NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

Category: Outdoors

Christmas Traditions: Christmas Tree Hunting in the National Forest

I’m starting a new mini-series on some of our favorite Christmas traditions.  I know… I know… it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but I wanted to post this one early because it takes some preparation if you want to do something similar.

I love Christmas.  In fact, I am guilty of listening to Christmas music way before Thanksgiving every year – like even in the middle of summer if the mood strikes!  As a kid, we would often have a Christmas CD or cassette in the boom box by our pool.  Swimming and jingle bells, anyone?

I don’t decorate until after Thanksgiving is over, however.  I may be singing Christmas carols before Halloween, but there is no visible evidence until after we have finished the Thanksgiving dishes.  After that – it’s fair game!

Out come the decorations!

Out come the wreaths, lights, and garlands!

And it’s time for the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree!


Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

Addamay’s first Christmas tree trip at 6 months old.

We are not a fake Christmas tree family.  And we take our Christmas tree hunting seriously.

By hunting, I don’t mean searching the corner lot for the perfect tree.

And, by hunting I don’t mean cutting down our tree in the midst of a perfectly manicured tree farm.

By hunting I mean hunting for our tree in the National Forest with our United States Forest Service (USFS) Christmas Tree Permit and legal places to cut map!

Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

Finding the perfect tree for Christmas 2015


Until about 12 years ago, I didn’t know you could buy a permit to cut a tree in our local National Forest.  I don’t even remember how we first found out about it.  But in December of 2006, my hubby and I drove to our local USFS office and bought a $10 permit.  Then we drove up the hill in search of the perfect tree.

We’ve been doing the same thing every year since then!


We LOVE this Christmas tradition for many reasons.

  1. It gives us a great excuse to spend the day exploring nature.  It is about a 90 minute drive from our house to our favorite spot to find our tree.  Then we hike around and search for the perfect tree.  We bring a picnic lunch, a thermos full of hot cocoa, and plenty of Christmas music.  Sometimes there is snow (in California that is a big deal!)

    Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

    Searching for the perfect tree and enjoying the snow! We are in California, so sometimes this is all there is…

  2. It is cheap!  Christmas trees from the corner lot run anywhere from $15-$100+.  Cutting your own tree at a farm usually costs $50-$150.  But cutting a tree from the National Forest only costs $10 for the permit.  The first time you cut one, you will need to invest in a good saw – we like a pruning saw for the job, and some rope to tie down the tree.  It does take more time, and costs money for gas, but the memories and experiences are worth it.

    Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

    Taking a hot cocoa break

  3. Fresh trees last longer!  Cutting a tree yourself that you then water daily makes them last so much longer.  We try to get our tree on Thanksgiving weekend and usually don’t take it down until New Year’s Day.  And although we do lose some needles, we really don’t lose too many in that time!  The tree still looks and smells good in January!

    Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

    Clayton helps Daddy bring the tree to the car. Notice the bright pink permit attached.

  4. You can choose more “expensive” trees.  Red firs, often called Silvertips, are the most pricey trees at the Christmas Tree lot – at least they are at ours.  And they are absolutely lovely!  Once we found a good place to find some nice ones, we’ve been getting one every year.  That’s a savings of over $100 on a really nice tree.
  5. Extra boughs from the bottom part we cut off at home to fit the tree in the house (the tree always looks so tiny in the forest!) are wonderful for decorating!

If you live within driving distance of a National Forest, I encourage you to look into this tradition for yourself.  It is so much fun! Just Google to find out if you can cut a Christmas Tree near you.  Not every National Forest has this option – it is more common in areas with lower populations.  And it also depends a lot on what kinds of trees grow on USFS land near you.

Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

Tying the tree to the top of the car. Thankfully, we haven’t lost a tree (or a child), yet!

If you live near the Plumas National Forest in Northern California like we do, here is the link to buy your Christmas Tree Cutting permit.  Some forests allow other vendors to sell the permit, as well.  Our local forest used to do that, which was very convenient, but it doesn’t do that anymore.  I mailed in to get our permit a couple weeks ago and have already gotten the permit and map back in the mail.  Very efficient for government service!


Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

Our “perfect” Silvertip Fir Christmas Tree all decorated at home.

I’m so excited to head up the hill in a couple weeks in search of the perfect tree for Christmas 2016!  I will be sharing pictures when I do!signature

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THM Pregnancy Update: 18 weeks

It’s been about a month since my last pregnancy update.  I was hoping to write an update every other week, but, obviously, that has not happened!

Since my last 14 week update, things have been pretty smooth – except for the fact that I tend to forget my limitations (i.e. needing to stop and eat, rest more often, and make sleep a priority).  This has led to a few reality checks in this last month, but… such is life with three kids, busy schedules, field trips, 90 degree Fall weather, and homeschool!

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18 week baby bump – getting bigger and starting to feel the baby move around!


Check-up Fun with Three Kids

I had my 16 week appointment over 2 weeks ago and took all three kids with me this time.  It was one of those easy appointments (no tests), so I had hopes that I would not regret the decision too much!  And, thankfully, it was really quick, painless, and easy.  I checked in, was called to the back just after sitting down in the waiting area, and took my weight (7 lbs gained so far) and blood pressure – all good.

Next, we went right to the bathroom for my urine sample.  We had to wait to use the bathroom, but that 2 minute wait was the longest of the day!  I took my 2 year old in with me, and left my 6 and 8 year old waiting outside the door.  Then we all traipsed back to the exam room to wait for my OB.

My oldest took out his book to read and my ever curious 6 and 2 year old pointed at all the posters in the room, tools, cup of pee, etc. demanding a detailed explanation.  Well, we are homeschoolers, after all, so what better time for a science lesson!

My OB knocked on the door after less than a minute of intense questioning by the kids, and then they turned their barrage of questions on him!  He tested my urine with a test strip – more questions from the kids.  Then he measured my growing belly – more questions.  Finally, he took out the Doppler to listen for the heartbeat – and, you guessed it – more questions.  He was actually very patient with the kids and was not bothered by the questions at all, thank goodness!  If he was, I would seriously consider changing providers!

The kids loved hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time.  (I did, too!) They decided it sounded like “one THOUSAND horses galloping” which was a pretty accurate description.

Then we were done! The entire appointment, from check in to release was less than 10 minutes!  I was very thankful for that!


My THM pregnancy - 18 weeks - Learning the hard way not to overdo it! - NatureAmy.com

Taking a quick snack break on our hike.

Don’t forget to eat…

In the last four weeks, since my last update, I have gotten over the majority of my pregnancy exhaustion that reappeared after I started our busy homeschool schedule.  Any nausea and food aversions also were gone.  However, these two things made me more relaxed in my routine, which led to some not so great things…

Like I said, well into the second trimester, I was getting lazy about eating.  It wasn’t so much what I was eating – I am still sticking to the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating most the time – but when.

I had to eat every 2 hours in my first trimester or I would feel sick.  But I was very careful during that time and rarely felt any nausea and never threw-up.  However, with our school schedule getting busier and extra curricular classes starting up, my eating routine started to slide.

I no longer needed to eat every 2 hours, which was great, but I found out on week 15 that if I did not eat after 3 hours, I would be sick!  Ugh- not fun!

Week 15, I had just dropped the boys off at a morning class and was taking my 2 year old grocery shopping with me.  Suddenly, on the drive to the store, a wave of nausea hit and I felt like I was going to throw up.  I looked at the clock.  Three hours had passed since breakfast, I didn’t have any snacks with me, and I knew I was going to gag right then and there.

Thankfully, I was at a red light.  I picked up an empty cup (there are good things about a cluttered car!) and threw up!  The light turned and I drove through it and pulled over to the side of the road until my head stopped spinning.  We went to the store, bought the first thing that I could find, a bag of veggie chips, and went back to the car to eat 2/3 of the bag between myself and my toddler.  Finally feeling better, we finished our grocery shopping.

You think I would have learned my lesson after that, but I can be a bit dense sometimes…

The next day we were at home and it was a particularly long morning of math with my boys.  Suddenly feeling sick, I looked at the clock to realize it was over four hours since breakfast.  I threw-up again!  Then I ate lunch, but it had been too long and my blood sugar had dropped too low.  Eating a meal was not enough.  My head was spinning still and nothing was helping.  My toddler went down for her nap and the boys got to watch “The Magic School Bus” while I took a nap for about two hours and finally felt better.

I DID learn my lesson after that time, thankfully!  Now, I’ve been sure to pack a piece of fruit, nuts, or cheese stick in my purse before we leave the house.  I’ve also been sure to stop and have a mid-morning snack when we’re home.  Just because the second trimester is easier (usually) than the first, it doesn’t mean I can neglect the needs of my body.


My THM pregnancy - 18 weeks - Learning the hard way not to overdo it! - NatureAmy.com

Our family – minus my 8 year old who is taking the picture – with Mt. Lassen behind us.

Over doing it…

The second hard lesson I’ve learned this month is the importance of rest.  We always do a Fall semester weekend field trip for my husband’s students.  We bring the whole family, spend two nights in the wilderness, and everyone learns a lot and has a great time.  But, it is also a lot of work (read what I feed this large crew with an allergy friendly menu, here).

I spend the entire week before the trip buying the food, and preparing whatever I can before hand.  Then, early Friday morning, we load the kids, food, and gear up, and head to the college to meet the students.  A full day of learning, and eating, later, I have the fun task of getting a toddler, who deals with night-terrors when camping, to sleep.  We did not get much sleep the first night in our little tent.  And a full two days later, after getting home at 10 pm on Sunday night, this pregnant mama was exhausted!

My THM pregnancy - 18 weeks - Learning the hard way not to overdo it! - NatureAmy.com

About 3 miles into our hike to King’s Creek.

Normally these weekend field trips are tiring, but this time, it hit me so much harder.  My husband and I opted not to take our family on the most strenuous hike to the top of Mt. Lassen Peak.  But the 4 mile hike we did instead gave me hours of Braxton-Hicks contractions that did not stop until that evening.  Monday morning, I was spent! I was physically tired, mentally tired, emotionally tired… I had a headache… Tuesday, after more rest, I was starting to feel better, but I had a lingering headache still.  Wednesday, our busiest day of the week, I finally felt like myself again!  Thank you, Lord!


I’m looking forward to our 20 week appointments coming up soon!  We will get a chance to see our little one growing!  It will drive me crazy to not find out the sex, but I’m also kind of excited about waiting – can you be both?

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I’m back! Did you miss me?

You might have noticed that things have been especially quiet on the blog these last two months, and I apologize for that.  But, I’m back!  I explained on Facebook where I was, and if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram (which you should!) you have seen some pictures of our summer adventures.  Summer is an especially busy season for our family.  We spent the majority of the summer camping (stay tuned for some fun posts on that) and lots of time hiking, swimming, relaxing in hammocks, and prepping for large scale backpacking adventures…  I also tackled the KonMari Method in an attempt to simplify our life further. It was a busy season.

Some of our summer adventures in northern California

Some of our summer adventures in northern California

However, now this home school mom and wife of an educator must get back to the school routine.  We are home for the last few weeks of summer, prepping for school, getting in more swimming before the public pool closes, potty training, and generally trying to stay sane in this crazy heatwave in Northern California.  But getting back to a normal routine also means that I will be posting regularly again!  Stay tuned for some yummy healthy recipes, parenting tips, and some exciting changes coming our way…

Dirty little 2 year old hiker!

Dirty little 2 year old hiker!

Thanks for hanging out with me all summer – I am truly so blessed by the consistent traffic this little website generates daily, despite my posting absence.  That is really all due to your Pinterest pins and Facebook shares and I am so thankful for you all!

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Camping with Trim Healthy Mama: A week’s worth of “on-plan” camping menu ideas

When I started THM (Trim Healthy Mama) two years ago, we were right at the start of camping season.  Our family camps a lot in the summer and having a newborn doesn’t stop us from getting out. so we dove right into camping and I tried to figure out what foods I could bring to stay “on-plan” while in the great outdoors.  I posted a weekend allergy-friendly menu that I use for feeding a crowd of non-THMs and also how I stay on-plan with that menu (check out that post here).  However, I wanted to post a family size menu that works for feeding your family in the wilderness for a week or so.  Our recent family trip to Yosemite National Park provided the perfect opportunity to test out everything and also gave me the incentive to stay on plan the entire trip.

Camping with THM: A week's worth of on-plan menu ideas - perfect for a family camping trip - NatureAmy.com

My kids and I below Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite Valley

I am more of a THM Purist than a Drive-thru Sue, but I do own a microwave and I use it every day.  I don’t like to use “Franken-foods” so there were many items that I made ahead of time to bring with me, but a Drive-thru Sue could easily purchase something pre-made at the store – whatever floats your THM boat!  So, without further ado, here’s the menu I use for weeklong camping trips starting with what I prep ahead of time…


Before you go:

  • I made a large batch of Wonder Wraps (p. 205) of the THM Cookbook – these are wonderful for a lunch on the trail and they don’t get soggy like many “bread” options.  This video is fun to watch and shows you how to make them.
  • Mrs. Criddle’s Cowboy Cookies are SOOOO yummy, but they do crumble if they are in a bag.  I took them in a large plastic container and they didn’t get crumbled that way.  But, even if they do crumble, they are still super delicious and full of healthy energy!
  • I make the base to my Famous Taco Chili Recipe and freeze it so that I only have to add canned beans to complete the meal.
  • I add marinade to my chicken breasts and seal them back up to freeze again
  • I make some of my favorite snack recipes from the THM Cookbook – Praline Protein Bars travel well (p. 391) and Berry Crunch Bars (p.392) are a great granola bar replacement.  Trimtastic Chocolate Zucchini Cake (p. 296) also travels really well un-frosted as cupcake/muffins.
  • I bring cut-up veggies for healthy and quick snack options.  It is so easy to skimp on fresh veggies while camping, but this helps with that.

Breakfast ideas:

I like to fire up the griddle while camping with our family and these breakfasts are all quick and easy with minimal prep and cleanup. (Because who really wants to do that while camping?)

  • THM Baking Blend Pancakes and breakfast meat of choice (S) –  this one is super easy.  I generally feed my family whole-wheat pancakes because they don’t have any weight issues, but I make a quick singles serving of low-carb pancakes for myself.
    • 1/4 cup THM baking blend (you can get it at the THM store with my link)
    • 1 whole egg
    • a little almond milk or water to thin it to the right consistency

Surprisingly, this actually makes a pretty good pancake without any baking powder.  The egg gives it the lift that it needs and makes four filling pancakes without any fuss.  Simply cook this with coconut oil or leftover bacon or sausage grease and drizzle with some sugar-free syrup (I bring my own using the THM recipe from the book).

  • Sprouted Grain French Toast with Greek yogurt (E) – this is another simple and quick meal on the griddle.  I use egg whites, a little almond milk, and some sprouted grain bread.  I have a side of Greek yogurt (the individual Oikos 000 work great) for added protein and it’s all good.  For the kids, I use the leftover egg-yolks to make their French Toast and nothing goes to waste.
  • Fried eggs and breakfast meat of choice (S) – quick and easy again
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies (S) – use some that you prepped ahead of time or bring a bag of frozen veggies.  You can always add some cheese or spices to own-it.
  • Oatmeal packets (E) – Make sure to read the ingredients carefully when selecting oatmeal packets.  There are often added ingredients, even in the “plain” varieties.  I like to add a scoop of THM Integral Collagen powder for some good protein.  You could also enjoy it with a Greek yogurt.

These are only 5 breakfast options, but I like to mix and match them for some variety each day.


Lunch ideas:

I am not a brilliant lunch maker.  I was never the kid with the amazing lunch at school and my kids aren’t either.  I like to keep it simple – at home my lunches are generally leftovers or a big pot of soup I eat off of all week.  So, unfortunately, my lunch ideas are not too grand, but they are easy and they pack well if you are heading out for the day.

Camping with THM: A week's worth of on-plan menu ideas - perfect for a family camping trip - NatureAmy.com

My “Wonder Wrap” Wrap – two of these really hit the spot!

  • Wonder Wraps filled with goodies (S, E, or FP depending on your filling choices) – I was pleasantly surprised how well these little wraps held up, even while being stuffed in a backpack for the day!  I filled mine with lunch meat, cheese, avocado, tomato, and lettuce and two were very filling.  I’ve made a similar wrap with a low-carb tortilla on past camping trips, but they always get soggy when you pack them for a hike, but the Wonder Wraps do not!  That makes for a happy camper!
  •  Sprouted grain sandwich (E or CO depending on fillings) – this is my go-to easy packing option.  I can throw together a traditional turkey sandwich (made with lite-Mayo and without the cheese) for a filling E lunch.  Add a piece of fruit and I am set.  Or, if you are wanting even more energy, add some healthy fats (like avocado and cheese) for a CO (crossover) sandwich.  Yummy!
  • Hummus with veggies and Wasa Crackers (FP, S, or CO) – Our family LOVES hummus and we often bring it hiking.  Make sure to read the serving amount or it is easy to crossover, but this is a fun and healthy option.
  • Don’t Forget the Leftovers – leftover dinner can make an easy lunch.  Grilled chicken can easily be made into chicken salad the next day.  My chili is also really good as leftovers.

Snack ideas:

  • Fruit – apples, oranges, and bananas all travel well
  • Nuts – we love pistachios, but whatever you like best will be a great energy boost for a hike
  • Oikos Triple Zero single serve yogurt
  • Wasa Crackers with Laughing Cow Cheese
  • Lite Cheese Sticks with fruit for E or regular cheese sticks for S
  • Mrs. Criddle’s Cowboy Cookies
  • Popcorn
  • Lily’s chocolate
  • Many other make ahead options or bring some on-plan snacks from the store

Dinner ideas:

My not-so well kept camping secret is pre-made salads.  I always pick these up at the store for an easy addition of fresh veggies to our camping meals.  Add one to each of  your dinners, but read the ingredients and nutritional facts carefully.  Sometimes these “healthy” foods are not so healthy.

Marinated chicken breasts (E, S, or FP depending on what you eat it with)

  • Balsamic chicken breasts with Sweet Potato Packets (E)
Camping with THM: A week's worth of on-plan menu ideas - perfect for a family camping trip - NatureAmy.com

Prepping the sweet potato packets.

At home, I added Balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil, salt, pepper, dried basil, and granulated garlic to a bag of frozen chicken breasts.  I swished it around so that it covered the breasts, resealed the bag, and stuck it back in the freezer.  When it was mostly thawed in the ice chest, about day 2, I tossed it on the campfire grilled along with some Sweet potato packets.  It was really good!  I added a pre-made salad with a light vinaigrette dressing and we had a filling E dinner.

Sweet potato packets – simply cut up some sweet potatoes, add a little coconut oil or butter, and some seasonings (I used store bought Onion Soup mix).  Wrap in heavy-duty foil and put on the grill with the chicken.  Check carefully for done-ness (they are steamy, so be careful not to get burned).  Once they are finished, open up the packets and eat right off the foil or scrape onto your plate.

Camping with THM: A week's worth of on-plan menu ideas - perfect for a family camping trip - NatureAmy.com

Grilling the chicken and potato packets over the fire.

  • Teriyaki Chicken Breast Shish Kebabs (FP or E)

At home, add some soy sauce (or liquid aminos), a doonk or two of Stevia, and a little garlic to the frozen chicken breasts.  Swish around the bag and reseal and put it back in the freezer.  At camp, after a few days, take the thawed chicken out of the bad and cut it into small pieces.  Add some veggies of choice (we like red onion, mushrooms, and bell peppers – pineapple chunks are also good for an E option) and skewer them all and add to the grill.  This is a Fuel-pull meal (unless you use the pineapple).  However, add some instant brown rice for an E option or a large pre-made salad.  Or simply enjoy it as it is!

This is a staple in our camping menu.  It is loaded with hidden veggies and lots of great energy.  I always make the base ahead of time so all I have to do at camp is add the canned beans and corn for a very quick dinner.  On this last trip, we made it after a long day of hiking and it took about 10 minutes to make a hearty, healthy meal for everyone.  Add cheese and sour cream for a crossover and some on-plan tortilla chips.

  • Bratwurst with grilled veggies (S) or rice/sweet potato packets (CO)

We love to cook up some store bought pre-cooked bratwurst over the fire.  The kids get to grill their own, with supervision, of course, and they love it!  Our family favorites are Johnsville Cheddar Sausage and Smoked Brats.  I love to saute up some red-onions and bell peppers to eat with them – yummy!  They are also good with a side of rice or sweet potato packets for a crossover.

  • Tacos with Wonder Wraps (S)

Those handy wonder wraps are useful once again with some easy tacos.  The rest of the family enjoys their tacos with corn tortillas, but I like to use my low-carb option.  I brown some hamburger or turkey meat, add some taco seasoning, and load up the toppings.

  • Hamburgers and/or hotdogs (S)

These are a familiar camping option and still easy to do “on-plan”.  I like to wrap my cheese burger in a  big piece of lettuce and add plenty of yummy toppings.

  • Spaghetti (S)

With a can of sugar-free spaghetti/pizza sauce and some browned meat, this can be a super quick dinner.  Add some Dreamfield’s pasta, or Not- Naughty Noodles, or simply eat with some zucchini “noodles” (my personal favorite).


Dessert ideas:

I rely on items I bring from home for desserts, like some Cowboy cookies or Trimtastic cupcakes.  I love a hot cup of tea or sugar-free cocoa or apple cider while warming up by the campfire.

However, if you are feeling adventurous, I love the idea of trying some THM recipes in the Dutch oven.  I have yet to try this, but since we are going to be camping for about 1/3 of our summer, I will have a chance to try this out!  I will definitely share how it goes!

Camping with THM: A week's worth of on-plan menu ideas - perfect for a family camping trip - NatureAmy.com

I love to pick wild blackberries while camping to have as a tasty dessert.

One of my favorite camping desserts is to pick some wild berries and top with whipped cream!  It would be wonderful with a piece of THM cake, as well.  Yummy!


Camping with THM: A week's worth of on-plan menu ideas - perfect for a family camping trip - NatureAmy.com

Be still my heart – she is a daddy’s girl!

I hope these ideas inspire you!  They have worked well for our family – let me know how they work for you!  And if you liked this post, please head on over to my Facebook or Instagram page and give me a “Like” or “Follow”.  I love to connect with my readers!

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A Trim Healthy Mama Goes Camping: or what I eat on a weekend camping trip

I just published a post on the allergy-friendly camping menu I use at least twice a year to feed 20-40 people.  One thing I love about the menu is its versatility.  There is something for everyone in the mix, so if you want to eat healthy, but a large part of the group does not, there are options for everyone.  See the original post for details on the complete menu I use.   This is the companion post I promised to write on what I eat on this trip while still staying “on plan” – the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) Plan, that is.

What I eat on a weekend camping trip to stay on plan with THM -

Burney Falls is one of our favorite stops on our field trips. This pictures says it all…

I love THM (you can read more about my journey with THM here), but one of the BEST things about the plan is that it is easy to tweak a basic menu to be on plan for you, but not for others.  The basic meal types simply pair healthy carbs with protein for an Energizing meal (E), healthy fats with protein for a Satisfying meal (S), or combine healthy carbs, fats, and protein for a Crossover meal (CO).   While camping, I am personally very active and generally hike a lot and I’m on my feet all day.  Therefore, I eat a lot and also indulge in a good amount of Crossover meals.  THM recommends incorporating Crossover meals occasionally when you are at or near goal weight, pregnant and/or nursing, trying to gain weight, or for people with high metabolisms.  When camping, I am burning even more calories than I do in a normal day; as a home school mom with little kids, I am generally quite active everyday (plus I try to exercise daily), but camping takes it up a notch.  If you are the kind of camper that likes to lounge at camp all day enjoying a great book and relaxing, there is nothing wrong with that, but you probably don’t want to eat as many crossovers as I do…

Please read my entire menu plan to understand what I pack for the large group for our trip – this article just goes into what I eat from that menu.  So, let’s jump in…


Day 1 :

Lunch

Lunch for the group is make-your-own sandwiches, fruit, chips, and water or juice.  For myself, I like to do an E sandwich (think healthy carbs and low fat) on a couple pieces of sprouted whole wheat bread.  I use turkey meat, light mayo/mustard, lettuce, and tomato.  However, if I want to make it a Crossover by increasing the healthy fat, I would add some avocado and a cheese slice – yummy!  I add a piece of fruit and some water for a perfect meal.

If you wanted to make an S meal instead (think low in carbs and higher in fat), simply  switch out the sprouted bread for a low-carb wrap or a couple pieces of some THM Nuke Queen Bread made at home before the trip.  You could have up to half an avocado, cheese, and mayo with this option. You could also have a fattier sandwich meat, like salami or roast beef, or even add some pre-cooked bacon slices for a treat.  Most fruits would be too high carb for this option, but if you packed some berries, that would pair perfectly with an S lunch.

Snack-

Snacks can be a bit tricky, because on THM we want to make sure they are centered around protein to keep us fuller longer and to stabilize our blood sugars.  My go-to camping snack is a piece of fruit (an E) and maybe some healthy popcorn (low in fat), but that does not give my body enough protein to balance out the snack.  If you pack some low-fat cheese sticks or a Triple-Zero yogurt, that would work.  You could also grab some sandwich meat from the cooler to add to the snack.  Nuts are also a great snack, especially to take along on a hike.

Sometimes on camping trips, I like to prepare some foods that travel well to bring along.  (I don’t do that for these large group trips, however – getting food ready for 40 people keeps me too busy!) I love to make some Cowboy Cookies by Mrs. Criddles Kitchen or make up some pack-able treats from the THM cookbook (there are too many wonderful choices to list).

tacochiliDinner-

Dinner on the first night is my Famous Taco Chili, which feeds an army and is THM E.  I make the base of it at home and then add the canned beans at camp for a quick “from scratch” meal.  To keep this meal an E, skip adding cheese and sour cream (unless it is low fat) and eat it with some on-plan blue corn tortilla chips.  I always add a pre-made salad mix to the meal, so for an E meal, I make sure it has a lighter dressing and toppings, and, of course, skip the croutons.

I love bringing pre-made salad mixes camping.  I never buy them normally, but when I’m camping, I still want to get my greens, but I don’t want to bother with washing, chopping, slicing, etc.   Read the ingredients carefully.  You may need to mix up a salad without some of the additions to keep it on plan, but that is easy to do.

Dessert – 

I wish THM marshmallows roasted well, but I don’t think they would hold up!  Instead, I have some Lilly’s chocolate and some hot tea and sit back and enjoy the fire!


Day 2

What I eat to stay on plan while camping with THMBreakfast –

I like to keep breakfast simple with such a large group, so I have a large variety of continental breakfast items and heat up a big pot of water.  I eat 2-3 packets of oatmeal topped with a little milk and sweetened with some THM Gentle Sweet.  I also have hot tea sweetened with some THM Gentle Sweet packets (you can find them at the THM store – so convenient for camping!) and half-n-half.  A piece of fruit is always a good addition to this E meal.

Be sure to select the  instant oatmeal packets carefully to find something on-plan.  Most instant oatmeal is made with many added ingredients, including a lot of sugar.  Even the “Plain” variety can have many additional ingredients, but there are some healthier brands, so make sure to read the labels.

To add some protein to your breakfast, I like to add a scoop of collagen powder – it is easy to pack ahead in small Ziploc bags.  Alternatively, you could add the collagen to your hot coffee or tea.  Collagen can also be found at the THM Store, when they are not out-of-stock because it is such a high quality in-demand product!

Lunch – 

In the interest of keeping things simple, day two has the same lunch as day one.  There is a lot of variety in the sandwich meat, so I generally make it a bit differently, but still have an E or CO. (Actually, lets be honest – I always have a crossover – avocado is just too good to pass up on a sandwich.  Plus, I need the energy for all the hiking and caving we do all day.)  I add fruit and a lunch size packet of healthy popcorn.

Snack – 

Same options as day 1.  I like to pack a piece of fruit, or two, and some nuts or cheese sticks along for some hiking energy.  Some Lilly’s chocolate is also a treat!

WurstsDinner –

I love cooking food over the fire while camping, and this dinner does the trick.  I make everyone cook their own sausage (they come precooked, so I don’t have to worry that anyone will under cook them). I generally have Aidell’s Chicken sausages and/or cheddar-wurst for an S meal.  I skip the bun and baked beans I feed the group and have a large salad (from a pre-made salad mix again), this time indulging in something with a creamy salad dressing, since this is an S meal.

Dessert –

We have s’mores and hot drinks again for the group, but I enjoy some Lilly’s chocolate and hot tea or sugar-free hot cocoa instead.


Exploring the caves at Lava Beds National Monument

Exploring the caves at Lava Beds National Monument

Day 3

In keeping with the simplicity theme, my second breakfast is the same as the first.  Just like with lunch, there are so many options that there is still much variety for the group.  I have oatmeal and tea again, though, and a piece of fruit.

Depending on what we are doing on Sunday, we pack a lunch for a hike or simply pack up camp for the long trip home.  We stop for lunch (or dinner, if we had lunch on a hike before leaving) on the drive home someplace where there are many fast food options.  I like to have a lettuce wrapped burger or a large salad – my go-to choices when we eat fast food.


This is just an example of what I eat while feeding a large crowd of non-THMers on a weekend trip.  We will be taking a week-long family camping trip soon, so I plan to document my meals on that trip so that I can post about that as well.  Staying on-plan while out and about is more challenging than when we are at home, but it is very possible.  I try to keep things simple – that works well for me.  But if you like things fancier, that is also possible with some planning and prepping ahead of time.

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An Allergy Friendly Weekend Camping Menu (for a crowd!)

We LOVE camping as a family – and we love taking others camping, as well.  In fact, twice a year, we bring a large number of college students on a weekend camping trip.  This last weekend, we took a group of 30 college students,  plus our family and some extra help, for a grand total of 40 people on a three-day, two-night trip.  This group always includes my husband, who has multiple food allergies, and usually at least one or two students who also have allergies.  So, not only do I have to feed 40 ravenous people, but I also must have a menu that is allergy friendly!  The most common allergies on the trip are dairy, gluten, nuts, and eggs.  Thankfully, I am used to cooking for food allergies (check out my recipe section for my allergy-friendly recipes), so I enjoy the challenge.  It is also a treat for the students with multiple allergies to be able to eat on a school-sponsored trip.  As a wife of someone with multiple food allergies, I know how rare this is!

How we feed 20-40 people camping with an allergy friendly menu. - NatureAmy.com

Checking out the Sulfur Works at Lassen National Park while my hubby lectures in the background.

We visit different locations with our Fall and Spring Semester trips, but the schedule and the food is the same for both.  I have found a menu that works well and I stick to it!  Below is the menu we use, with some variations that I add for those that have food allergies or intolerances.  The healthiness of the food definitely varies, and since I don’t eat sugar or processed flour there are many items I choose not to eat, but since I am feeding 40 people who don’t choose to eat the same way I do, I make sure there are many options available. (Read this post to see what I eat as a Trim Healthy Mama on this trip.)

Another good option if you have a big group is to have an allergy-friendly ice chest with its own cutting board and knife as well as a special table for allergy-friendly food.  I keep gluten/dairy/nut free options away from the potential contaminates in the other food.  The last thing I want in the middle of nowhere is to take an emergency trip to the hospital or have a sick student.  If you have a small group, this may not be necessary depending on the severity of the allergies.


Friday – Day 1

An allergy friendly 3 day camping menu for large groups

Everyone makes their own sandwiches for lunch

Lunch (breakfast is eaten before they come, hopefully…)

Sandwiches with many different bread choices, including whole wheat, sprouted, and gluten-free options

  • Various lunch meat options, we usually have turkey, ham, roast beef, and salami
  • Mayo and mustard
  • Various sliced cheeses
  • Lettuce (already washed and cut into bread-sized pieces)
  • Tomato (washed before and slice when serving)
  • Avocado (cut, scoop, and slice when serving)
  • Peanut butter and/or Sun-butter
  • Jelly

Fruit

  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Grapes

Chips

  • We buy the lunch size variety packs – they actually have some popcorn options that are quite healthy.

For beverages, we make sure everyone brings their own reusable water bottle (read why that is important here) that they can refill often.  We also have 100% juice boxes as an option for those who really want something to drink other than water.

Snack time

The snack options vary greatly in how healthy they are, but it gives choices for everyone.

  • Fruit
  • Several varieties of Trail mix (I have even found a dairy/gluten/peanut-free option at Costco before, but for many allergies, you may need to make your own)
  • Chips and Salsa
  • Cookies

Dinner

I make a HUGE pot of chili (actually, I often need two pots for a really large group) by doubling or tripling my Famous Taco Chili Recipe.  This recipe is allergy friendly and generally a huge hit.  I make the base of it before hand (see the recipe for details) and simply add the canned items at camp and heat.  It makes a homemade camp meal easy-peasy and fills up those hungry tummies with lots of healthy hidden vegetables.   Generally, one recipe of my chili feeds 10-12 hungry adults, so you may need to double (or halve, etc.) the recipe for your group’s needs.

Garnish as desired with shredded cheese, sour cream (Daisy’s squeeze bags are convenient for camping), dairy-free sour cream (my husband loves this special treat), and tortilla chips.

I also serve sliced French or Artisan bread with butter and I bring pre-made salad mixes to toss and serve as well.

I love bringing pre-made salad mixes camping.  I never buy them normally, but when I’m camping, I still want to get my greens, but I don’t want to bother with washing, chopping, slicing, etc.   Read the ingredients carefully – usually there are gluten/nut/dairy/egg-free options.  You may need to mix up a salad in a special bowl excluding an item or two for the allergy group and place it on its separate table.  With a large group, we may have two salad options and mix one bowl especially for the allergy-friendly serving table.

Dessert

S’mores, of course!  We always get a special dairy-free dark chocolate for those who need a dairy-free option,

How we feed 20-40 people camping with an allergy friendly menu. - NatureAmy.com

Roasting marshmallows for s’mores

Also. hot water for hot chocolate, cider, coffee, or tea.


Saturday – Day 2

How we feed 20-40 people camping with an allergy friendly menu. - NatureAmy.com

Breakfast

I like to make breakfasts simple when I’m working with a big group.  So a continental breakfast is the way to go.

As soon as I get up, I put a big pot of water on to boil.  This is used for hot drinks and instant oatmeal packets.

  • Large muffins cut in halves or quarters
  • A large variety of cereal options
  • A large variety of instant oatmeal options (including a gluten free option)
  • Milk (regular, rice, and almond)
  • Fruit
  • Juice
  • Hot drinks
    • Instant coffee (I know, sacrilege, but we’re not coffee drinkers)
    • Tea
    • Hot cocoa packets
    • Apple cider packets
    • Sugar/Stevia/Half-Half

Lunch

In the interest of keeping things simple, day two has the same lunch as day one.  There is so much variety in the type of sandwich each person can make, it gives people the option for something different, if they choose.

Depending on the schedule for the day, we sometimes have the group pack their own lunch right after breakfast.  This has worked very well when we have a long hike.  We also make sure there are plenty of snack items available to pack as well.

Dinner

How we feed 20-40 people camping with an allergy friendly menu. - NatureAmy.com

I love cooking food over the fire while camping, and this dinner does the trick.  I make everyone cook their own sausage (they come precooked, so I don’t have to worry that anyone will under cook them).

  • Pre-cooked sausages, an assortment
    • Costco polish sausages
    • Aidell’s Chicken sausages (these are a great allergy-friendly option)
    • Cheddar-wurst
    • Buns, I like to buy the large hoagie size – Gluten-free simply enjoy this bunless, or they could use some GF bread from lunch
    • Baked beans – I heat these up on the stove
    • Condiments – ketchup, mustard, etc.
    • Premade salads (see the note from Friday night)

Dessert

S’mores and hot drinks again.

And my mother, who often comes along to help me (I am spoiled that way!), makes an amazing peach cobbler in the Dutch oven for an additional treat.  It is made with canned peaches, Bisquick, some sugar, and dairy-free margarine.   She works the magic – and we all enjoy it!

cobbler


Sunday – Day 3

In keeping with the simplicity theme, my second breakfast is the same as the first.  Just like with lunch, there are so many options that there is still much variety for the group.  Sometimes there is even leftover cobbler from the night before and that is especially good for breakfast!

Depending on what we are doing on Sunday, we have packed a lunch for a hike or simply packed up camp for the long trip home.  We stop for lunch (or dinner if we had lunch on a hike before leaving) on the drive home someplace where there are many fast food options.  We also make any leftovers available if people don’t have money for lunch or dinner.

How we feed 20-40 people camping with an allergy friendly menu. - NatureAmy.com

Caving with a group of students at Lava Beds National Monument


 

That is how I feed 20-40 people and keep it allergy friendly and mostly healthy for a weekend.  It’s not amazing, but it has worked for several years and gives a lot of variety while keeping things as simple as possible.

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