so yummy.
Dates on a stick–put a soft medjool date on a stick and heat it up over the fire (with or without a couple chocolate chips or nuts stuffed inside). Anyone eating marshmallows will be jealous of your warm carmel-y treat that doesn’t give you a sugar rush.
Games & Activities
Play games while sitting around the campfire. We like Two Truths and a Lie, Telephone, Charades, or Smruf (where one person leaves the area, and the others decide what verb “smurf” should be. The person comes back and asks questions to figure out what “smurf” means, like, “Do you smurf in the morning?”)
Scavenger Hunt–make a list of things your kids have to find (yellow flower, y-shaped stick, moss-covered rock, pinecone, etc.). Here is a printable list for the prepared type.
Here is a great list of camping activities for kids, like building a fort or doing an obstacle course.
Sing songs around the fire! Print songbooks for everyone to follow along. This songbook has lots of the classics and the crazy ones.
- Have a comfortable bed. It makes a world of difference, to me at least. We recently got this air mattress (affiliate link) for my husband’s birthday, and it is so cushy! We used a manual pump, but you can also plug it into your car to inflate it. Highly recommend. Made our tent feel like home. If I didn’t have two young kids, I probably would have slept great!
- I take an old towel to put down in frot of the tent door like a rug. Cuts back on dirt tracked in.
- Try to camp near water. Kids are easily entertained with just a little bit of water to throw rocks in, splash in, float leaves in, etc. The sounds of water relax everyone, too, it seems.
- Take food that does not require a campfire. Just in case it rains and firewood is wet, you don’t want to depend on it. We learned this when we planned for oatmeal and couldn’t start a fire due to wet wood. Nothing like eating water and raw oats in a wet tent to literally dampen your spirits.
- Do as much food prep before you leave so you can enjoy nature and not worry about cooking. It’s a TON of work the day before, but worth it.
- You might like this solar phone charger (affiliate link). We use it for camping, but I also think it’s wise for everyone to have for cases of emergency or power-outage.
Let me know what you end up eating on your next camping trip or picnic and enjoy the great outdoors!
This is a great comprehensive list! Thank you for doing all the work, I’m using this on our next trip!
Thank you Carrie!
There are so many fantastic resources here! Thanks so much, Faith!
We are getting ready for a camping trip this weekend and I always come back to this list before we do! Thanks for making it so I rarely have to think about food while we are adventuring!
You’re so welcome! I hope you had a fun (and tasty) camping trip!