You’d be surprised how many people overlook their food supply when they prepare for a festival, and this is a big mistake. While you may think there’s plenty on offer around the site, festival food is expensive. You’ll end up spending ludicrous amounts of money if you have it for every meal. Don’t get me wrong, festivals can be host to many culinary delights but quality can vary while prices remain high.
To help you avoid paying through the teeth, we thought we’d put together a quick guide to festival food – what to bring, how to make it and how to do so without bringing along the kitchen sink. Don’t forget to check out our wider festival checklist too when packing all the rest.
Learn the Rules
Before you start dreaming of barbecues and complex meals, take a moment to consider the campsite rules for the festival you’re going to. Many festivals are against open fires. Barbecues can be deadly when paired with tents and drunken revelers. A lot of festival organisers will stipulate specific types of stove or fuel and glass bottles or jars are often off limits.
If you can barbecue and have space to bring one and fuel along, there are several options you can cook that are simple and easy to do. Burgers and hot dogs are the perfect choice. Easily thrown on the grill, once cooked you can put them straight into rolls, removing the need for plates and cutlery. Bring along some ketchup or mustard for toppings. Vegetarians and vegans can opt for vegetarian sausages, falafel or roast vegetables, like the ever-popular grilled corn on the cob. Barbecues are best enjoyed with others so try and plan it with your companions, distributing the chores amongst you; someone brings the barbecue, someone brings the buns and another brings the hot dogs.
Keeping it Cool
It’s the height of summer, you’re taking raw meat with you and there are no refrigerators. This can be a recipe for disaster if you don’t take care. If you have a cooler, it’s worth bringing it along. Not only is it good for food but you can cool drinks in it too, something else you’ll find gets warm quick. Even with a cooler it’s advisable to have your barbecue or fresh food early on in the weekend, probably the first night or morning, just to play it safe.
Simple is Best
Even if you’re a culinary expert at home, at a festival you’ll be limited by what you can bring. Plus, you’re there to experience the festival, not cook meals all day. For that reason it’s advisable to go with easy meals that are quick, require few ingredients and don’t require a kitchen’s worth of kit. If you can bring a kettle and a means to heat it, you’re sorted for noodles, soups and other instant meals. Also, tinned food you can cook and eat in a mess tin keeps your gear to a minimum. You can cut weight down further with a handy spork.
You’d be surprised how easy a hearty meal is with nothing but a pan and camp stove. Boil up some pasta and add pesto; add a tin of chili to some rice; beans are a classic camp meal and can be spiced up with some smoked paprika or curry powder to make them a little less dull. Soup is probably the simplest dish you can make and is a cinch to cook up in minutes.
If you’re keeping it very basic and don’t want to cook at all, you can still enjoy something tasty. Pitta breads won’t get crushed in a bag and you can load them with anything. Tuna is a tasty option that doesn’t need prepped or chilled and now you can get them pre-mixed with different flavourings. There are lots of canned foods that don’t need to be cooked and if you have a cooler, you can bring cold sandwich fillings, pre-cooked meals and lots more.
Often at festivals you simply won’t have time to prepare food through the day. You’ll have a packed schedule and you’re going to have to eat on the go if you’re going to see all the bands and events you want to catch. For that reason it’s smart to bring along plenty of snack foods. Chocolate bars offer a quick boost and if you want to go a little healthier, fruit and nut mixes, protein bars and dried fruit are great too.
This is essential no matter what. If you’re in the sun all day, especially if you’re drinking, you need to make sure to stay effectively hydrated. Keep a water bottle or hydration pack on you throughout the day and top it up when you get the chance. If you don’t have a bottle on you, make a point to pause for a drink of water every so often. You’ll thank yourself for it later and if you get seriously dehydrated, it can potentially ruin your whole weekend. Plus, realise you’ll be walking some considerable distances at bigger festivals like T in the Park, which will naturally cause you to sweat and lose fluids that need to be replenished.
Have Fun with It
You’re at a festival; the plan is to have a blast. There are great ways to incorporate your food into the fun. If you can have a barbecue or stove, toasting marshmallows is lots of fun and s’mores are a great way to chill out at the end of the night and they’re super easy to make with items that don’t require a cooler.
Sample the Cuisine
As mentioned before, food at festivals can be pricey, but there’s usually some really interesting fare on offer and it’s worth sampling some of the more interesting and exotic food while you’re there. Food vans are becoming hugely popular of late and many offer a wide range of international cuisine presented in a fun, street food format. Bear in mind that quality can vary, but if you let your stomach be your guide you’re sure to find something great to eat. For example, at Glastonbury last year you’d have been treated to gourmet hot dogs, pie shops, mac’n’cheese huts, breakfast bars and even a specialist fish finger van.