Fair Food for Happy Families

Fair food for happy families means taking your own!

There are many, many food options at a county fair and I daresay most are decadently delicious and extremely unhealthy. Fried cheese? That’s mild. I’ve seen fried candy bars, Twinkies and yeah, butter. Deep fried butter. Ick!

Our family, like many others, is preparing for a week at the fairgrounds. We don’t camp out (some do), but we’re there an average of 18-20 hours every day for a week. This year the kids, a cousin and a friend will show a combined 13 animals in the 4-H and open class dairy shows. After their time in the show ring, the fervor transitions into a somewhat relaxing venture of caring for heifers, lounging around the barn, and asking fair-goers if they ‘got milk?’.

I help wash and clip animals, pack show boxes and iron white shirts. My main job, however, is keeping the troops happy. Translation: well-fed and hydrated. Call me a mean mom if you want, but there’s only one meal on the week’s schedule that reads, “Enjoy fair food!” It’s Saturday night. They can feast on fried food and lemonade shake-ups to their hearts’ content before the barn dance, I don’t mind. The rest of the week, though, they’ll be eating what I put in the picnic basket.

County fair open class show.

It’s not all peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, either. This is the kids’ favorite week of the year. I try to make our food as fun as the festivities. It’s a demanding week and good food makes a difference. Here’s a tentative menu for Days 1-3. Tomorrow I’ll post Days 4-7.

Day 1: Monday

The fair doesn’t start until Tuesday, but it’s move-in day. A hearty breakfast is required before this crazy week begins. They won’t like it, but I’ll make them sit, eat and in my husband’s case, consume copious amounts of coffee. Day one is nothing spectacular. We’ll be busy so it’s easy pack-ahead stuff … and lots of water.

B: Scrambled eggs with cheese and chopped baby spinach

L: Ham and cheese sandwiches on whole wheat with Sun Chips

S: Cold Brisket and Rebekah’s Macaroni Salad
Make the brisket over the weekend so it’s ready to go, and mac salad always taste better a day later! Keep both on ice in the cooler until supper time. (Hide both or they’ll eat it for lunch!)

Day 2: Tuesday

First day of the fair and the dairy show. Think beauty parlor for cows and the impossible task of keeping kids clean in white clothing. There’s a lot of hair, slobber and cow poop. Everyone is really busy all day long. They need grab-n-go food that’s quick and cool.)

B: Make Ahead Egg Bake
I made this on Christmas morning, but it’s perfect for any morning when you’re hurrying and scurrying. Cut into wedges and they can eat it on the go (or in the truck on the way!).

L: Pizza roll-ups, grapes and granola bars
These are a snap to make! You will need tortillas, provolone (or your favorite) cheese slices, pepperoni, and lettuce or baby spinach. You could add in anything else, too, like banana peppers, onions, mushrooms. Layer ingredients on 3/4 of the tortilla, roll tightly. Slice off excess tortilla on the ends, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate or store in a cooler until it’s time to eat. Make 2-3 for each person.

S: Steak Salad In A Jar and “Yes, you can buy ice cream at the dairy booth!”
Grill a couple of steaks when you have spare time (like the night before?). Slice beef into thin strips. Mix up a salad with your favorite ingredients: spring mix lettuce, spinach, shredded cheese, diced peppers, chopped mushrooms. I mix the leafy greens first and chopped everything into small, bite-sized bits (a chopped salad). Add in the other ingredients and combine. Fill pint-sized, wide-mouth jars 3/4 full with the salad. Top with 3 oz. of steak strips and literally, put a lid on it! Pack in ice in a cooler. Don’t forget your favorite salad dressings and plastic forks.

Day 3: Wednesday

Today we can relax. The show is over and we’re just hanging out at the fair, watching friends show pigs and chickens and rabbits and steers and sheep and more! We’ll take lunch with us in the mornings, but I’ll go home in the afternoons to make supper. Then I’ll return in the evening with the full meal deal.

B: Baked Oatmeal with fresh blueberries
I’ll make the oatmeal in muffin tins for eat-n-go ease. The blueberries will be pre-packed in snack bags.

L: Ham and Corn Muffins and cantaloupe in a cup
Cut cantaloupe into bite-sized chunks. Fill disposable cups with melon. Top with plastic wrap, seal with a rubber band around the top of the cup. Stick a plastic fork under the rubber band and they’re ready to serve.

Ham & Corn Muffins

    • 1 cup corn meal
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 3 Tablespoons honey
    • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
    • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    • 2 cups cubed ham
    • 1/2 cup canned or frozen corn kernels, drained
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped baby spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit and place paper muffin liners in the cups of a muffin tin. Mix corn meal, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl: eggs, milk, butter and honey. When wet ingredients are combined, add cheese and spinach. Then pour wet mix into dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add ham and corn kernels. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
Note: You could also use a boxed mix, then add ham and corn kernels. 

S: Sloppy Joes and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Don’t forget disposable plates, napkins and utensils. I also recommend hand sanitizer. Oh, and lots and lots of water.




Go exploring! You may enjoy these previous posts.


  • comment-avatar
    Weekend Cowgirl July 11, 2014 (9:26 am)

    You are very prepared! Very impressed. Looks like a good Fair Week will be had and hope the kids have fun…

  • comment-avatar
    Sal July 12, 2014 (9:02 pm)

    Nutritious and delicious! and reasonable. Another idea for a quick breakfast would be smoothies – I use milk, vanilla yogurt, banana and a dribble of maple syrup and whatever else you like – they can be consumed enroute as well. Numerous recipes online. Amazing how filling and how long they hold hunger at bay.
    Enjoy the fair!