Sunday, 13 November 2011

Frugal and Fun Family Camping

by Megan @ The Byron Life

Since adding two more little ones to our family in the past five years we don’t go camping much.  What seems, on the surface, to be a simple and affordable family adventure; the ultimate in frugal living  - close to nature with only the bare necessities – has felt too expensive.  Some of the camping gear I’ve seen for sale would need a second mortgage to afford.

However, we were invited to go camping for three days with two other families we know who have children the same age as ours and, despite not having the right gear, or the cash to buy it right now, I said yes hoping I could pull it together in a thrifted fashion.

Our family-sized tent and mattresses were borrowed (from a family we know to whom we recently gifted a trampoline we no longer used, so this felt like a fair exchange). Bedding and cooking equipment we brought from home and I picked up a few bargains from the op-shop as well:  an as-new large torch and an esky that saved us well over $100 had we bought brand new.

We were fortunate to be holidaying with experienced campers who set up a  communal camp kitchen filled with contributed equipment from us all: a giant tarp, various tables, chairs, mats, games and toys and cooking utensils and we all shared the work involved in setting up and keeping the space functioning.

The camp cooking was shared as well.

Breakfasts were looked after by each individual family, but a roster was set up to share the main cooking duties so each family had to prepare one lunch and one dinner for all. This was the idea of one of our friends, and it makes so much sense to cook like this when camping.

Lunches included:
-pesto pasta and fresh green salad with olives
- a mix of potato, coleslaw and green salads, falafal and freshly-baked breads
- a serve-yourself “salad-wrap table” with flat bread wraps, cheeses, cold meats, salad and spreads such as hommus and pesto for making individual wraps.

Dinners included:
- vegetable green Thai curry and rice
- marinated spare ribs (a marinated tofu option for the vegetarian, me!) with salads, various sauces and rice
- Red lentil dahl and rice

I wish I’d photographed a meal for this blog post. Too busy eating to do that, but you get the idea.  As well as the main meals we shared snacks, treats and drinks. If we had paid for a holiday away with more formal accommodation and bought meals it would have been out of our reach this weekend, but this three-day adventure cost us little more than a normal grocery shopping trip.

I feel strongly that sharing resources is an important aspect to frugal and simple living. It saves energy, money and the earth’s resources – and it is crucial to feeling connected to your community.  Collaboration can take whatever form you choose – with just a bit of willingness and enthusiasm – and camping is no exception. 

One family could purchase different equipment (a camp oven, or a large tarp, for example) and these could be shared, rather than each family having to buy the equipment individually and doubling up. 

I am keen now to build up a stash of decent camping equipment so we can contribute more next time around and family camping trips can become a more regular part of life for us. The children had the best time together, so did we adults.

When you take camping trips with other families, do you also share equipment and/or cooking duties? 

~ Megan