Here are some clever ways to manage camping food storage so that you can keep as much food chilled or cooled as possible, protect food from pests and maximize efficient use of space. Camping food storage options include fridges, eskys and coolers, dry food storage containers and sometimes freezers.
Some people organize their food by day or meal type, but I find it easiest to sort by food type. Storing by food type allows you to use the appropriate preservation method e.g. meat/dairy in the fridge, vegetables/fruit/drinks in the esky or cooler, tinned food/dried food/food in packets/herbs and spices/condiments into a storage box, chips/bikkies/bread into a bag or box.
Keep Your Food Safe!
Protect your food supplies (and rubbish) from wildlife. Some animals will hang around waiting to be fed. (Please don’t feed them. There persistence at campsites can be very annoying and even threatening to smaller children.) Other animals will simply help themselves. Usually they’ll wait until you’re asleep or absent, but don’t count on it. Emus, large lizards, cheeky parrots, confident roos and goannas are often quite game even when people are around.
Don’t leave food lying around on tables. Apart from the flies, birds and lizards will be quite happy to be invited to the party. Keep food covered until you’re about to eat it using a clean towel or a food screen.
If you can, store your camping food storage boxes in your car or camper. Eskys and large food storage containers with secure lids should be fine, but I’ve heard stories of determined possums being quite capable of getting the lids of smaller plastic containers.
This might sound cute, but returning to camp to find your food supply gone is not!
Camping Food Storage Boxes and Containers
Use large food storage containers to hold all your foodstuffs together. Plastic ones with a securable lid prevent pests easily getting into your supplies. Screened food safes are portable and compact and another way to protect your food.
Once packets are opened, make sure they’re well-sealed against bugs, flies and ants. Preferably use airtight food storage containers with screw-tops or secure lids as they won’t be dislodged when you’re moving camp.
Squeeze tubes of honey, sauces, mustards and salad creams are very convenient for camping as they seal off and only take up as much space as their contents. Grains of rice in your salt and herb containers will help absorb excess moisture.
Many campers like using divided food storage containers to they can separate small amounts of foods into different sections. These are handy for things like herbs, soup packets or dried fruits that you want to keep altogether but don’t need to keep in the cooler or fridge.
Having a fridge broadens your food storage options considerably. When you have a fridge or freezer available it’s not such an imperative to consume perishable foods first.
Camping fridges and freezers are smaller than home ones so you will have to prioritize what you chill. Use eskys or cookers for less vital refrigeration candidates.
It’s definitely nice to be able to take some perishable foods camping such as milk, cheese and meats. When you’re camping in the heat it’s also nice to be able to keep drinks cold.
Check your fridge’s thermostat regularly, especially if encamped for a longer period and your batteries may be flattening. Your fridge should be at 4 degrees Celsius.
To maximize the efficiency of your camping fridge:
- Open your fridge door infrequently.
- Only place cooled food in the fridge.
- Don’t over fill your fridge or the cold air won’t be able to circulate and chill effectively.
- Freeze meats before you pack them in the esky or fridge to take camping. Get your meat cryo-vacced (vacuum sealed at a low temperature) so it will last for weeks in the fridge.
- Defrosting frozen food in the fridge helps keep your fridge cool.
- Always defrost meat in the fridge as this reduces the risk of food poisoning. Thawing meat in the fridge is a safe meat handling practice. (It also keeps defrosting meat safe from bugs and accidental spills as the kids are running around.)
- As at home, place raw meats at the bottom so juices don’t drip down and contaminate other foods.
- Pre-freeze meat and pre-prepared vegetables in meal-sized portions makes for easier handling and is more practical as you only have to defrost what you need.
- Using square food storage containers in your fridge and esky will help you get maximum use out of the space available and still allow air to circulate.
Eskys and Coolers
An esky is an invaluable backup for your fridge. You can keep items cool in an esky and then move them into the fridge as soon as there’s space. Fresh produce will keep well in an esky or cooler.
Each time you take off the lid of your esky you’ll lower the temperature. As with fridges, only open them when necessary and close the lid again quickly. Only place cooled food in your esky or cooler.
Add salt to iceblocks so the mixture freezes at a lower temperature and stays frozen for longer. At most caravan parks and some national parks you’ll be able to buy ice to top up your esky or cooler.