Trail Food for the Non-cook

Let’s say you love the outdoors, and yearn for a weekend of four wheeling. But you can’t cook or don’t care to. It’s just not your bag. Should you stay home? Of course not! You can still hit the trails “ you just need to plan accordingly.

You’re in luck. Chef Severin has put together a nifty game plan for your next 4WD weekend. It involves selecting the right items and mapping out a menu to make your decision making so much easier. I’ve done all that for you.

Fortunately, much of what you need is inexpensive and convenient. Because many items are packaged or premade, you don’t need to be Chef Cordon Bleu to eat pretty well.

As you long as you can boil water, cook over a fire (or camping stove), and you own a cooler or fridge, you’ll survive!

It’s quite simple, actually. That’s the beauty of it. You can enjoy three meals a day without a lot of fuss and mess. This outline shows you how. Afterward, I provide additional details of what to buy and where.

Outline of a Simple Menu


Breakfast: (at home)
Lunch: Stop at a fast food joint along the way. Your choice. (Heck, I can’t make all the decisions for you!)
Dinner: Steak (over the fire) and lettuce; beer.


Breakfast: Coffee and donuts or Coke and cookies. (Gotta get that energy for the big day ahead!)
Lunch: Prepared sandwich or made on the trail; Chips, soda or sport drink.
Dinner: Pork chops (over the fire) and lettuce; beer. If you’re inclined, heat up some baked beans in the can. Call it a three-course meal.


Breakfast: Coffee and donuts or Coke and Pop Tarts.
Lunch: Chicken wings from the supermarket. Found in the deli, they’re precooked. Don’t grab the uncooked kind. You want to minimize cooking in camp.
Dinner: At home, unless it’s an extended weekend. Then you’ll need to account for supper. Chicken breasts (over the fire) and lettuce. Feel free to substitute brats.

Breakfast: Finish off the pastries or cookies, and wash down with coffee.
Lunch: Remaining prepackaged sandwiches or bring stuff to “you roll your own”.
Dinner: Fast food on the road or at home.

See how simple this is? Nothing fancy here, and just a few food items each meal. All items are prepackage or premade. You simply grab and go.

Let’s look at a few of these food items in greater detail.

Lettuce: Either a head of iceberg or package of Romaine. Cut the iceberg in quarters; each one, to be topped with salad dressing, is your salad. Romaine usually comes with three stalks per package. Each stalk can make at least two salads. You literally just pour on the dressing. Don’t forget a small bottle of salad dressing.

In either case, don’t bother chopping the lettuce in advance. You’ll do that with knife and fork during dinner. (Remember: one objective is to minimize the preparation.)

Just right for manifold cooking!

Sandwiches: For minimal effort, hop into a Subway, gas station or a supermarket. Look at what they have, and grab what looks good and is relatively inexpensive. Don’t care for a sandwich or sub? Other possibilities include Lunchables, Hot Pockets and frozen burritos. Before leaving camp each morning, double wrap the Hot Pockets and burritos in tin foil. Stick then in a secure position above the manifold on the engine. By lunch time you will have a hot with melted cheese meal. Don’t’ worry about nutrition. You just need cheap body fuel for the weekend.

If you prefer to make your own sandwiches, buy some bread (cheapest you can find), cold meat(s) and cheese. Avoid applying any sauces in advance; you’ll do that in camp. Bring along bottles of sauce or grab some of those foil packets from the fast food joint. Lettuce pulls double duty here.

By the way, a loaf of bread (or package of hamburger buns) can be used for sandwiches, brats and wienies. No need to buy separate packages.

Check the reqs where you will be camping to see if glass beverage bottles are allowed.

Eat them whole out of the bag.

Beverages: This is a personal call, but I’ve found that coffee, cola (Coke for me) and beer or Tequila are all I need for a weekend. If you can’t make coffee or get your buddy to make it, buy Starbuck’s coffee in a bottle.

All your food can be purchased on Friday. It will keep throughout the weekend.

Snacking: Whether on the drive to and from the trail or while on the trails themselves, you’re bound to get the munchies at times. Convenient snack foods (which also are good for you) include plums, apples, cucumbers (mini ones in a package), snap peas, and bananas. Cukes, by the way, can also be added to your salads. Another good snack is Mother’s Oatmeal cookies, one of my favorites.
Mixed nuts are good, though they can be a little salty. Avoid shelled nuts (peanuts and pistachios, for example). Too often these become campfire food, and the grounds become littered with shells.

You should plan on contributing to happy hour as well. Here, again, the choices are easy and convenient. Corn chips, salsa and cheese dip are a natural. Other possibilities include wheat chips and cheese (Triscuit, Wheat Thins), beef jerky and even licorice.

Speaking of happy hour, a common effect after a good happy hour is lack of enthusiasm to prepare a full meal. Could be that everyone filled up on snacks or just tanked on beer. This is yet another reason to stock up easy-to-prepare food. A quick bite is possible if the hunger pains strike. (Of course, you can always bribe a buddy to cook for you. Make sure you have enough extra beer or booze with you.)

As you see, preparing for your meals doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking affair. Use these suggestions as a guide when you next visit the store. You’ll quickly fill up your cart and be prepared for your next 4WD outing.

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