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Freeze-dried backpacking food is easy, light, and sometimes even tastes OK. Bummer: It’s also expensive, coming in at between about $7 and $12 per meal. What’s a dirtbag to do? Cook up these easy, inexpensive camp recipes instead. At a minimal $2.50 or less per serving, you can feed your crew for less than a ten-spot. Though considering how good these recipes are, they may never know. —The Editors
Nutty and slightly sweet, this rivals anything at your artisan coffee shop. Cost: $3.39 for 2 servings
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ¼ cup raw almonds, chopped
- ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 ½ Tbsp. honey
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 ½ Tbsp. brown sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ cup dried blueberries
At Home: Heat oven to 300°F. Combine all ingredients (except blueberries), spread evenly on a parchment-lined pan, and bake 40 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool, add berries, and store in a zip-top bag.
In Camp: Enjoy by the bowlful.
WEIGHT*: 5 oz. PROTEIN: 13 g CALORIES: 625
Aged cheese and a creamy sauce kick up a dirtbag classic. Cost: $4.78 for 2 servings
- 2 packets ramen noodles
- 1 ½ oz. dried, uncured chorizo (about ⅓ cup chopped)
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup Parmesan, grated
- 1 tsp. pepper
At Home: Store eggs in a hard-sided container and oil in a leak-proof bottle. Keep chorizo in its original packaging. Put pepper and cheese in a zip-top bag.
In Camp: Put ramen in a pot with enough water to cover noodles (1½ to 2 cups). Boil until noodles separate (2 to 3 minutes). Drain water, reserving about ½ cup, and set aside. Sauté chorizo in oil over medium heat until browned (3 to 4 minutes). Beat eggs in a bowl with half the cheese. Stir noodles into chorizo, and add 2 Tbsp. of the reserved cooking water. Reduce heat to its lowest setting, and add egg mixture, stirring until eggs are thickened but not scrambled (careful not to undercook). Spoon in reserved cooking water as desired to thin the sauce. Top with cheese.
WEIGHT: 8 oz. PROTEIN: 39g CALORIES: 770
Red Lentil Dal
Simmer up a rich taste on a poor man’s budget. $3.18 for 2 servings
- 1 5.5-oz. can coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp. curry powder
- 1 cup red lentils
- ¼ cup dried minced onion
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes (or enough for 2 cups)
At Home: Sort and rinse lentils, let dry, and store with onion in one zip-top bag. Put curry powder in another.
In Camp: Scrape 2 Tbsp. coconut solids from the can and add to a pot. Stir in curry powder and fry over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and 2 ½ cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every 5, until lentils are tender.
WEIGHT: 7 oz. PROTEIN: 27g CALORIES: 530
*All nutrition and weights are per serving. Weights are for uncooked ingredients.
How to Buy on a Budget
- Shop bulk bins. Prices are often half of those for packaged products. Look for honey, oils, and spices, as well as nuts and grains.
- Read “per ounce” prices. Stock up with big boxes, and buy off-brand.
- Shred your own cheese and chop your own nuts—conveniences cost extra.