I’m spending a month this summer working on a trail crew. I said I’d help plan meals. What are some cheap, easy vegan foods that work for camping?
Vegan marshmallows roasting over the fire are a picture-perfect camping treat. But are you looking for more filling, less pricey alternatives for your next camping trip? The foods below helped sustain me and nine other hungry trail workers this summer, on a budget of less than $5 per person per day.
Oatmeal: If you’re only planning for a few days, oatmeal packets are convenient because they come in a variety of flavors. For a longer trip or more people, though, buying instant oatmeal in bulk saves money. Try adding peanut butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and/or dried fruit.
Soy milk: Since most soy milk only needs refrigeration after it’s been opened, two or three people should be able to finish a carton before it goes bad. You may also want to try powdered soy milk, which is fine as an ingredient but tastes grainy and watery to me if I just add water.
Bread: My trail crew baked sandwich bread each night for the next day’s lunch. If you have time and a small oven-box that sits on your camp stove, this is a fun way to save money. We used a simple yeast bread recipe—just yeast, sugar, water, flour, and salt—and sometimes mixed in ingredients like cinnamon and raisins for pizzazz. Of course, store-bought sandwich bread is an option as well.
Gorp: A camping classic, gorp technically stands for “good old raisins and peanuts,” but often refers to a delicious mixture of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, and anything else you’d like to add.
Fruits and vegetables: Some types of produce, like apples, citruses, onions, potatoes, and carrots, seem to hold up better than others. My group also ate blueberries, cherries, watermelon, celery, broccoli, corn, and bell peppers. Canned and dried fruits and veggies are great, too.
Peanut butter: Peanut butter is a staple of any camping trip because you can put it on almost anything for more nourishment and flavor—sandwiches, of course, but also apples, tortillas, hot or cold cereal, celery, carrots, chocolate, pasta…
Gado-gado: Although I can’t attest to the authenticity of this dish, the peanutty pasta that we called gado-gado was one of my favorite dinners. To make it, cook pasta in one pot and sauté vegetables (like onions, carrots, broccoli, and peppers) in a pan. Mix peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, and hot water until you have a sauce with your desired taste and consistency. Drain the pasta, and add the veggies and sauce, plus crumbled tofu if you’d like.
Burritos: When you’re camping, almost anything is fair game to roll up in a tortilla, but I’d recommend rice, beans, salsa, and sautéed veggies such as onions, carrots, corn, canned tomatoes, and/or bell peppers. If you have leftover tortillas, try making breakfast or dessert quesadillas by heating a tortilla with some combination of peanut butter, fruit, and chocolate chips folded inside.
One of the main challenges of camp cooking is the lack of refrigeration. In my experience, some foods that I would refrigerate at home lasted for several days or more at room temperature. However, if you have any concern at all about the safety of a food item, don’t eat it.
Written by Sarah Alper, a VRG volunteer and lifelong vegan