Good day all,
I've been car camping, backpacking and canoe camping since I remember. I was a Hike/Canoe trip leader at the old Adirondack Swim Camp near Rainbow Lake, NY in the Summer of 1969. Prior to that great job I grew up with Coleman stoves, campfires and cooking fireplaces. There are tons of foods out on the supermarket shelves all good!! For the past few years, I've used Knorr Brand Rice and Noodle Sides, a complete meal for many and a great side for others. I mix packaged tuna in with the Knorr noodles and have a great dinner for two! For rice, I don't usually mix anything with the package but Vienna sausages would be or Summer sausage which will last on the trail or out of your storage container from your vehicle.
Complete freeze dried meals are the best for larger groups, " Mountain House" and other great food companies make these all around meals. I've had their products over the years and for large families, etc. they are perfect. Then lots of people have used the military MRE's and the way I feel as a vet, if they're good enough for the military, they're good enough for me! They are very high in salt, so drink a ton of water.
Then we get back to the old fashioned meals like at home, and this is where car camping at a site with a table and cook stand is best used. Many Forest Service and State CGs have these available, and have fire danger warnings up with a list of restrictions for stoves vs. campfires. So do your homework prior to our trip. As far as home-style meals are concerned, they really aren't any different than out of your home kitchen, it just takes a little tweaking and you are right back to the pioneer days of cooking over an open fire or charcoal grill, but pack a backup propane two burner stove, i.e., "Coleman" just in case!! You should make menus at home using all the same products as potatoes for instance can be pre-wrapped in Aluminum foil at home, just poke a fork in them, or they will explode in the fire, meats should be kept in a cooler until cooked and other sides as well. I don't know any restrictions on diets so that is up to the chief cook and bottle washer. Deserts are always fun for the crowd and kids are easily pleased with food like "Smores" so that's pretty simple. I used to like making instant cold water pudding, milkshakes and such which are now easy to make thanks to pre packaged deals.
The list is up to you and the products are available for any family outing, be it campground with your vehicle or in backpacks and everyone shares items. My advice is to experiment with all the items you will have in the campsite by trying them out at home and replicating the conditions as best you can, cooking with limited utensils, etc. won't be a challenge out there. So be safe, have fun and you might catch me at a location in Eastern New Mexico !
There are a lot of more complicated meals, but a really easy one that you can make ahead of time is a tinfoil meal where are you take a loaf of French bread or you can use other types and slice it an odd number of times about three-quarters of the way through. Then you mix up a tablespoon of au jus half a stick of butter, some garlic powder and Worcester shire sauce. spread this in the bread like you're making french bread then layer in provolone cheese and roast beef. double wrap it in tin foil and you just have to cook it until it's warm when you're ready for it. it is easy to prep ahead of time easy to cook and clean up after and then you have these little pull apart individual sandwiches which is why you cut it in an odd number of slices. make some blackberry or apple crisp to go with it and some vegetables that you spice all which can be cooked in their little foil packets and you're done.
I could type out a big long laundry list of excellent campfire meals with a lot of ingredients....BUT....I always like to treat campfire meals with the same mentality/approach of using a crockpot. All you have to do is bring what is in your fridge (carrots, potatoes, onions, whatever kind of meat you choose, whatever spices you choose) and throw them all together and wrap it in aluminum foil! Boom, done. Simple, easy, minimal preparation, and DELICIOUS!