The big planning is out of the way, you arrive in Las Vegas, and now you’re ready to relax. Not so fast. Camping still requires you get the right amount of food: not too much, not too little, just right, Goldilocks. As I often buy in volume to save $, this was a tough one for me initially. But you have to keep telling yourself: only buy what you need. The rest is wasted. Find the smallest containers for ketchup, mayo, mustard, maple syrup, etc. Check your recipes. If you only need 5 potatoes, don’t buy 3 pounds. I say this to save you money AND space in your already cramped rental car. Only buy what you need for one week and then restock.
When you arrive at the store, find the produce guy and pick up three banana boxes with the lids. They’re good sizes, are sturdy, and stack well. They also enable you to separate food into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For breakfast you’ll want cereal and oatmeal for the days you pack up, coffee and hot cocoa, and pancakes for the more relaxed mornings. The lunch box is often filled with breads, peanut butter, chips,
apples & oranges, and trail mix. The dinner box has pasta, potatoes, corn, canned goods, etc. Then the cooler is your fridge: milk, butter, meats, chocolate, cheese, etc.
Here are our favorite dinners:
Night 1: fresh rotisserie chicken, wild rice, steamed broccoli
Night 2: fresh tortellini in alfredo sauce, frozen peas, French bread
Night 3: leftover chicken in quesadillas, canned corn and black beans
Night 4: foil packets of already cooked sausage, fresh corn, potatoes, onions, and bell peppers. Add a little butter and olive oil to help steam. Splurge for “heavy duty foil” to prevent disaster.
Night 5: hotdogs, baked beans, corn chips
Bring coupons if you want, but you’ll save more by buying less. Stick with stores that don’t require cards for savings or ask them to give you a card. Yes, that saved me $15. In Nevada and California, be prepared for higher prices than in Knoxville; I estimated 30-40% higher across the board except for alcohol. Avoid glass while camping; good wine can come in boxes these days and is sold in grocery stores. Your biggest savings will be sticking to your meal plans: eating breakfast at the campsite or for free in your hotel, packing lunches for hikes, and keeping snacks handy in the car for long drives. It adds up quickly.
And since some campsites don’t have showers, pick up a pack of baby wipes. They’ll get you through a few days. Also buy small Kleenex packs and a small bottle of hand sanitizer that you keep with you at all times. Hey, you never know!
Margaret is a freelance writer in Knoxville, TN. She writes and produces for HGTV and has been couponing since 2009.