Feeding your family at a festival
If you choose to eat from the vast array of tempting catering outlets then you are sure to find some fantastic cuisine to sample. Festivals can be a great opportunity to expand your family’s culinary horizons and try mouth-watering delights from all corners of the globe.
But if exotic food is all too much for your little ones then don’t panic, there will usually be lots of foods that children readily eat like pizza and pasta too. One HUGE advantage of eating out is not having to carry extra food and all that cooking equipment from your car to the tent, and of course there’s no washing up!
However, the cost of feeding a family at £5-10 per person 2 or 3 times a day soon mounts up, so it’s worth planning at least a couple of meals at the tent. Even if you ask for child size portions (and prices) you can still end up paying out a small fortune to catering outlets over the weekend.
Returning to your tent also gives your kids a bit of downtime away from the festival mayhem, and gives you a chance to get their beds ready while it is still daylight. It is a good tip to get their PJs on under their clothes in the early evening too, so they don’t have to fully undress in the cold later on when their batteries are well and truly run out.
When packing your food, remember to freeze everything you can so you don’t need to carry unnecessary extra weight in the form of ice blocks. Even tins can be put in the fridge before packing to help lower the temperature of the coolbox too. It helps to take pre-measured ingredients in ziplock bags for things like couscous so you know how much water to add. Use an empty milk bottle or your mug to gauge water volume.
If you don’t have a cool box you will be much more limited to dry foods like pasta, couscous and rice, and jars of sauces or tins (note: no glass allowed on site so you should really decant jars into plastic containers first). Fresh milk is available each day from almost all festivals. A bucket of water does a reasonable job of cooling beers and wine down but it’s not great for foodstuffs! We tend to go fairly vegetarian, at least for the later days in the festival, because the risk of food poisoning is lower should the food not stay as cold as it should.
Our family has a huge Igloo MaxCold cool box, which is fantastic (it’s very similar to this equally good Coleman Xtreme cooler). We even sort some frozen items into separate cool bag and put it at the bottom of the cool box for the later days (only make sure you don’t put the stuff you need every day into it because if you have to keep opening the bag it defeats the purpose!). The giant cool box is way too cumbersome for carting off to a campsite though, so we only use it when we have the campervan.
QUICK MAIN MEAL IDEAS
Fresh pasta and sauce with grated cheese: Fresh pasta cooks in a couple of minutes – use either plain pasta or filled tortellini style. Decant the sauce into a ziplock bag and freeze (no glass on site). You can make this meal more substantial with a tin of tuna and/or sweetcorn/frozen peas. Buy a bag of ready grated cheese – it’s much easier!
Couscous and Ratatouille: Couscous cooks in 4 minutes – just pour boiling water on it, add a knob of butter and leave it to stand. Heat up a tin of ratatouille, add some raisins/dried apricots, and you’re good to go. Add some more of that grated cheese if you like. NB: It’s a good idea to chop the apricots at home because they are rather sticky!
Curry night: Make your favourite curry in advance and freeze it. Reheat and serve with rice (ready cooked sachets, or pre-cooked frozen rice) and nan breads (sprinkle with water and dry fry for a few minutes to heat through). Add a sliced banana, some raisins and dollop of greek yoghurt for an exotic touch.
Fajitas: Marinate your sliced chicken with plenty of olive oil, lime juice, cinammon, cloves, coriander, garlic, ginger and a dash of Tequila (optional!). Slice onions and peppers (and optional chillies). You have two options for this, depending on how much cooking you want to do on the campsite. You can either put these prepared ingredients into two ziplock bags, ready to cook on site on the first night OR fry it all up in advance, then cool (and even freeze if desired) ready for reheating. Serve with wraps, grated cheese and pots of salsa and guacamole. Tortilla chips are a good snack with any left over salsa and guacamole dips too. This meal is best for the first night because it involves fresh ingredients.
Home made soup / stew / chilli con carne etc etc: If you’ve frozen this in advance it should last till Sunday and will also provide a good block of ice for the coolbox. Accompany with wraps, pitta breads, tinned potatoes, etc. whatever goes well with your dish of choice.
Basically anything saucy can be easily and quickly reheated, and served with an easy carbohydrate like rice, pasta, couscous or bread, so double up your quantities next time you cook something suitable at home and just freeze it.
Cereal bars, bananas, mini cereal portions (pour the milk straight in and you won’t need to wash up a bowl!). Greasy frying pans are a bit of a nightmare to wash up at festivals so I never bother with sausages, eggs and bacon – but if you can face the cleaning up then you will be the envy of your neighbours.
Pancakes are another easy and very popular choice for breakfast. You can take all the ingredients and mix it up in advance to keep in a plastic bottle as long as you have enough room in the cool box, or to make it really easy buy a ready made Pancake Mix and you can just add water.
If you need filter coffee, get bags to save you washing up a cafetiere. And remember, if you have frozen individual pints of milk, do remove one from the coolbox the night before so it defrosts enough for breakfast.
Wraps stay fresh for ages (look out for ones in a resealable bag), fill with no-drain tuna, tinned sweetcorn and some mayo. Make up your wraps each morning and you’ll have a ready picnic lunch without having to trek back to the campsite from the main arena. You could also fill your wraps with pate, cheese, marmite, peanut butter, salad, or whatever your family like. Hard-boiled eggs are a good source of protein and great for picnics, but only possible if you have enough fuel to boil them for 6/7 minutes.
Avocados, cherry tomatoes, bananas, cereal bars, dried fruit, rice cakes, crackers, biscuits, crisps, homemade fruit muffins, mini Babybels, breadsticks, Bear nibbles, etc. A ready supply of snacks to curb urgent hunger pangs and the incessant ice-cream whines is a good idea. Try to pre-empt when your children are going to get hungry because it may take longer than you think to trudge back to the tent and start making food.
Some cheeses can cope with not being refrigerated for a few days. A runny Camembert or Brie with Melba toasts feels very indulgent – just right for the night you’ve had to go back to the tent earlier than planned with an over-tired child. Take an emergency hip flask of Port and a pack of cards! NB: leave smelly cheeses outside the main tent under the flysheet (wrapped) otherwise they will get very over-ripe and they’ll get so stinky you won’t be able to breathe!
- Little individual sauce sachets (ketchup, mayo, salad cream, brown sauce, etc) don’t need refrigerating and so are very useful for camping.
- Don’t forget a small bottle of cooking oil if you are going to be doing any frying.
- One of these flexi tubs is fantastic as a washing up bowl.
- Don’t forget a tea-towel, great for mopping up little spills and not just your washing up, as that may as well drip dry for the most part.
- Take a little washing up liquid, a washing up bowl (or bucket) and a solar shower bag for a ready supply of warm water.
- Some festivals offer Pizza, Bread-making or other food workshops, which can be a useful way of getting your child to eat something fresh and nourishing!
- Do take a tin of baked beans or spaghetti hoops as an emergency meal.
- Bring a few freezer clips for sealing opened packets of food and also a couple of tupperwares.
- Never change gas canisters inside a tent and do not leave camp stoves or barbeques unattended.
Punk Publishing have produced the fabulous Cool Camping Cookbook full of inspiring simple and delicious recipes for barbecues, open fires and camping stoves.
If your family are a bit more adventurous in their tastes we also recommend Guyrope Gourmet: A Camping Cookbook