Yes, most festivals have food vendors, but if you are on a budget, or are a bit of a picky eater, you might like to plan ahead and take at least some meals. These meals/snacks assume no cooking facilities (except maybe a heater coil you can use in your car’s cigarette lighter to heat a cup of water), and limited cooler/ice.
Meals you can pre-prepare:
Pre-prepared salads can be a good Day 1 option but will wilt with heat so use quickly. Or use salads as the base of a wrap with some avocado dip or cream cheese (you can get those 4 in 1 snap apart ones and just take 1 of them). if you’re taking lettuce, try hardier varieties like cos or even baby spinach and put them in a separate container to cut up cucumber, tomatoes, carrots or anything wet. To keep fresher longer, try wrapping the outside of the bag with wet paper towels.
Rice paper rolls are probably best for Day 1 or early Day 2 (before the ice runs out). Take cut up carrots, cucumber, sprouts, capsicum, and any fresh herbs you want to add (coriander? basil? mint?). You can freeze fresh herbs to keep them fresh for a little longer, but they will wilt fast once thawed, so consider dried herbs if the festival outlook is for severely hot weather. If you have access to a water heater, heat a cup full of water and add rice vermicelli for a couple of minutes until they soften (but vermicelli is optional). When you’re ready to put it all together, put a shallow bowl of water out in the sun to get warm. Then dip one rice paper wrapper into the water for a few seconds to soften, and also sprinkle some water onto your ‘wrapping plate’ so your wrapper doesn’t stick. Lay it down and place all your ingredients in a row (about 2cm high) across the centre, leaving about 5cm uncovered on each side. Fold in sides, then roll tightly to enclose the filling. Place on your clean plate fold side down. Serve with sweet chilli sauce or soy sauce (or as is if you have leftover avocado dip or cream cheese to add to the inside).
Make chilli con carne and freeze it (it may not be ready to eat by Day 1 but it will be fine by Day 2). The most basic recipe is 1 onion; 2 cloves garlic ; 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (plus other spices as you like – basil, thyme or rosemary are good); 500g beef mince (optional); 2 tablespoons tomato paste; 800g chopped tomatoes (from a can is ok); and 1/2 cup of water or stock. To make: cook the onion and garlic in olive oil in the pan until onion turns translucent. Add chilli and herbs. Stir mince in if relevant and cook until brown. Add tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and some stock/water and stir over a reduced heat. Keep adding the stock/water until it is a consistency you like (you will want to cook it for longer if adding mince so that the meat picks up the chilli and tomato flavours). You can cook up spaghetti or rice to add with it if you like or eat as is. Freeze at least overnight (2 days is better), and yes, you can freeze pasta and rice, but it does tend to go a bit gluggy – you might choose instead to use Uncle Ben’s 90 second rice straight from the packet as this is partially cooked but it will taste a bit crunchy, or you can put hot water in the packet and reseal it (with a peg) if you have access to a water heater. If you have a water heater, you could also freeze your meal in a small ziplock bag and dunk it in water and use the heater to heat the pouch in the water, but be careful not to burn out your heater coil. Aim more for warm than hot. This meal also goes well on it’s own on a breadroll.
There are a whole range of no-prep meals you can buy these days from supermarkets. Look in the pantry aisle for ancient grain salads, tuna and brown rice/quinoa meals or con carne or goulash meals you can just open and eat from the can. There are also a range of noodles, couscous, or soup options you just need to add hot water to. My advice is to make sure that whatever you choose it is going to be ‘moist’ enough, as generally festivals are pretty hot and dry and dusty and people don’t hydrate enough, so having extra sauces to chuck in is never a bad thing.
And there are a huge range of breakfast options – just add milk to the bowl cereals, up and go (or similar) meal replacements, or breaky bars. If you’re taking milk, those small tetra packs of long life milk are a good option to freeze (makes your ice last longer) and you can use only what you need without having to worry about an open milk container in the esky to knock over.
Don’t forget the snacks! Along with salty offerings such as chips (potato flakes), pretzels or nuts, don’t forget other options like boiled eggs (they’re a great protein option, but only until Day 2 as they can go off pretty quickly), bags of frozen berries or grapes, oranges and apples (which will last longer than cut up fruit), or even pre-packaged “2 fruits in a can”. Muesli bars are also easy to chuck into your backpack and take to the dancefloor. Rice crackers in the small lunchbox size bags are also another good option, but you’ll probably want something to dip them in (crackers and dips are also available from the pantry aisle of your supermarket but just be careful with those that are ‘cheese’ as they don’t last long in a hot tent, and can be really high in salt). If you crave extra protein, consider also taking some jerky which keeps well until it’s opened. And of course, something sweet like lollies or chewing gum.
Of course, take LOTS and LOTS of water… but if you’re looking for something different, you can take gatorade or coconut water or whatever your electrolyte of choice is, or make your own cordial.
This cordial contains salts as well as sugar, but don’t just use table salt, use an unrefined salt like sea salt, or himalayan rock salt or pink salt. These salts include other minerals and trace elements like magnesium and calcium. Another option is to take multivitamin tablets that dissolve in water and add that to your water or cordial made without salt.
Simple cordial recipe: 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind; 2 teaspoons grated lime rind; 3/4 cup lemon juice; 3/4 cup lime juice; 1 teaspoon citric acid; 1 teaspoon tartaric acid; 1 and 1/2 cups caster sugar; 3 cups boiling water; 1 tablespoon unrefined salt (optional). Place rinds and juice, citric acid and tartaric acid, salt and sugar in heatproof bowl. Add boiling water and stir until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool and strain into a hot, sterilised bottle and seal. Refrigerate until chilled. To serve, use 1/3 cup cordial to 2/3 cup water. If you’d prefer to swap honey for sugar, use 1/4 cup honey in place of all caster sugar and heat on the stove as it will take longer to dissolve. You may also like to add other flavours such as ginger or mint, just remember to strain off before bottling.