Have you ever been camping and been totally frustrated with the process of packing? Tucker – so much stuff. You need it, so little space to put it.
Let’s narrow the focus a little-tucker and drink. It has to be packed, you can’t leave without it, so how to best pack it so it takes up minimal space.
The initial pack is the most daunting period of any camping trip. Everything has to fit, but how best to do it?
There’s an art to good packing and you know you’ve mastered it when you’re able to put your hand on whatever you need without having everything sitting on the side of the road to achieve it.
Preparation and planning is the key. The more you do at home before leaving, the smoother everything will run while away. After all, “camping is to be fun for all” including the chief cook and bottle washer.
In this post I hope to not only give you some good ideas on how to pack your tucker and drink, but inspire thought to think about waste, and how planning in advance at home prior to leaving can make things so much easier.
In this Blog I’m going to write it as if you’re going bush, rather than a caravan park in a coastal town where everything is available whenever you need it.
Planning – The process of making plans for something. Preparations, organisation, arrangement, forethought, design, setting up and ground work.
‘The planning should be every bit as enjoyable as the event’
When I’m planning my food and drink pack at home before a camping trip, my planning thoughts are broken up into six processes / categories:
: How long is the trip – where am I going
: How many meals will I need on a daily basis
: Meal plan – what have I already got in pantry
: Assess how much rubbish my food pack will have once consumed
: Unpack tucker from packaging & prepare for camp pack
How long is the trip – where are you going
This is the first step, nothing else can be planned till you know how long you’re going for. Where you are going is important too. Are you going remote like the Bungles or Mitchell Plateau in the Kimberley, or are you going to a camping ground in Lorne on the Great Ocean Road.
How many meals will I need on a daily basis
Think of how many mouths are in your camp and how often they like to be fed. When you’re out camping, meal times are not an exact science. You’re off doing stuff, maybe you’re driving. I generally work on five feeds a day – breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
Breakfasts and dinners being the main meals, lunch is sometimes take it or leave it, often morning tea is more in demand than lunch and afternoon tea is nibbles with cold drinks to wash the dust away. Regardless all have to be planned and catered for.
Meal plan – what have you already got in the pantry
I find it really useful to make a meal plan. On your plan have each day you’ll be away, and each meal you plan to have on each of those days. Once you have this written down you have a meal map to follow.
Once you have made your meal plan for each meal of each day, go to your pantry and see what you already have in stock. You’ll be surprised how much you don’t need to buy, thus reducing your shopping bill.
Top Tip: Get yourself a small exercise book with blank pages and start to make a little food diary. Start to record your meal plans from your camping trips. Making notes as you go to what worked and what didn’t. You’ll soon start to frame a picture of not only what works for you but what your family enjoys seeing in the tucker box.
Once you have your meal plan and you have gone through your pantry you will now have established your shopping list. It’s at this point of the whole planning exercise that you really have to put some thought into everything you buy.
: Fresh fruit – fruit is a must, don’t be afraid to buy it-have a plan on how your going to consume it. Certain fruits have a longer life than offers, so make an order strawberries, watermelon & bananas have the shortest life so eat then first, apples and pears will survive so put them aside for later, mandarines are some where in the middle. With a bit of planning and management all your fruit can be enjoyed.
: Try to avoid glass jars, as they break, look for alternatives in soft squeeze packages or cardboard Tetra Pack, that can be flatted.
Note: In the left hand image all the products could be taken out of there packaging, however by doing so all except the pancake mix would need refrigeration. So you lessen your waste and your Engell space. In the image on the right same sort of products in unbreakable packaging that is easier to make small and transport, once used.
: Try and get long life ingredients in single serve portions for cooking, as fridge or esky space isoften at a premium and once something’s opened it needs a fridge.
: Drinks – Always buy your alcohol in cans, beer, pre-mixed spirits and ciders are all easily purchased in cans. Milk, choc milk for kids and juices can all be bought in long life tetra packs.
Top Tip: All these drinks create rubbish once consumed, invest in a can crusher for your camping kit the smaller you can make the rubbish the better.
The more thought and planning you put into your meal plans and shopping the easier your packing will be.
Assess how much rubbish your food pack will generate, once consumed
When you get home from shopping place all your shopping onto the bench or table. Look past the food, what do you see? I see one of my major problems when I’m out bush – rubbish.
With a little forethought and planning before you leave home, you can avoid the problem of carrying large bags of rubbish around with you. Or it becoming completely necessary to find a rubbish disposal point, and making it someone else’s problem.
It’s the packaging, that the food comes in from the supermarket, that makes the job of packing it all into a much smaller space than the pantry, & family fridge a near on impossible task.
Unpack tucker from packaging & prepare for camp pack
Once everything has been taken out of the supermarket packaging and is sitting on the bench in front of you, refer to your meal plan and start to place everything into their meals.
Your new best friends
Snap-seal bags of various sizes and small to medium sized see-through containers are your new best friend when packing your food for your tucker box. If you are the chief cook and bottle washer in your camp at home during the everyday, you’ll have a pretty good idea of portion sizes and how much of any one thing you might need at any one time.
Snap-Seal Bags – food can be packed in an appropriate size bag, all air can be removed from the bag. Bag can store flat, seal and can be frozen prior to departure – slowly defrosting over the journey.
Small/Medium Containers – are great for things that you will use but not all at once eg: condiments from home instead of taking whole jar of jam or vegemite or margarine. Make sure containers are all the same size so they stack neatly.
Place your meals and snacks into the snap seal bags. Pack in such an order that each one you put your hand on is part of something, number it if makes it easier. It’s not meant to go back in the tucker-box or fridge once it comes out. If you get it right, everything will be consumed and all you will be left with is a snap-seal bag for the rubbish.
Once you have packed all your meals and snacks into your snap-seal bags and containers and labeled them in such a way that you know what belongs to what and when it should be eaten, it’s time to think about packing.
Be ahead of yourself
The more prepared you are the better off you’ll be when it comes to packing, and when you’re away. Any meat that can be frozen, lay flat in your snap-seal bag remove all air. Then lay flat in freezer and freeze. When it comes to packing your Engel your snap-seal bags of meat will neatly stand upright and act as ice-blocks.
Top Tip: Alternatively, if you shop for your meat at a butchers, ask them to cryovac and freeze your meat. Remember always flat, keep as flat as possible.
Your Engel http://www.engelaustralia.com.au will not have to work as hard to keep cool and they will slowly defrost as you travel. Remember to leave the first couple of nights defrosted.
I also find it helpful to prepare some fruits, like removing the green leafy bits off strawberries.
Top Tip: Ensure your Engel http://www.engelaustralia.com.au is turned on and running at least two days prior to leaving. Make sure the tucker box is cleaned and good to go when you turn the fridge on.
Now you’re ready to pack your Engel http://www.engelaustralia.com.au and tucker box. Try not to do this the night before you leave, you’ll be guaranteed to forget something, a day before is good.
Pack your Engel & tucker box to somewhat mirror each other, so stuff for any given day and meal is easily accessible. First days morning tea and lunch on the top / front and last days snacks and dinner to the bottom / back
In the case of the Engel this is important so you’re not there for long periods with the lid up, rummaging.
Each night before bed re-arrange your fridge and tucker box a little keeping it in order and neat, this is best done at night as it’s cooler and easier on the fridge.
Thought is the key here, don’t just throw stuff in haphazardly, put everything into your fridge and tucker box in day and meal order as best you can, and with a bit of practice and training of other family members it should start to come out in the same order as you put it in.
‘Nothing changes if nothing changes’
If you’re having trouble getting all your tucker and drink into your initial pack, when your preparing to go bush, what have you got to lose by changing things up a little.
Make a plan, think about size & type of packaging your tucker comes in and pre-prepare at home before you leave. Reducing waste you have to carry or dispose of while out bush reduces your precious time organising and preparing meals.
Let me know your thoughts, I would enjoy hearing how you guys do things.