Supporting food vendors at festivals is fantastic. Many are independent companies with hardworking staff looking to earn a living. Besides, the food is cracking, and the choice at a music festival is insane. Pizza, hot dogs, burgers, wraps, pancakes, waffles, fried rice, nachos, spring rolls, noodles, a big tray of chips - there’s pretty much everything you could ever want.
But surviving solely off food from the vendors can take a toll on your bank account. And even if you do plan on eating food from the stalls, they don’t stay open forever, and you might be left waddling back to your tent starving with nothing to eat. And there’s nothing worse than hanging out your arse, stomach groaning, and having to wait hours until you can eat. This is why it’s essential to bring some good food for festivals.
But what do you bring exactly? Facilities are limited and you need something quick that's minimal effort. Here are some festival food ideas to consider.
Crisps are easily the best food to take to a festival. For one, crisps and booze? A match made in heaven. Crisps are also a zero-effort snack that you can scran on the way to the arena, before bed to prevent that hangover, or first thing in the morning to sort your hungover stomach out. And they don’t need cooking or keeping cool.
You could put crisps at the bottom of your bag, crush them all, and they’ll still taste great. We don’t exactly recommend it but you get the point. Even better, there are dozens of flavours to keep your taste buds entertained.
Scran in a can
Photo: Heinz UK / Facebook.com
Come on, we’re British, you've gotta have some beans. And they're a festival food staple. But it has to be Heinz. Other brands are for serial killers. But seriously, beans are a top choice because you can eat them cold or hot, making them one of the most popular festival foods. They’re also a great hangover cure thanks to the protein, sugar, salts, folic acid, zinc, and they release energy slowly to power you through to your next meal. And they taste fit.
Heinz have also jazzed their beans up to include barbecue, chilli, curry, and vegan sausage flavours.
There's also countless soups, spaghetti hoops, ravioli, macaroni cheese, Bolognese, and pasta with sausages in handy cans you could take. And sweetcorn, peas, carrots, and other tinned vegetables can help you fight off festival flu. Just be mindful that
You can’t beat carbs, can you? You can use a simple loaf to make dozens of different kinds of sandwiches (including crisp sandwiches, the nation's fave). And if you bring a cooler bag for meat and cheese, the possibilities are endless. If you’re lucky enough to have some kind of camping stove, you can have toast for breakfast.
Bagels are a good shout too. You can add all sorts of toppings, such as peanut butter, Nutella, Philadelphia spread, your tinned vegetables, or just loads of bagel seasoning. Both are filling and high in calories. “High in calories” might not sound too appealing, but when you’re having so much fun, it can be easy to forget to eat. This bagel combo should stop your stomach from eating itself if you lose track of time.
belVita breakfast bars
Photo: belVita / Facebook.com
A popular choice for a festival snack, belVita bars release their energy steadily over four hours, preventing crashes and keeping you lively. Keep one in your bum bag so you can snack whenever you need.
A bottle of Lucozade the size of your arm
Photo: Luczade UK / Facebook.com
Yeah, it’s not food, but it’s essential. We’ve already touched on preventing and curing hangovers with beans and crisps, but that effort goes to waste if you don’t rehydrate yourself. Lucozade is the final piece of the puzzle. It’s the sugar-infused kick up the arse you need to get back in the pit and make you feel somewhat human again. Gatorade, Powerade, and other “-ades” that contain sugar and electrolytes work too.
Or coconut water
Don't like energy drinks like Lucozade and Powerade? Coconut water is your new bestie. It basically does everything listed above that energy drinks do. It rehydrates you like energy drinks but it's naturally isotonic and is absorbed faster than non-isotonics. So you'll rehydrate quicker with coconut water than you would with tap water. It's also full of magnesium, potassium, (you need both when you're hungover) and other minerals you need to, y'know, live.
Pretty much every single festival offers free drinking water. But bringing your own is a great shout as the queues are always longer than the Great Wall of China. And when you’ve finished your bottled water, you can go fill it up again. You’ll have to eventually. But having a bottle in your tent, ready for you on that first night you stumble back to your tent, leathered, and for the incoming hangover in the morning… you’ll shed tears of gratitude for your past self's decision to pack it.
Also, check the website of the festival you're going to. Many let you bring a small bottle into the arena so you don't have to keep buying bottles and wasting plastic.
Pot Noodle... or similar
Photo: Pot Noodle / Facebook.com
Now, it’s obviously not the most nutritional food out there, but it goes down well, it’s easy, cheap, quick, and there are dozens of flavours. And all you need is hot water and a spork. Both of which you could ask another camper for. Or, if you’re polite enough, someone working a food stall might be kind enough to give it to you. But we wouldn't rely entirely on that. They probably have someone asking them for something every 5 minutes.
Bananas and oranges
Another top hangover food. One banana is one of your five a day and full of fibre, potassium, electrolytes, and it's easy on the stomach if you’re feeling fragile. They’re also naturally protected by the peel, and you don’t need to keep them in the fridge or wash them. Need we say anymore?
Oranges, again, don't need a fridge or a wash before you eat them. There's loads of vitamin C in there to help you keep healthy (which might also help with a hangover), fibre, and loads of other good stuff. We don't need to tell you oranges are good for you.
Energy bars/protein bars/cereal bars
Standing up all day is knackering. Moshing and dancing all day is knackering too. Now add alcohol, sleep deprivation and stretch it out over a whole weekend. You’re going to be shattered whether you know it or not.
Bars give you that little boost you need and can help you feel fuller for longer. But this doesn’t mean you should skip meals. No amount of bars will replace a proper, hot, nutritious meal. But if you need something to tide you over, a high-protein or high-fibre bar of some description should do nicely.
Here’s a bit of a veteran’s hack for you: order a pizza the day before you set off to the festival site, then put it straight in the fridge. In the morning, whack it in a cooler bag and bring it with you so you can have cold pizza for breakfast each morning. Start the day the right way - with a bucket load of calories and cheese.
You can put whatever you want in trail mix so you can tailor it to your taste. Or just get a big ol' bag of it from the shop. It’s pretty healthy, and you can even put chocolate in it. It might melt, but it's chocolate. It’ll still taste good. Just whip out the spork. Nuts and seeds are perfect because they’re filling, full of healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. And it’s pretty hard to crush them.
Bit of sugar to wake you up? Lovely. Grab a bag of Haribo, popcorn, mini ready-made pancakes, banana bread, doughnuts, waffles, pretzels, lollies, chewy things like Wham! bars, Snickers, Digestives, and maybe even some lozenges if you’re the kind to scream your head off to your favourite song. (No judgement, we’ve lost our voices from screaming more times than we can count.)
Or savoury snacks
Photo: Ritz Crackers / Facebook.com
If sugar highs aren’t your thing, go savoury instead. Or both. Both is good. Choose from sausage rolls, spring rolls, falafel, mini quiches, houmous and pita bread, crackers and cheese, and salted popcorn. Then there's beef jerky or something similar like salmon, coconut, or mushroom jerky. You might need a cooler for some of these though. Or just eat them on day one, up to you.
The legendary cheese string deserves it's own special shout out. We may all look like adults, but the inner child resurfaces when someone busts out a cheese string. It’s illegal to eat it any other way than peeling it off bit by bit. It’s a delightful experience, and they also contain calcium, vitamin C, protein, and fibre. Both protein and fibre help you feel full for longer.
Photo: Heat2Eat Self-Steamer / Facebook.com
The future is here, guys! They can be a bit tricky to find but if you do find a self-heating meal, you're laughing. These dishes don't need boiling water, flames, grills, or whatever you use to cook. Instead, you set it up, pour room-temp water on the little packet inside and step back as it heats up your food. Some have food in already, some you need to add yourself. They're also a little on the expensive side, but there are loads of different hot meals that you can buy so you don't even have to properly leave your tent to fuel up.
Freeze-dried camping meals
Photo: Base Camp Food / Facebook.com
An alternative to the one above, these are much cheaper and there are bucket loads of options including goulash, full English, veg curry and rice, chicken and rice, Bolognese, mac and cheese, etc. etc. These meals have an incredible shelf-life, weigh next to nothing, and maintain up to 90% of the nutrients, which you'll be thankful for after three days on the piss.
Check before so you don’t get in any trouble, but some festivals allow disposable barbecues. If you have limited funds, this could really save you a lot of money. You can cook all sorts with a barbecue, including halloumi, burgers (including veggie), chicken (skewers, perhaps?), hot dogs, toasties, wraps, and vegetables, like corn on the cob. Honestly, the list goes on and on.
If you’re bringing a stove of some description
Congratulations, the world is your oyster! You can cook eggs, which are brilliant for you and help with hangovers, jacket potatoes with just about any topping, pasta and noodle dishes, eggs (scrambled, fried, omelette), rice dishes, and soup (which you could also eat cold). Then there are bacon sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs, halloumi wraps (if you have a cooler bag for the meat and cheese), toast, even a cup of tea in the morning. If you use your imagination, there’s so much you can do.
But double-check the festival will allow you to bring the stove as some don’t, and some only allow specific types.
Festivals are a laugh. Nothing beats the carefree atmosphere, seeing your favourite artists live, and lightly bullying your mates for a whole weekend. But it’s easy to forget to eat or not eat enough, which could make you unwell or even pass out, resulting in you missing the set you’ve been most hyped for.
We joke a lot, but it’s important to look after your health so you can keep having the best time. So ensure you pack enough food for festivals to keep you energised for your favourite artists. And if you have a spare few quid, do check out the food vendors. The food is unreal, they appreciate the custom, a proper meal will do you some good, and it’s fantastic to support smaller businesses.
Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.