Grilled Cheese at Dust City Diner at Burning Man 2011. Photo Credit: Ana Grillo
Grilled Cheese at Dust City Diner at Burning Man 2011. Photo Credit: Ana Grillo

Today I bought three huge bags of neon fur and a pound of glitter to mod podge. Because that’s just the kind of stuff on your to-do list when you’re getting ready for Burning Man.

It’s my first burn and I am positively buzzing with anticipation. Outfits and magical fairy dust aside, there are practical survival things to think about too, like what are we going to eat?

We are going to be in the middle of the desert in hundred degree weather and no refrigeration, just coolers and a supply of ice. It’s going to be extreme camping cooking. I’ve done my research and have picked up some great tips:

  1. Ziplocks are your best friend. Even better, a vacuum sealer is your bestest best friend, but Ziplocks will do fine. Playa dust will get on everything and the best way to minimize ingestion of it is to prepare and portion out meals ahead of time.
  2. Portion out your ice in Ziplocks. When it melts, your cooler won’t turn into a soupy mess, and you’ll have a baggie of ice-cold water to drink. Ahh, refreshing!
  3. Elevate your food in the cooler using Tupperware or layers of cardboard. If your bags of ice leak, this adds some protection for your goods so they’re not sitting on the bottom of your cooler in water.
  4. Label your coolers with contents. This will minimize unnecessary opening and closing. This especially holds true if you are the kind of person who stands in front of the fridge hemming and hawing over what you’re in the mood for.
  5. Your body will crave hydration, protein, and sodium. Plan accordingly. Some popular items: bacon, soups, chili, peanut butter.
  6. Opt for sturdy breads. Flat bread and naan will last longer than softer breads.
  7. Don’t forget your coffee/tea/French press. Mint tea can help settle stomachs.
  8. Bring Coconut Oil. You can cook with it, use it to soften hands and feet battered by the elements, and it doesn’t require refrigeration.
  9. Have an easy meal ready for Night 1. You are going to be excited and busy setting up camp. It may be late. You won’t want to cook a thing. Grab a burrito in Reno so you have something easy and ready to eat.
  10. Get some of your favorite take-out and freeze it. It will be a great later-in-the-week treat. Indian? Great choice. Sushi? Not so much.

My game plan is to prepare as much as possible in advance, portion out the meals, vacuum seal, and freeze them so that on-site prep will be fast, easy, and will produce minimal grey water (you are not allowed to dump waste water on the playa).

Groovik's Cube, Sunrise, Burning Man 2009. Photo Credit: Michael Holden
Groovik’s Cube, Sunrise, Burning Man 2009. Photo Credit: Michael Holden

Want to see my Burning Man Meal Plan? I’ve done the work so you don’t have to. Less time worrying about food, more time making sparkle shoes.



  • Gazpacho and Grilled Cheese
  • Mediterranean Tapas (Pita, Hummus, Cured Meat, Cheese, Red Peppers, Olives, Artichokes, Gigantes Beans in Tomato Sauce, Cornichons)
  • Instant Udon Soup Bowls



  • Rocky Road Rice Krispies Treats (i.e. amped up Rice Krispies Treats with add-ins of chocolate chips, peanuts, and marshmallows)
  • Slutty Brownies


Other helpful links to check out:

Sunrise at The Temple, Burning Man 2009. Photo Credit: Michael Holden
Sunrise at The Temple, Burning Man 2009. Photo Credit: Michael Holden

I’m ready to get dusty and soak in all the beauty I can. Are you? Any veteran burners out there with good tips and words of wisdom to share?

Tips on Preparing Food for Burning Man 24 August,2012Stephanie Hua

  • littlepiggy

    Great suggestions Ana. This is my tenth year and I love to cook. Having delicious and nutritious meals at Burning Man is a priority for me. Here is a tip to add your great suggestions. I create an actual menu and make it look fancy like a good restaurant. I print it two sided and laminate it. Front side: Breakfast, Lunches (Soups, Salads, Sandwiches)Dinners, back side: Snacks and Drinks. This works great for not staring in the ice chest to see what I have to eat.

    • Steph @ Lick My Spoon

      Love that idea! What are some of your favorite lunches/dinners to make?

    • michelelebelle

      That’s so cool. Sounds fancy with that laminated “menu” LOL 🙂
      I also have a printed menu, but it’s just my darling husband and me. Helps him to pick out something when he doesn’t know what he’s hungry for on the Playa.

  • Stripes

    This is a pretty great list! There’s a few points that I (and my six years on the playa) very much disagree with, however.

    Do NOT bring a french press, unless you’re going with a big camp and already have planned out how to deal with dishes, composting, grey water, etc. For the first-timer with a pan of water and a trash bag, coffee grounds can be a nightmare. As gross as it is, freeze-dried is your best best when camping. You want to reduce the amount of packaging and prep for everything as much as possible.

    Do NOT elevate your food in your cooler, unless you intend to buy new ice every day (which I don’t recommend). The water in the bottom will stay cool longer than the air in the cooler will. Just make sure your food is well wrapped.

    Do NOT bring frozen take-out, unless you expect to eat it right away, in the first two days. Would you eat the container of noodles that had been sitting on the counter for half a week?

    Don’t plan on having refrigeration. Ice is expensive, the lines are long, and you’re not going to want to stand in the sun every day for several hours waiting to claim your bag. Instead, bring foods that will naturally remain cool, like those little fruit cocktail cups and keep them in the truck of your car/under your vehicle out of the sun.

    Your meal plan looks delicious, but it also looks like a lot of prep, and a LOT of cleanup. I wish you luck, my friend.

    • michelelebelle

      STRIPES, say it ain’t so~
      Real friends don’t let Playa Friends drink freeze dried coffee~! Ack!

      I don’t think I could stomach that for 8 mornings!

      We usually don’t have to buy our first ice at the Playa until Weds or Thursday after arrival on Monday morning. Good reminder to remove all packaging from your food stuffs. I have a feeling we’ll be hauling out a lot less trash this year~
      Peanut butter, crackers, sardines, smoked oysters, Luna bars, jerky, dried fruits, all great ideas for easy and satisfying snacks.

  • michelelebelle

    I love your Playa food ideas.

    This is my 4th trip to the Playa. This year, I put my Food Saver to work!

    BONUS: Food Saver is non-BPA!
    I’ve prepared our meals in serving portions for two or three.

    I’m bringing the following frozen items:

    Home fries, bacon, cooked lentils, taco salad meat, baked ziti, shrimp jambalaya, steaks, chili with beans, mahi mahi, pork carnitas with peppers, lemonade, limeade.

    We put dry ice in one cooler and keep all our frozen stuff in that. The Frozen food Cooler does not get opened until Thursday! Everything is still frozen on Thursday, but the dry ice is gone. That’s when I put a block of ice inside to keep the other stuff frozen as long as possible.

    I keep some frozen portions of food for Mon, Tues and Weds in the other large daily use cooler with milk, eggs, condiments, yogurt, etc. I also utilize Mason jars for other things, including leftovers.

    I store butter, cheeses in Tupperware square containers.

    Eggs in another Tupperware container.
    We utilize a 3rd cooler for our drinks and use that runoff water for our shower bag. Later in the week, like Saturday, we empty the water from the other coolers for shower bag. By Sunday, we are down to two coolers, and Monday, only the one cooler. I’ve been camping for a long time, I’ve got this thing down!

  • willb4now

    Sorry girfriend, Glitter is a no-can-do on the playa. Moop city and impossible to clean up.

  • bc11959

    Great Ideas!! 🙂 ide like to share a few of mine as well for new burners, like i once was, looking for tons of great advice!! i am a gal who likes to eat good on the playa and share with my burner family. So what i did was plan and precook my meals ahead of time, and pack them in Crockpot liner bags. You release as much air as possible, and twist tie them tightly. These are heat resistant and are SO easy for heating up delicious meals in no time at all!! Toss them in the freezer and then when it’s time to go, throw them into a cooler labeled DINNERS ONLY DO NOT OPEN (this will ward off the grazers looking for a midday snack and releasing any cool air. Open that cooler once a day only) i insulated the freezer cooler with ziplock bags which i filled with water, layed flat, and froze. (these not only hold up as a great sub for ice blocks, but once the ice melts you have an extra supply of cold water, and no mess!! 🙂 ) i also used 4 blocks of the arctic ice dry ice blocks. I only kept my dinner supplies in this cooler, opened it once a day, and all of my food stayed frozen for all seven days. LIke Stephanie said, i kept my coolers slightly elevated and in the shade. I used a three cooler system…. one for frozen dinners, one for everyday snacks, one for drinks. For the every day snacks and drink coolers, i again lined them with the frozen ziplock bags as well as loose ice which we dumped in ziplock bags and we refilled daily on the playa. This eliminates grey water as well as provides you with more water to drink 🙂

    Now as for what i packed to eat on the playa, here is my precooked menu….

    Beef Stew, Chili, Vegetarian Stir fry, Chicken Stir fry, Spaghetti with meat sauce, minestrone soup, and tacos.

    As far as prep goes, i boil rice and noodles and such on the playa. It only takes a couple of minutes. At the same time i boil a pot of hot water, drop the entire crock pot bag still sealed into the boiling water and boil until it it warms up. usually about 10 minutes. And Presto!! Hot delicious meals, with very little clean up. I can’t tell you how many times people told me that we had the best food in the playa. Nothing compares to a warm filling meal when the temp drops and before a night of fun!

    For breakfast we made scrambled eggs, pancakes, turkey bacon, hard boiled eggs, and fresh fruit. Hard boiled eggs are an excellent snack on the playa. Cold, refreshing, and full of protein!! (i hard boiled them at home and put them in plastic egg containers, labeled hard boiled so they did not get confused with the raw. i packed the raw eggs in a seperate egg containers and sealed them in a ziplock bag for extra protection. You don’t want the eggs to contaminate your entire cooler) Oranges are also unbelievable in the desert.

    As far a snacks go, we packed way too many. Haha. But, we found that cold pickles, Cinnomon apple sauce, cheese and crackers, fruit, and ants on a log, dried fruit, veggie sticks with hummus or ranch, and granola bars (for the bike rides) worked best, and tasted great.

    Next, gatorade powder. Bring it. Especially if you are drinking alcohol. Drink a bit through out the day to prevent dehydration. It can be a life saver!

    And finally, bring some extra large empty large gallon water containers with lids. You’ll need a place to dump your grey water in. Label them and take them with you. it will save you a lot of headache once you are there.

    I hope this brought a welcomed addition to your post!!! Lots of love- Brandi


Stephanie Hua

Stephanie Hua is the creator of Lick My Spoon, a place for all things delicious. So far she has learned that she very much enjoys salted caramel anything, a good soup dumpling is worth a scalded tongue, and there is no room in life for non-fat cheese and crappy chocolate. Also, a barrel of cheese balls never ends well.

Stephanie has been known to choose her company based on how much they can pack it down. Ability to endure cramped quarters, sketchy back alleys, and uncharted paths to seek out that special dish is also a plus in her book. If you fit the criteria, drop a note. You’ll probably get along just fine.

Stephanie’s writing and photography have been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Serious Eats, and Sundance Channel. Follow her on Facebook and @lickmyspoon.

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