Easy and Inexpensive Ideas for
Backpacking Meals

Putting together your own backpacking meals is easy! When you think of backpacking food, your mind often goes to the pre-packaged freeze dried meals. They can be really handy, but they are only one of the many different options you have. For extensive information on your food options, visit our main backpacking food page.

First off, you don’t have to go to an outdoor store to get great ideas for backpacking meals. Your local grocery store has lots of options among your everyday food. In fact, the grocery store is our first choice for backpacking food!

Food Guidelines

Let’s take a moment to define what is important to look for when getting backpacking food ideas:

  1. It is preferable for your food items to be non-perishable. This is one of those things that isn’t a 100% must though. Many people bring perishable items, making sure to consume them within the first day of their trip. Remember, you won’t have much by way of refrigeration unless you were to bring a thermal lunch box. And even then, it can’t keep food cold forever and such an item can take up unnecessary space.
  2. Think compact. Pick items that can be easily packed in a backpack. You don’t want to bring something that takes up too much room – you don’t have much space to work with.
  3. Bring food items that aren’t easily damaged. Backpacks can get jostled quite a bit and aren’t always the most friendly environment to things that are delicate. For example, while eggs might do okay out of refrigeration, they don’t take getting knocked around very well.
  4. Think light weight. The pounds can add up really fast if you aren’t careful. Bringing one or two canned items isn’t that big of a deal, but if you pack very many, you easily have added several pounds to your pack.
  5. Think about the trash your food will produce. A foil package of tuna will take up less room in your pack as well as your trash bag than a can of tuna.

Ideas for Backpacking Meals Found at the Grocery Store

Now that we have a better idea of what we’re looking for, what can we find at the grocery store that is good for easy backpacking meals? Lots of stuff!

  • Instant oatmeal makes great breakfasts and there are many flavor varieties to choose from! All you need is hot water and a container to mix it in! And you can always spice up the oatmeal by adding nuts or dried fruit.
  • Instant potatoes are light and are a great ingredient for recipes or good on their own! You can find potato flakes, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes and more! Again, typically all you need is hot water and something to mix them in.
  • Instant rice is one of my favorites because you can make all sorts of “gourmet” meals with it. It’s light, easy to make, and has endless ways in which you can use it.
  • There are tons of biscuit, muffin and pancake mixes that only require water to mix them together. The only other thing you need is a surface on which to cook them.
  • Cans and packets of meat are a great source of protein and also work excellently as ingredients for a plethora of recipes.
  • Cans and cups of fruit of all kinds are available.
  • Pasta entrees that only require boiling water and something to cook them in come in all sorts of varieties and are nice ideas for backpacking meals.
  • Dry soup mixes are great meals and ingredients for other recipes.
  • Energy and granola bars are great for a nutrient dense snack.
  • Powdered eggs help mix things up for breakfast.
  • Powdered milk, while not a substantial food item on its own is a great thing to add to tons of recipes and meal options to help make things a little more creamy.
  • Another fun thing to use in a similar manner is powdered coffee creamer – especially if you have fun with all the different flavor varieties.
  • One of my favorite backpacking meal tips is to keep your eyes out for condiment packets when you go to restaurants. Packets of mayo, mustard, ketchup, sugar, sweet and sour sauce, lemon juice, etc. can add flavor or be great ingredients to a variety of backpacking foods.

I could go on and on; the options are truly endless! So, next time you visit the grocery store, put your mind in backpacking mode and see what ideas for backpacking meals you notice as you walk down the aisles.

Visit our backpacking recipes page

to see how you can combine these different food items into other fun and easy meals!

And for help on how to plan all the food you will bring on your trip, visit our backpacking menu page!

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