Group Meal Plans
Consider the group meal plan on a group trip, into the outdoors, or to a vacation property. Cooking and sharing food is a culture as old as our humanoid ancestors and the discovery of fire.
Whether it's a group of 4 friends or 18, meals are more fun when you contribute to the plan. In 2021, a group of friends and I took our families on a 14-day raft trip down two Salmon River sections that stretch over 100 miles across Idaho. Food logistics were paramount to the success of the group. In scenarios like this, a good meal plan is one of the most complex logistics to plan and impossible without spreading the load amongst the group. But it can also be one of the most fun.
Meal plans are just as fun on a 2-day journey as on a longer, more complex trip. I use them on all my adventures to share the load and simplify my planning and prep. Meals build community on trips in a unique way. So let's dive into a more complex plan.
On the trip, we had five families, each with two coolers. The logistics of keeping food (and beer) cold for 14 days is a topic for another day. Imagine if everyone was responsible for themselves. First, the constraint on the kitchen, which consisted of a single two-burner stove, cooking five separate meals every night would leave some families cooking in the dark, with angry kids throwing sand at each other. Then, the accumulation of leftovers would continue to pile as each group cooked a little extra, and the coolers would all be independently packed past capacity.
You split into cooking pods in the group meal plan; we did it by family and allocated the meals fairly. In our case, each family took care of 8 meals, which consisted of 2-3 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Food was planned and prepped beforehand, some of it frozen and packed accordingly. So when your meal comes, you are on for a few hours making your dish and doing the dishes afterward. It's a scramble, but you're probably off the hook for the next few meals.
I find the cooking nights rewarding. Something about feeding everybody brings a great sense of satisfaction. Their gratefulness when you surprise them with pork carnitas tacos on day 11 is like winning MVP in the championship game. I won't lie; it is a lot when the group size is 18 people, but some meals are easier than others, and proper preparation can significantly simplify the chore. For carnitas, premake all the pork, bag and freeze, then on dinner night, reheat, chop some fresh toppings, and serve on tortillas (no dishes).
Somehow, it seems visceral when we create and share meals. We come together in a community to express our tastes and even cultures to our social companions. Lastly, consider the other nights when you get to chat with the group, lounge by the river, or take a nap in the warm light of the afternoon sun before the "DiINNER!!! "call carries across the canyon.