What to do when cooking eats up time for activities

Scoutmaster P.T. says his Scouts spend so much time preparing and cleaning up after meals at district- and councilwide camping events, they miss some activities. How, he asks, can his troop streamline the routine so the boys have more time to participate?

Take a few tips from backpackers. Plan menus and meals meticulously. Premeasure and repackage ingredients for each meal. Put all the items for one meal into a bag marked for that meal.

Look for good one-pot meals that have a mix of grain, protein, and vegetables. Dutch-oven dishes are always a hit, and if you line the oven with heavy-duty aluminum foil, it will not need much cleaning. Other good dishes use the ingredients in boxes, like the well-known hamburger and tuna pasta mixes. As a treat, try a Cajun rice mix with sausage and shrimp or invent your own combination of ingredients.

Hamburger, sausage, bacon, and other meats can be cooked before the camp-out and refrigerated. This not only eliminates cooking time outdoors, but more importantly, you don’t have to clean as much grease off pots and pans.

Lastly, make a cleanup kit with trash bags, dishpans, camp soap, bleach, scrubber pad, mesh bag for drying dishes, and towels. Having it ready reduces the time looking for them in the patrol box.

Weatherford, Okla.

When we attend our district camporee, the adults cook and clean up for the Scouts. We want our Scouts to get all they can out of the camporee experience, and by having the adults cook and clean at this one event, the Scouts are able to do that.

Webster, N.Y.

At a camporee, our breakfast is cold or requires only boiling water. The lunch is sandwiches, cookies, chips, and fruit, which each patrol prepares and carries. The adults cook dinner and have it ready when the events are over and the Scouts return to the campsite. However, the Scouts do clean the dinner pots and pans.

Every Scout participates in all of the fun—and the adults actually enjoy cooking. We have made stew for 30 people, fried several turkeys, and made casseroles in Dutch ovens.

Germantown, Tenn.

Any meal you enjoy at home can be enjoyed on a camp-out by using resealable plastic bags. Put a precooked meal into bags and lay them on their sides to flatten the contents. Then freeze them flat so surface area is maximized.

In camp, the food can be kept unfrozen in a cooler so long as proper temperatures are maintained. At mealtime, boil water in a large pot and drop in the food bags. Don’t overcrowd them or bags may stick to the sides of the pot and melt. The food is eaten out of the bags, so little needs to be cleaned except utensils.

Scoutmaster T.L.G. Sr.
Blue Island, Ill.

Streamline camporee cooking by saving complicated recipes for troop camp-outs. Hot dogs on paper plates are O.K. if Scouts need time for special events. But make sure Scouts do cooking and cleaning on other camp-outs.

Payson, Utah

When time is short, simple meals are in order. Elaborate meals can wait for leisurely outings. Planning is the key. Help your Scouts evaluate how much time will be needed to prepare the meals and to clean up afterward. A written timetable for meal preparation may keep them on schedule and assist in allotting chores to various Scouts. Be sure the Scouts remember to begin heating the cleanup water before they sit down to eat.

One of my troop’s favorite breakfasts is frozen waffles heated on a griddle, then topped with canned pie filling and a squirt of whipped cream. The waffles can be eaten as sandwiches, so the only cleanup is the griddle and a spoon or two for scooping the toppings.

Urbana, Ohio

You can speed up things by remembering the basics: good menu planning, a duty roster, and a helpful attitude among patrol members. If your troop has a rule that all meals must be cooked from scratch, bend the rule for council and district events.

Cut down cleanup time with simple one-pot meals. An old standby—oatmeal with fruit on the side—makes a quick breakfast. A backpacker’s trick for eating oatmeal with virtually no cleanup is to eat it out of the package it comes in. Just shake the package to mix the sugar and flavorings, carefully tear off the top, add a small amount of hot water, stir, and eat.

For lunch, come up with a meal that doesn’t require refrigeration and doesn’t require the Scouts to return to camp.

Try Dutch-oven cooking for evening meals. Instead of having several pots to clean, you’ll have only the Dutch oven and a couple of mixing bowls.

Shawnee, Okla.

In our troop we have found that if the Scouts do the prep work—such as chopping veggies and grating cheese—the night before the camp-out, we save a lot of time cooking in camp. It’s also important that the cooking fire is started one hour before the cook expects to use the coals.

As for cleanup, we try to concentrate on meals that require one Dutch oven and maybe another pot or two—and that’s it.

Elkton, Md.

In our second-year Webelos den, we precook items whenever possible. We also use recipes that you can cook without a lot of utensils such as mixing a couple of eggs with cheese in a Ziploc bag and boiling it. It is fast, and easy, and tastes good.

You can also cook in aluminum foil to cut down on cleaning time. Paper plates and plastic utensils help, too.

Denver, Colo.

When our troop goes on the annual council Scout retreat, the parents do the cooking so the Scouts can concentrate on activities. When we go to events with a more flexible schedule, like a Klondike derby, the Scouts cook.

Assistant Scoutmaster B.R.
Gaithersburg, Md.

Web Exclusive Responses

The following responses do not appear in the print edition …

We leave big stoves at home. Breakfast consists of Pop Tarts, cereal bars, and breakfast drink. Lunch is peanut butter and jelly tacos (flour tortillas), dried fruits, cookies, and Kool-Aid. Dinner is a cooked one-pot meal.

Other ideas are pita shells, summer sausage, cheese, and crackers. In cold weather, add soup and hot chocolate. The Scouts could not believe how much time they had for activities and the lack of trash they generated.

Crew Advisor T.K.
Valparaiso, Ind.

Have a “duty patrol” prepare each meal and clean up afterward. Each duty patrol will miss some activities, but patrol integrity will be maintained as each patrol keeps all its members for the activities in which it is free to participate.

An alternative is to streamline meals. Have hot cereal garnished with dried fruit, along with a fruit-juice mix to drink, for breakfast. Only water needs to be boiled, and cleanup is a simple hot-water rinse since there’s no grease.

For lunch, have each Scout prepare an individual trail gorp pack ahead of time that can be eaten on the go. (Use jerky, assorted nuts, dried fruit, fried peas, etc.)

For supper, have the duty patrol cook and another patrol clean up. That way, the loss of activity time for each patrol is minimized.

Columbus, Ohio

Make all-in-one or foil meals such as omelets-in-a-bag or tacos-in-a-bag to minimize cleanup. Just throw away the container and wash utensils.

Start heating up wash water immediately after food preparation is complete so you won’t be delayed waiting for boiling water. We use a propane-fueled dual burner for boiling cleanup water because it is much faster than using patrol camp stoves.

Do some food preparation and cooking at home, such as chopping vegetables, precooking ground beef for spaghetti or tacos, and precooking breakfast bacon.

Use instant oatmeal for a hot breakfast that has staying power.

For Sunday breakfast, have a no-cook meal such as muffins or doughnuts and juice.

Eat, rinse each Scout’s cup, and you are ready to go.

Only the cook and an assistant should have to leave activities early to get meals started.

Cleves, Ohio

On camporee-type events, we try to give Scouts a break. We find that having one kitchen cooking for the whole troop allows more Scouts time to participate in activities. Scouts who enjoy cooking will often volunteer, and some parents help, too.

Meals do not have to be elaborate. A healthy and filling breakfast could be cold whole-grain cereals, instant oatmeal, breakfast bars or granola bars with milk, juice, and fresh fruit.

Lunch might be cold or grilled sandwiches with soup and salad. Even dinner can be simple—a one-pot meal of chili with crackers, hot dogs, or Fritos; a stew with cornbread or crackers; or soup with salad, sandwiches, or cornbread.

Broken Arrow, Okla.

For district or council camping events, our troop takes an extra two-burner stove just for boiling water. This gives us hot water for chocolate and tea and a large pot of boiling water for cleanup. It goes over the flames when the cook crew starts a meal.

Our senior patrol leader makes sure that each patrol’s meals are set well in advance, and during the week before a big camping event, most of the food is prepared and pre-packaged. At the campsite the ingredients are stored in separate coolers, one for each day.

Our breakfast tradition on the morning we pack to go home, is cooking omelets in a bag. You need two or three large pots of boiling water, freezer-style Ziploc bags, eggs, cheese, bacon bits, onions, potatoes, peppers, and spices. Place all ingredients in the bags, seal them and shake them, and place in boiling water. When the eggs are cooked, eat right out of the bag.

Scoutmaster S.H.
Seattle, Wash.


1 Comment

  1. For “car camping” or large events (like Camporee/Jamboree type) my Ranger Girl Guide unit has a 5 gallon insulated drink dispenser that we use as our “hot water tank”. Ours is Rubbermaid brand, got it at Home Depot, but at various events over the years I’ve seen other units use insulated Coleman drink coolers or “Cambro” brand insulated coffee dispensers. We heat water to boiling when we get to camp and fill the dispenser, then we have hot water “on demand” as long as we add hot water each time we use the stove. Works great, stays hot overnight even when the temps dip below freezing, been doing it for years 🙂

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