how we ate real food at camp, despite road blocks

A couple weeks ago, our family drove an hour north of us to spend 12 days teaching at a fine arts camp. We didn't hit any road blocks on the way there, but when we walked into our cabin there may as well have been a sign like this one:

As we've done in the past, I was planning on cooking most of our food using the little kitchenette that most cabins have (we’ve always had one before and this was our fourth year there); it’s a unit the size of an oven that has two burners, a sink, and a mini-fridge. There is food provided in the faculty cafeteria, but we can only take so much standard GFS fare: powdered eggs, iceberg lettuce with soybean oil-HFCS dressing, canned green beans and peas, white bread with margarine, pre-made lasagna, etc. We do our best to eat the food that most closely resembles real food when we do eat there, but it’s hard, and we just don’t feel well afterwards. In fact, a week after returning home, we still feel like our bodies are recovering from the few meals we ate there and the few meals we ate out when family came to visit. (I don’t know how the dance students dance all day while eating food that is supposedly even worse. No wonder so many of them get sick, injured, and exhausted!) I don’t want to be a food snob, and I was grateful some nights when I was too exhausted to cook that there was food to eat, but I just couldn't do three meals a day for 12 days there.

So I packed ingredients for several simple meals, along with the bare minimum in cooking equipment: our iron skillet, two saucepans, a couple utensils, a small strainer, a cheese grater, and our blender (I couldn’t go two weeks in the summertime without a smoothie!). We packed our small cooler full to the brim with raw milk, butter, pastured eggs, fresh produce, kombucha, cheese, yogurt, and cooked chicken and white beans. And of course our cod liver oil!

But we had an unpleasant surprise when we walked into our cabin. No mini-kitchen! No stove! No sink! And a fridge so tiny it could barely hold half of what we brought! ARGH!

Here is where the sink was supposed to be hooked up. :(

It was not a happy moment. I was not prepared to eat crappy food for two weeks. Nor did I want all the food we brought to go bad. So after I recovered from the initial shock, I went to Meijer looking for a hot plate, thinking if I could just have a way to heat one pot, we'd be fine.

Apparently they don’t sell hot plates.

So I bought a camp stove instead.

We have never really felt like we were "camping" at Blue Lake. Though the cabins are junky (ours was full of broken furniture when we got there...), they have indoor plumbing and well, usually a mini kitchen. :( You don't get wet when it rains, so it can't possibly be real camping. But cooking outside sure made it feel like camping!

As for the lack of fridge space, some stuff stayed in the cooler and I rotated the cold packs (which was difficult considering how small the "freezer" compartment in the fridge was). A few days in we had eaten enough food that most of it fit, and we kept a couple things in the fridge at the dance building.

Here's the fridge with our dishes on top of it because there was no where else to put them.

We washed our dishes in this tiny bathroom sink:

And we made an impromptu pantry by bringing some shelves in from the bedroom. (Notice the toddler-friendly lower shelves and all the glass jars on the top shelf!)

So we made it work. But boy was I happy to return to my own kitchen, small as it is, after 12 days of that!

Since the stove only has one burner (it was the least expensive model), one pot meals were a must. Here are a few of the meals we ate (some cooked on that little camp stove, atop a crooked picnic table, and some that required no cooking):


  1. Fried Eggs and Toast (with the toast cooked in the pan next to the eggs, and lotsa butter)
  2. Oatmeal (with an egg in it!)
  3. Toast with Peanut Butter and homemade strawberry jam (toasted in the skillet, of course)


  1. Chicken Salad (made with the cooked chicken I brought)
  2. Shredded chicken sandwiches (on sourdough bread with sharp cheddar, mustard, and homemade mayo)
  3. Chicken Pesto Pasta
  4. Saucy White Beans with Zucchini (recipe coming!)
  5. Pizza toasts (sourdough bread, spaghetti sauce, pepperoni, and melted cheese, served open face)
  6. Mujadareh (rice and lentils with spiced caramelized onions)
  1. Crackers and Cheese
  2. Fruit Smoothies
  3. Homemade Granola
  4. Raw Milk and Chocolate Zucchini Cake (I made it the day before we left and we savored the leftovers for a few days)
I hope you are encouraged that you can a) Cook real food even with very limited equipment and space, and b) Choose to eat real food even when fake food is readily available and free. The free food is not really worth the cost your body pays. (Except when it involves relationships with people; I always want to be able to eat what is put in front of me - and even enjoy it! - to show love to those around me, real food or not.)

We are glad to be home, caught up with laundry, and jumping back into the school year. You can expect less blogging from me than I was able to do in the summer due to a toddler who makes computer usage difficult, and my husband taking the laptop to class most days. But I'll try to keep giving you all sorts of good stuff!

Have you ever cooked real food in the midst of less than ideal circumstances? Tell us about it!


  1. Dave and I along with the 3 kids in the summer of 1997, stopped at Bonny Lake State Park in Colorado, just over the state line north of I-70 to camp. It was a long day of driving and we didn't get to the camp site until dusk. By the time we got the camp stove, camp light and food out to prepare dinner, it was dark. I was preparing potatoes, onion and summer sausage, boiled in a pot on the two burner camp stove. Because of the light, june bugs were attracted to my vicinity and while Dave and the kids hung out in the pop up camper, I slayed, slapped, and scooped bugs using the only weapon I had, the large spoon that I was cooking with. When I was finally done cooking dinner and we sat down to eat in the camper, I told everyone "if you find a bug just scoop it out and eat your dinner". Everyone was so hungry and there wasn't a word about the bugs, as I recall. Dave was totally amazed that I wasn't freaked out about the whole situation and said it was quite the site to see. To this day, I am knows as "the bug slayer"...LOL! Love you guys!!! Sharon Smith

  2. I haven't yet had to cook real food in less than my tiny kitchen. But we did go on vacation to Colorado the other week for my sister's wedding, and there was a LOT of eating out involved. Since we flew, I couldn't take anything with me. We've been back for almost a week and I finally feel like we're mostly done clearing the junk out of our systems!

    Do you make your own pesto sauce? (I would tend to assume...) That would make a great post. :D Also, what do you put in your smoothies? I'm always afraid it's going to be expensive to make more than a couple smoothies a week with the price of fresh fruit.