The Single Item that Simplified Camping for Me
What is it? A Food Saver Vacuum Sealing Kit
If your family camps, I highly recommend you get one of these invaluable tools. If you only use it for your trips, it would be worth it, but I bet you will like how well it works and use it all the time. Mine was called a Seal-a-Meal. The updated name, The Food Saver Vacuum Sealing Kit.
One year we decided to go to Yosemite for the Thanksgiving weekend. It sounded like a blast. I love the snow. Nevertheless, a turkey dinner was such a tradition. So I decided to cook a turkey a few days before. I made a full dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, and candied yams. When it was ready, I packaged everything into seal a meal bags, sealed them and tossed them in the freezer. At the time we had a motorhome, so I was able to put them into its freezer.
THANKSGIVING DINNER WHILE CAMPING
On thanksgiving day I heated up water in one big pot, put all the sealed bags into the boiling water, and in less than thirty minutes we had a full turkey dinner. The nice part? The one pan I used could be wiped down and dried since no food actually cooked in it.
I don’t think we ever had leftover turkey taste so good or so fresh. The seal a meal keeps the flavors and the moisture in, even while heating. It comes out as though you just sliced it. It is still the best way to freeze leftovers as far as I’m concerned.
You know how mashed potatoes get rather clumpy when you go to reheat them? In a seal a meal bag you can squish the sealed bag until they are once again thoroughly soft and blended, all before opening the bag.
Once I discovered how well that full dinner worked, you can bet I used the seal a meal for packaging all of our camping meals that way whenever possible. You wouldn’t believe how smart I felt. The food tasted better. There was so much less mess. And clean up? There wasn’t much.
CLEAN UP IS A CINCH
Possibly the least fun task while camping is clean up dishes. Pots get so dirty, foods can stick, and it’s not that easy to wash dishes in a little table top tub. Again, that makes the seal a meal the perfect solution.
There are so many dishes you can freeze ahead. Think of chili or pasta sauce for instance. They are pretty messy for clean up. Cooking pasta isn’t as messy, but again, if you have it in a seal a meal bag, it won’t get mushy or too soft when reheating it and you don’t need a colander. Anything you might fix and parcel into servings is much easier to have in a sealed bag.
DO A LITTLE MEAL PLANNING
It might take a little meal planning. Depending how long you plan on tenting it, you will want to be careful to use fresh food first, uncooked food first. You can prepare a lot of your meals at the same time this way too. Make the pasta sauce, the meatballs or sausage, the chili, the pasta. Bag them up. I would freeze everything but the pasta. When you are packing up, you will have an assortment of thinly packaged bags to stack in your cooler.
The bags come in several sizes or you can even buy rolls of the bag material. The quart size is my favorite. It is the one I used most.
For our trips, I would always freeze a couple of half gallon water containers, lids off. My parents used to use rinsed milk cartons (not for drinking when thawed). When you are loading up, put the lids on, and they are ready to keep food nice and cold. When they thaw you will have icy water to drink. You can buy a block of ice instead. Depending on how long you will be out, you may need to anyway. But the smaller containers make loading the food a little more flexible. Keep the fresh food near the frozen ice. You’ll want to cook the chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs early in the trip. What’s camping without barbecuing? While you are using up the fresh food, the frozen seal a meal bags are staying somewhat frozen, thawing as it nears the time you plan to use them.
Pack a dutch oven and you are set. The water can be heated over the fire pit or on a camp stove. Either works since the food is sealed in bags. Oh, I buy some throwaway paper bowls too, in case you need them for serving. Keep it easy on yourself. Then some silverware, and plates (unless you use paper ones), and the dishes are done.
It helps to bring foods that don’t require refrigeration, but part of the fun is presents a good, hot meal after a lovely day outside. You can keep it simple or make it fancy with this easy sealer. You’ll love how fresh the food will taste!
One of the biggest concerns of tent camping is keeping refrigerated food cold enough, long enough. It’s easy when you have a refrigerator, but when you are getting by with an ice chest, it’s important to get one that works well. Definitely a good time to carefully read reviews on what’s best. Once you have a good ice chest, how to pack it will be the next step.
The Coleman Xtreme Cooler seems to be one of the most popular choices. I like that this one is good sized—62 quarts. And if you will need more room, they make one that is 100 quarts.
With wheels on each and a handle, it is very convenient, though it will take two or someone very strong to lift a filled one out of a car! The cooler reportedly will keep ice for five days. While there is variation on that it is much better than many of them.