My son-in-law went to his first music festival when he was 22. He went alone. He brought a sleeping bag, a bottle of water, some hot dogs, a loaf of bread, a “shit-ton” of beer (I’m pretty sure that’s the way he said it), and nothing else for the entire four day event. He ran out of water on day one, and food on day two. Due to the kind generosity of the lesbian couple in the neighboring campsite, he did manage to survive. They were well prepared with all of the music festival essentials. He wasn’t. This is Part One in a three-part series that highlights Music Festival Essentials; this one is about food (stay tuned for Part Two about Organization, and Part Three about Drinks). It’s a must read for all of you twenty-somethings heading out to your first festival, and also for you veterans who may want to step up your game a notch or two.
Music Festival Essentials – Food Planning
We love music festivals. Country Thunder has been an annual event for us for five years, and has provided us with countless stories (some good – my daughter and son-in-law got engaged there, some bad – a total lame-o decided to tip over our port-a-potty!, some ugly – have you seen what people look like after a night of overindulgence??), good times, family fun, and loads of musical entertainment. But a lot of planning is required to make it a successful event. Food planning, in particular. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for three or four days without the use of a kitchen, a refrigerator, or a cook top or oven (for most people) make the planning even more critical. Some will have access to a grill. Some will not. A few will have a portable oven, and even fewer will have a way to wash dishes.
So when I was made this light and refreshing, but hearty, tasty, and filling BLT Pasta Salad with Chicken the other night (think tender pasta, crisp and refreshing lettuce and tomato, a bit of zesty dressing and loads of smoky bacon and flavorful chicken), it dawned on me that it’s the perfect meal to bring to a music festival (or camping in general). It can be made ahead of time. It can be packed into a gallon sized zip top bag. It can be tossed into the ice chest. And it can be eaten with a plastic fork (right out of the bag if you forget to pack paper plates). No muss. No fuss.
But one can’t live on BLT Pasta Salad alone (well, actually, you probably could survive on it for the duration of the festival, but that would be boring), so here are a few other Music Festival Essentials to include:
Music Festival Essentials – Main Meal (Dinner/Lunch)
- The Above Mentioned BLT Pasta Salad with Chicken of course!
- Loaded Baked Potato Casserole – This is a great one to bring if you have access to camp oven. Make ahead in a disposable baking pan. Freeze and keep in the bottom of the food cooler to keep everything else cold. Then eat it on the last evening. Just heat and serve.
- Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches – Grill a couple pork tenderloins before your music festival (just rub the tenderloin with olive oil, salt, and pepper and grill on medium heat for about 15 minutes). Let cool and slice. Pack in a zip top bag and bring some leafed lettuce, some pre-cooked bacon (are you getting the sense that I love bacon??), and a small container of mayo. Using the Hawaiian rolls (mentioned below) assemble sandwiches and dig in! Potato chips are awesome with these!
- This Chicken Orzo is a great make-ahead meal that is perfect served cold or at room temperature. You’ll definitely feel like you’re living it up when you have this for dinner at your campsite!
- PB&J – This is a must-have standby! And make sure you learn the secret to a perfect PB&J by reading this.
Music Festival Essentials – Snacks
- Chips and Salsa – An easy and tasty quick snack when you need something with your afternoon (or morning?) beer! Just make sure this isn’t ALL you bring (like my niece did for her first music festival… that wasn’t good!)
- Carrots and Celery – Not very exciting, but necessary when you need a cool and refreshing snack (and a bit of fiber to get things moving, if you know what I mean!) Buy a bag of baby carrots and pre-slice the celery and throw it all in a zip top bag and into the cooler. You’ll be glad you did.
- Beef Jerky – Kind of pricey, but it’s loaded with the staying-power of protein. It doesn’t take up much space and doesn’t need a cooler.
- Boxes of Hawaiian Rolls – Not only do these go really well with any of the main dishes you bring, there is always a need for bread products to soak up some of that alcohol. And I’m not just talking about what you’ll need… I’m talking about for those who wander (stumble?) through your site at various times of the day/night who need just a bit of food to help get them back to their own site. These are typically nice, harmless people who probably didn’t plan as well as you, and their alcohol to food ratio is a bit out of whack. They might need a bit of help from you, so help them. Hand them a roll for each hand, let them nibble for awhile, then send them on their merry way. I promise they’ll appreciate your generosity. We’ve met some really nice and interesting folks this way.
Music Festival Essentials – Breakfast
- Fruit and Yogurt Parfait – Cut up some cantaloupe and watermelon and keep in the cooler in a zip top bag. Bring a 6 pack of yogurt and a box of your favorite granola-type cereal. When morning comes around (after your Cup of Joe), layer the fruit, yogurt, and granola into a disposable bowl. It’s a great and easy way to start your day.
- Flavored Instant Oatmeal – Bring a variety pack of instant oatmeal. When you’re heating up your water for morning coffee, add an extra 2/3 cup for your oatmeal. Put the dry oatmeal into a bowl, then add the boiling water. Stir and let sit a couple minutes, then enjoy your warm and hearty breakfast.
- Omelette in a bag – While still at home, scramble some eggs and put them in a heavy duty zip top bag along with some shredded cheese and diced pre-cooked ham. Freeze over night then toss into your food cooler when you head out. It should mostly thaw overnight at the campsite. In the morning, boil water over camp stove and submerge the zip top back containing the eggs, cheese, and ham, turning the bag occasionally. It should fully cook in about 5 minutes. Eat right out of the bag. Careful… it’s hot! This ought to keep you going most of the morning.
Music Festival Essentials – Desserts
- S’mores – Duh! This is assuming you have access to some type of outdoor flame, like a propane based small campfire. Toast the marshmallows and sandwich them between graham crackers lined with a piece of chocolate! Always a huge hit.
- Cookies – The next best thing to s’mores… Fudge Stripes. We love them! Grandmas Oatmeal are also a popular choice. They won’t melt in the heat!
- Fruit Roll Ups – People love to snack on these throughout the day, as well as eat one or two for dessert. They’re lightweight, won’t melt, and take up almost no room.
As nice as the couple who helped out my son-in-law was (they’re all still friends to this day), it’s probably not a good idea to head off to a music festival without being prepared. You really don’t want to be that guy. And make sure to check out these 10 Camping Food Tips to help in your music festival essentials food planning! Now that you’re all ready to pack up the car/truck/camper/motor home with all things food, make sure to follow me on Snapchat (Username: TheSpicyApron) and Twitter (@TheSpicyApron) to see how this year’s Country Thunder goes! (April 7-10 – super excited about the line-up). It’s always interesting….