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Menu Planning Guidelines

At home or camping. Recreational vehicle galley or your kitchen’s range. The backyard bar-b-que grill or open campfire. Planning a menu for yourself and family is always pretty much the same – right? Well, not completely.

Over the years, first as a tent camper and in my motorhome, I have probably made every culinary mistake possible and faced almost ever challenges imaginable. However, these adventures have had a way of building confidence and provided lots memories. Here are some things I have learned:

First, keep it simple. Whether it’s the recipe, equipment, or menu, simple, basic, and fancy-free is the best way to go. You can go fancy but that means more clean-up. I love cooking in foil.

Know your equipment. Check it operations before leaving (dull knife is much easier sharpened at home than attempting the impossible on a nearby rock – been there and tried that). Single use equipment is a waste of space. Find multiple uses for everything in the kitchen. But don’t forget weight and space limitations. A personal favorite space and weight saver is a thin-ish plastic cutting surface, I found at Target, cut down to fit inside my largest cooking pot.

Be flexible. Flexibility with meals, with tastes, and with schedule will make this whole cooking thing far more pleasant.

Start collecting recipes NOW. Back of boxes, friends, family, magazines, cookbooks (children’s cookbooks are a good source), anywhere and everywhere. Recipes for everything. My husband prefers rye bread for his sandwiches. This isn’t always a big problem but there are some areas were rye bread can not be found. Over twenty years ago, I found a very versatile batter bread recipe in a magazine (Woman’s Day, I think). So, now we never have to go without rye bread or whole wheat or cinnamon raisin or several other tasty alternatives to white bread. We aren’t big dessert eaters but do enjoy a homemade cookies or two every now and again so I’m collecting no bake cookie recipes.

Julia Childs may have had gardens of parsley and mounds of whip cream but you don’t. So what if it didn’t come out perfectly. Figure out what went wrong but don’t tell anyone. Just say it’s a new recipe and ask them to give it a name and rating. We include the recipe’s location in its name. Example: Houston Lasagna for the time I didn’t have the necessary Lasagne pasta and used slices of zucchini instead. It was a “K” or Keeper. Our rating systems: “K” Keeper; “EO” Emergency Only; or, “NA” which means Never Again.

Other thoughts about meal planning:

  • Take weather and planned activities into consideration.
  • If a long hike planned – trail food to help maintain energy levels, light lunch, and a simple dinner.
  • Rainy or cold weather predicted – comfort foods like soup or beef stew and biscuits.
  • Hot days, salads and convenience foods are best.
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Fred and Suzi Dow