Updated: Feb 15, 2021
So you finally booked your vacation to take your family RV camping for a week this summer. You made a reservation at that campground in New Hampshire with the amazing lagoon-style pool, rented an RV, and marked the week off in your planner. You are so excited to get away that you can almost feel the sun warming your face as you imagine sitting by the pool with that book you’ve been dying to read. You breathe in slowly and feel the calmness come over you as your mind wanders through this fantasy. It will be so fun to get away, unplug, and spend time together outdoors. You take another deep breath and a new thought enters your mind...seven days equals 21 meals.
What to make for dinner, in my opinion, has got to be one of the top dreaded responsibilities there is. If this chore is on your daily to-do list, I know you feel me. You have felt the weight of hungry eyes staring you down the minute you walk in the door from work. You have mindlessly roamed the grocery store for an hour, spent $150 on the usual things, and then picked up a pizza on the way home. You have made breakfast for dinner, cut up hotdogs and added them to mac and cheese, and rejoiced over the few occasions when everyone has other plans and you can just have cereal. Dinner dilemma is a real thing and the daunting task of cooking dinner on vacation just sounds plain awful. But it doesn’t have to.
Having a blended family with four kids, means that every other weekend, I cooked a lot. It also meant that I became a math wiz the minute my husband made a suggestion on the amount of days our family vacation should be. He would say “How about Saturday to Thursday” and I would respond with “18 meals”. Meal planning for a family of six while camping was a task that for the first few years, I completely sucked at. Planning the food for our camping trips was no different than my struggle of planning them at home. This led to me feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and resentful. Cook, clean, repeat... I feel like I’m running a bed and breakfast! Why can’t we just eat hamburgers and hotdogs every day?! Will they deliver pizza to the campground??
In walks Meal Planning. Throughout the years of dinner time struggles, I have learned that the issue for me isn’t actually the cooking, it’s the planning. If someone else could just tell me what to make every single night, I would be fine with shopping for the ingredients and cooking it. The problem is that there are 365 days in a year and even if we get take-out once a week, we are still wracking our brain with what to make the other 313 days. Even if your math is different than mine, I’m sure you still don’t want to have to worry about what to make for dinner each day while you are on vacation. Meal Planning, hands down, is the #1 solution. This plan can also include your family taking turns making dinner. A few years ago I started pairing up the girls and having them tell me what they wanted to make. The meal is completely their choice and has to be something they can cook on their own. I shop for the ingredients and they are responsible to prep, cook, and clean up on their designated night. Adding my husband into this plan meant that half of the dinners would be cooked without me being involved. This also meant that I got to eat dinner and then get up and walk away from the table and sit by the fire while my family cleaned up. I have to admit this is an experience that was almost out of body the first time I did it. I’m pretty sure I yelled “This is awesome!” from my chair at the campfire while watching Julia and Kelsey clean up. Can you see the eye rolls?
So your plan should be a plan and
the more detailed the better. Putting in effort before you leave will mean minimal effort while on vacation. I start out by making a note in my phone with the days of the week of our vacation and a space for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. Then, if the girls are going with us, I ask them what they want to make, and fill in those dinners. From there I designate a
night to my husband and fill in the last few with some of our family's favorites that I will make. Breakfast consists of an alternation of eggs sandwiches and pancakes, with a few self-serve “continental breakfasts” thrown in between. And lunch is usually hamburgers and hotdogs, anything we can easily throw on the grill, or my all time favorite, leftovers! The following dinners are some of our favorite staples mixed in with other easy to make options. All of my meals are done in a crock pot, on the grill, or on our newest favorite, Blackstone Tabletop griddle. The plan is to cook easy delicious meals that require the least amount of effort so unless I’m sneaking a cookie or brewing a coffee, you will not find me in the kitchen.
1. RANCH CHICKEN CHILI
This one pot recipe is my family’s favorite. I am pretty confident that if you have already made this recipe, it is your family’s favorite too. This yummy dish can be slow cooked in a crock pot while you are out enjoying your day. I usually prep it ahead and store it in a freezer bag so that all I have to do is dump it in the lined crockpot and set the timer.
2. WALKING TACOS
Another family favorite, this meal is a novelty that my kids still love. Just sub the traditional shells for a pack of snack size Doritos and you are ready for a mobile dinner. Open the bag, crush the Doritos and add your favorite fixings. Want to make this meal easier? Prep your taco meat ahead of time and store it in a freezer bag. Heat and serve.
3. CROCK POT MAC & CHEESE
This crowd pleaser never disappoints and because you are making it in the crock pot it’s another set and forget meal. Just add all the ingredients into a lined crock pot, set the timer, and go enjoy your day.
4. FOIL PACKET FAJITAS
This sheet pan meal is easily modified for camping by simply cooking it on the grill in foil packets.
5. ENGLISH MUFFIN PIZZAS
Just add cheese...and pepperoni, and mushrooms, and broccoli. This dinner is something the entire family can help prepare. Set out the toppings as a make-your-own-pizza bar. Toast, top, and bake on the grill.
6. RANCHER GRILLED STEAKS WITH BLUE CHEESE CROWNS
This easy dinner can be prepped ahead and stored in a freezer bag. Pair with a tossed salad or corn on the cob. Just grill and serve.
7. SWEET PLUM BBQ RIBS
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a big fan of crock pot meals. This set and forget recipe takes literally 5 minutes to prep. Whip up some coleslaw and dinner is served.
8. BBQ CHICKEN SKEWERS
This easy dinner can be prepped ahead by cutting up the chicken and veggies and storing them in a freezer bag. Pair with roasted potatoes tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and cooked in a foil packet on the grill.
All meals can be easily modified for allergies and dietary restrictions. Looking for more recipe ideas for your upcoming vacation. Go to www.wildtree.com/michelle and click on “recipes” for an easy to use customizable library of simple, healthy, and delicious options.
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