Camping: Meal Planning Tips for Large Groups

Meal Planning was a big part of our experience at Yosemite National Park. You might have seen some of the fun things we served across our social feeds. When you’re going with a large group, prior planning is necessary so that you are not only sharing the cost, but you’re feeding everyone in a timely manner and you’re not wasting food either. You can get as creative as you’d like and most everyone (since they are hungry) will try it. I couldn’t ask for a better group to do this with, and it all came out so good. When everyone do their part, it comes out beautifully.

Meal Planning

  • Group Size: 20 (4 families, 8 adults, 12 children age ranging from 7 months to 18 years old)
  • Length of Stay: 4 Days, 3 Nights
  • # of Meals: 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners

We had four families with full kitchens in our cottages at Yosemite Lake RV Resort. One of the family had an RV. This is especially important to know ahead of time because we would have to adjust our menu to work with the tools we have. Our kitchen was fully equipped with dishes, pots and pans, etc. We didn’t have ovens in the cottages, but the RV had a convection oven. We all had refrigerators, a freezer, stove top, and BBQ grill. We tried to do most of our cooking outdoors, but some of it was indoors.

We had 4 days, 3 nights, and after we started to write things down and made them theme nights, it all came to place. Everyone was responsible for a dinner entree, a side dish to go with the entree, and a dessert recipe, but not all in the same night. Everyone helped out with the cooking as well as the clean-up. The three dinner themes were Taco Bar Night, Chili Night, and Pasta Night. If it was your night, you were in charge of the entree only. Everyone else made side dishes or a dessert to compliment it. We had a ton of food for everyone, as well as back-up options. Everyone helped out, and it was truly a team effort. I was really proud of this group.

Dinner Menu Options:

Dinner Night #1

  1. Main Entree: Taco Night (Angie). My friend picked up marinated meats and all the stuff that goes with it from Northgate Market in Santa Ana. Because it was all fresh, she went first.
  2. Side: Mexican Elote Corn aka Street Corn (Mary), Spanish Rice (Crystal), Ceviche (Angie).
  3. Dessert: Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (Penny)

Dinner Night #2

  1. Main Entree: Chili Night (Penny)
  2. Side: Cornbread (Angie). Can be store bought unless you have access to an oven. Fresh Fruits (Crystal).
  3. Dessert: Grilled Bananas inspired by Girl Scout Camp Recipe (Mary). I added other things to mine like fresh strawberries and crushed graham crackers.

Dinner Night #3

  1. Main Entree: Pasta Night (Mary). I made spaghetti. Making the sauce was easy to do via Stove Top. What took the longest was boiling the water for the pasta.
  2. Side: Salad or Vegetable (Penny)
  3. Dessert: S’mores Cheesecake (Angie)

Breakfast: Potluck Style Ideas

  1. Breakfast Sandwiches
    • Bread or English Muffins
    • Ham
    • Cheese
    • Eggs
  2. Breakfast Burritos
  3. Breakfast Potatoes
  4. Scrambled Eggs
  5. Bacon and/or Cocktail Link (I like the Hillshire Farms Little Smokies)
  6. Cinnamon Rolls (Made with convection oven in RV. Cottages didn’t have ovens.)
  7. Instant Coffee
  8. Coffee Creamer
  9. Orange Juice
  10. Champagne for Mimosas
  11. Water


Note: Lunches were the same every day which were grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and hot links. We left room for modifications. To reduce waste, get a headcount before you start to grill so you are not making too much. Heating the food will be okay, but it caused dryness. If you are headed into the park and might not be back for lunch, you might want to pack sandwiches, snacks to share, and drinks.

  1. Hot Dogs
  2. Hot Dog Buns
  3. Hamburger Patties
  4. Hamburger Buns
  5. Cheese
  6. Lettuce
  7. Tomato
  8. Onions
  9. Pickles
  10. Condiments to share (Ketchup, Mustard, Mayo)
  11. Cookies & Chips
  12. Fresh Fruit (watermelon, strawberries, etc)
  13. Beverages to share.

Other Things To Pack/Miscellaneous:

  • Disposable Table Clothes (buy several)
  • Trash Bags
  • Pots and Pans
  • Serving Tongs
  • Plates, Bowls, Cups, Napkins, Utensils
  • Ziplock Bags or Tupperware for storage
  • Cooking Oil
  • Seasoning for your dish plus Salt, Pepper
  • Small Bag of Charcoal from each family to share.
  • Cooler Bags or Ice Chest
  • Ice or Frozen Packs to keep perishables fresh
  • Gallons of Water for Cooking or Drinking
  • Folding Chairs or Beach Chairs
  • Picnic Blankets
  • Pop-up Canopies for Shade
  • Snacks to share (during hiking trips)
  • Otter Pops to share if you have a freezer
  • Hot Chocolate to share
  • Supplies for S’mores (Graham Crackers, Marshmallows, and Chocolate Bars)

TIP: When you start to meal plan, start by asking the family leaders what they like to cook and have them pick one dish that is their all time favorite food while camping. Most of the time, they will pick something easy for them, and something good they make often. Run with the idea and build on it. Assign tasks that are easy to follow and fair. Everyone is on a budget. No one likes to waste food. You are all in it together. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and have a great time.


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