Camping out does not necessarily mean a “cheap” vacation. There are campgrounds around that cost more than hotels. If you are a first-time camper, you have to buy your gear, purchase supplies – including food, and get to your destination. Once, however, you have the gear like tents, sleeping bags, coolers, lanterns, Dutch ovens, and other paraphernalia purchased, camping is relatively inexpensive. All you now need is to budget the food and gas costs. These costs can be variable, and food costs depend on how fancy you plan to go.
How much does camping food cost per day? As a general idea, food will cost anywhere from $8 to $60 per day per person. It all depends on what you want to eat while you are camping, the equipment you will use to prepare your food, and how many people are in your camp. On the low-end food will cost and average of $5 to $10 per meal.
You may find that the food is your highest expense on camping trips and budgeting your food before you go shopping will help you keep your camping trip within reason. One way to estimate foods costs is to take the number of people going on the camping trip, times that number by the number of days of the trip and multiply that by a daily food cost. Start with $10 per person, which is a good average price for camping food. (Example: 4 people x 3 days x $10 = $120 per person for the trip). You can lower this figure a bit by bringing food from home that you already have (avoid the grocery store and pricy treats), or another option is buying meals at the campground or nearby restaurants.
How much you spend on food on a camping trip will depend on your family’s needs and tastes. Vacation food budgets tend to grow, along with the ages of your children. You can feed your little ones peanut butter sandwiches and cereal, but teenagers require more than kid food or weenies and beans.
General Food Costs on a Camping Trip
Value Penguin estimates that Americans spend an average of $33 per day on food when on a camping vacation. You can break that amount down to about $6-$10 per day per person by preparing your food at home before you go on your camping trip.
If you have a camping trailer, you are in luck. You can pack your lunches, snacks, water, and coffee to avoid purchasing expensive food at convenience stores and going to fast food restaurants. If you have a refrigerator in your camping trailer, you can take almost an entire week’s worth of food from home, and this will save you a ton of money.
If you are a tent camper, bring along a good cooler (some of these can cost upwards of $300, but they will keep food longer, and you can reuse it). A good camping tip is to pack your food in plastic bags for each meal. For example, put breakfast foods in one bag, lunch in another, and dinner in yet another bag. Pack it in your cooler and keep the lid closed except when taking out your meal.
Some people like to go camping, kick back, and drink all the beer they can with abandon. Take those costs into consideration and know that you could add about $380 to your three-day camping trip.
Camping Food List for 3 Days
One of the most pleasant activities on a campout is cooking a hearty meal over a fire under a canopy of trees. You can spend an extended weekend trip relaxing in nature, but things will go better if you have a plan and a budget. Make up your menus in advance based on the number of people and the appetites of your camping buddies. With a plan, you can avoid packing too much or too little for your camping trip.
Convenient and easy to prepare breakfast foods for camping include packets of instant oatmeal, pre-baked muffins or bread and eggs, bacon or sausage. You could even eat cold cereal with milk and fresh fruit. Count the number of people in your party and multiply by three the food you will need. For example, if there are four people in your group, you will need one package of oatmeal per day or 12 packets for the trip. Do the same with any type of breakfast food you bring.
Lunch doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should be healthy and include complex carbohydrates and proteins. Do a buffet of sandwich meats and whole-grain rolls, low-fat condiments, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. You could also offer freshly grilled burgers. Add in chips or dill pickles, and you have a great meal. Calculate the costs per person. Large packages of sandwich meats can cost about $10 for three days, and a package of hamburger costs about $12 for four people. Add in the buns, pickles, and condiments, and you have a meal for about $10 per person. Not too bad.
After a day of backpacking, boating or hiking your party will want a hearty dinner. Precook chicken before you leave on your trip and reheat your chicken over the campfire. Add in potatoes, corn on the cob for fire-grilling and a nice green salad. You will need at least two pieces of chicken per person, one potato or ear of corn and a healthy spoonful of salad per person.
Chicken costs about close to $15 for a package of eight pieces; potatoes are about $0.50 per pound, and salad costs about $2.00 for prepackage salad. You could fix a yummy dinner for around $25 total, which makes it inexpensive. A $25 meal would cost $6.25 per person for four people. You could also make a chicken dinner in a Dutch oven and add in the potatoes and veggies for around the same cost.
Trail mix with peanuts, raisins, craisins, and sunflower seeds are perfect snacks for a camping trip. In one bag, you have healthy carbs, proteins, and vitamins for energy. You can also purchase granola bars when they are on sale. Count the number of people in your group, purchase two bars per person, and pack them up. If you watch the sales, you can get 10 Kind bars for about $1.50 a bar. Cut up carrots and celery, bring a 16-oz tub of hummus and you have awesome healthy snacks.
You could also bring along a box of cookies for a fun and sweet snack. Most packages of cookies are under $5 a package.
If you are a serious camper and backpacker, go the dried food pro-paks and pouches route. You can purchase freeze-dried backpacking food, open them up at mealtime, add water, and eat your heart out all at prices that are not that expensive.
Rice & chicken in a savory sauce accented with pimentos is about $7.40 for a small pouch. Try lasagna with meat sauce, tomatoes, beef, and noodles for $7.20. Now you are up to $14.60 for two dinners. Breakfast will cost you $6.59 for hash browns and scrambled eggs mixed with pork sausage, peppers, and onion. Stock up for your camping breakfasts and you are up to $13.18 for two breakfasts on your camping trip.
Eat nuts and berries for lunch, and you have a camping trip for $13.99 a day. Backpackers eat dehydrated food all the time, and they survive days in the backwoods.
You can also do more dehydrated foods like chili mac with spicy chili sauce with macaroni, beef, and beans for $7.20 for a 2 cup pouch.
There are always options when you are thinking about food on a campout. If the campground has a cafeteria or there is a cafeteria nearby, purchase your meals there. Or, better yet, go to a nearby restaurant. Food will cost you a small fortune, about the same as if you were on a non-camping vacation or anywhere from $40-$60 per day per person. That would be about $240 per day at the low end, and $1,440 at the high end ($40 x 6 x 4 days) if you are buying food for six people. If you have that in your budget, go for it – you will save preparation, cooking, and clean up time.
Three-Day Menu for Camping
Day One – Dinner includes grilled bratwurst, sweet coleslaw, chips or grilled potatoes, and S’mores. Grilled bratwurst and fixings is a quick, easy meal after arrival and set up.
Day Two – Breakfast is breakfast burritos of eggs, sausage or bacon, hash browns, and fresh fruit. Lunch includes campsite sandwiches, chips, fresh fruit, and dinner includes herbed chicken and vegetables in foil pockets, salad, and S’mores
Day Three – Today’s breakfast is Dutch oven French toast, Lunch could be tortilla wrap or roll-ups, and dinner is at home or a picnic on the road where you eat leftovers.
Research has shown that the foods you need for this camping meal plan costs about $50 for a family of four. If you shop wisely, $50 should feed everyone for about $12.50 per day per. Very affordable.
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