I will be camping and commuting to work for some undetermined number of months. During this time, I plan to do a lot of working out as well, and I'm wondering what healthy camp-friendly mostly non-perishables are there for this kind of lifestyle. A lot of what I've seen has a tremendous amount of sodium, or isn't very diverse (i.e. not a lot of fruits and vegetables), being mostly bars and granola.

Also, I do plan to do campfire cooking, but would like my doing so to be a matter of choice rather than necessity. Or, to be able to cook large batches of food on the weekends to last the week.

To get to the various campsites, I will drive and park in a nearby lot. I'm aiming to have the campsite within a 20 minute hike of the parking spot. There are various grocery stores within 20 minutes of the parking site as well. Additionally, I have a lunchbox size fridge space available at work to store a minimal amount. Work is about 20 minutes away from the park site.

  • 3
    Batch cooking is great but the range of foods that can be batch cooked and stored without a fridge is pretty small.
    – Chris H
    Jan 22, 2018 at 17:21
  • Chris H, you're right, from what I've seen, there doesn't seem to be much, looking for a good fix to that issue as well :/
    – TQM
    Jan 22, 2018 at 17:28
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    One further question: what is the ambient temperature? Actually two: where does your water come from /go to?
    – Chris H
    Jan 22, 2018 at 17:33
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    In addition to the ambient temperature comment, what kind of storage is there at the campsite? Bear boxes, or what?
    – ab2
    Jan 22, 2018 at 18:10
  • @ab2 that's a good point. The language suggests American/Canadian, while I was thinking from the point of view of countries where we don't have to worry about large carnivores
    – Chris H
    Jan 22, 2018 at 21:08

6 Answers 6


Stews based on fresh vegetables and pulses (dried or tinned) are as healthy as you like and can be made from only shelf-stable ingredients. With the addition of potatoes or pearl barley you can cook a meal in one pot, over a fire or camping stove without much control. Sauces can be based on beer/wine/tomatoes/coconut milk etc. Rice or pasta on the side, or fresh bread if you have access to it, can make a nice change.

One example might be red lentil dhal: fry an onion and some garlic, add spices, a tin of tomatoes, red lentils and water. Simmer until the lentils are soft and the dish has thickened. Serve with rice.

You may be used to keeping fresh vegetables in the fridge, but in many cases it's not necessary.

By varying the flavours such as herbs and spices you can make a wide variety of foods, which is more appealing than the same thing every day.

If you like meat, there are dishes like corned beef hash, or you can add cured sausage or even jerky to stews or pasta sauces. But tinned fish is probably better if you're concerned about sodium.

Baking potatoes or sweet potatoes in a campfire is another long established practice.

Another idea, especially for when it's too warm to want stew or similar: Eggs. I know you have to refrigerate eggs your side of the Atlantic but they'll still keep for the time it takes you to get them to your camp (as will a measured quantity of cheese or cooked meat, with the rest of the pack stored in your tiny bit of work fridge). You can then make an omelette or scrambled eggs, to have with a salad or baked potato.

  • 1
    This is a great answer, I appreciate the thought given to keeping some interesting variety! Thank you
    – TQM
    Jan 23, 2018 at 13:44

Can you keep a cooler in your vehicle? If so then you are set.

If you have access to groceries you are not limited to camping (prepared backpacking packs) food.

Most fresh fruits and vegetables last 3 days unless it is just plain hot out. Dried beans, pasta, and the like last a month. Canned goods last months. Fresh meat will keep until dinner if you buy on the way home. If you are just packing in food for a day you don't need to be light.

Without a fire or a stove then you cannot cook camping or regular food.

In the case of uncooked low salt you have fresh fruits and vegetables. Lot of canned food is low salt and can be consumed without heating.

Batch cooked foods are not going to last long if not refrigerated.

  • Canned foods are good tip for sure, thanks. I think you're right that a cooler will be a necessity too.
    – TQM
    Jan 23, 2018 at 13:46

Consider also jarred foods like sun dried tomato, olives etc. Combined with pasta (and maybe a tin of fish) these add flavour and last reasonably well. Cous cous is another grain to consider; it's faster cooking than pasta.

For mornings, I'd look at the many ways to cook porridge, and dried milk if you like milk in it. Adding dried fruit and nuts would be a good way to get extra nutrients into your diet, plus gives an almost endless variety of flavours! One of my favourites is dried apple and cinnamon.

I would suggest buying or making a small stove; the ease of use over a campfire will be significant. My preference is for an alcohol burning stove, since that's cheap and easy to carry fuel, but gas is faster. You can also get stoves that work with wood.

Batch cooking may work from a food safety perspective in winter, but not summer. And you'll have to heat it up somehow anyway, so I'm not sure what you're trying to achieve by doing it.

  • Love the tin of fish idea. I'm thinking I'll buy some sardines canned in olive oil, and put the tin on the fire, maybe I could do this with some other canned foods. And the dried milk and fruit a great tip too! I'm curious about stove idea, I've seen small camping stoves, but they generally use gas canisters, not alcohol.
    – TQM
    Jan 27, 2018 at 18:17
  • @ANEF I use a trangia; they're very reliable and good for hiking since they're fairly lightweight and pack up sensibly. Since you won't need to carry it far, you could get something a bit weightier for faster cooking. The alcohol is usually methylated spirits, which is poisonous so it doesn't attract the tax that most alcohol does. Jan 27, 2018 at 18:56
  • @ANEF sorry, another thought - be careful with the sardine tin directly on a fire. They'll be very full, and oil is flammable... I think some tins also have a lining that doesn't play nicely with heating food directly in them. I'd really get some sort of cooking pot/frying pan. Jan 27, 2018 at 18:58

We live for a month at a time on the following type of diet. Weights are in pounds if unspecified.

Breakfast: hot cereal 0.2 brown sugar 1 oz dried fruit 2 oz margarine .5 oz milk powder 1/4 c/person.

Lunch: 1 cup granola, or 2/3 cup trail mix (half nuts) 3 oz cheese, 1/3 tube stoned wheat thins, 1.5 oz peanut butter. 2 oz dried fruit.

(We would normally split this and have 2 lunches a day.)

Supper: pasta 0.35 or rice 0.3 or beans, lentils, buckwheet 0.3 dried veggies (any of carrots, peas, turnips, onions, mushrooms, cabbage) 1-2 oz margarine 1 oz. dried soup mix as sauce. Spices.

Hot chocolate with breakfast, sweet tea with supper.

We also would bring a few spare soup mixes for something hot at lunch on a cold raw day.

In cold weather double the margarine.

This works out to about 3500 cal/day.

In theory this isn't enough. However we have found that neither boys nor staff lose significant weight. On canoe trips we typically are on the water 9-10 hours/day, and 7-8 hours on hiking trips.


They sell small electric coolers (e.g., this one by Coleman) that run off of battery power (you can swap out your car battery with a marine battery or get a second battery/solar setup). As you are driving most days, you shouldn't have to worry about the battery running down. Then get yourself a nice two/three burner propane stove (e.g., this one by Coleman), an external propane tank, a wash basin, and a 5 gallon jug of water and you have a pretty nice kitchen (you of course can add an oven). Now you can cook almost anything (keeping ice cream and other frozen foods is more difficult). On all but the hottest weeks you can batch cook and store a couple of days of leftovers in the cooler.

I would suggest you never cook at your campsite apart from maybe a small stove to boil water for coffee/tea in the morning and night. Rather, I suggest swinging by the grocery store on the way home, buy what you want and cook it in the store parking lot, eat, and then drive the rest of the way home.

  • What obedience, hike in but eat in the store parking lot?
    – paparazzo
    Jan 24, 2018 at 1:33
  • @Paparazzi I don't know anyone that long term lived on "camping food". Everyone I know essentially eats regular food and spent limited time in camp.
    – StrongBad
    Jan 24, 2018 at 2:00
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    I read it as he wants to cook in camp as he mentions a campfire. Only 20 minutes in a day at a time you can bring in regular food and enjoy camp.
    – paparazzo
    Jan 24, 2018 at 11:00
  • +1 because of the suggestions on equipment. But please explain why he should do his cooking and eating in such an ugly spot as a parking lot. Is it because of food smells attracting the wild turkeys, and why should he care if they do?
    – ab2
    Jan 24, 2018 at 22:26
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    @ab2 because if you cook at the store, then you can prep and clean at the store often with overhead lights, tables (or at least flat ground), trash bins, running water and flush toilets. Carrying in supplies and a full kitchen takes time and energy and is often not safe to leave unattended during the day.
    – StrongBad
    Jan 25, 2018 at 18:25

I was in a similar circumstance with one summer job.

My answer:

Breakfast: I kept a box of granola in my desk. Could by 1 cup milk cartons from a vending machine. That and a bowl and spoon was breakfast.

Lunch was bread and some combination of margarine, peanut butter, jam, cheese, raisins.

Supper was one of: Heating a can of stew (sans can) in the coffee room microwave, kraft dinner in the microwave, or dumpster diving behind McDonalds for discarded hamburger patties. (Ok, I was poor.)

Another more lenient workplace allowed me to use a crockpot in the coffee room. I'd start a batch of chili at night, and put it in old margarine tubs and into the fridge first thing in the morning.

  • And you survived dumpster diving?
    – ab2
    Jun 7, 2020 at 23:10
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    Sure. Apply sniff test. The stuff is bagged. You want a fresh bag. Cook it well. Hamburger patties + beans + spice = chilli. The environment has air, so botulism isn't a concern. Biggest threat is salmonella and mould. Few restaurants keep food long enough to mould, and cooking destroys bacteria. Jul 12, 2020 at 15:07

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