You will need
- Pens or pencils
- Coloured pens or pencils
- Scrap paper
- Recipe book, as needed
- Internet access, as needed
Before you begin
- This meal-planning activity is best run a few weeks before a camp, expedition or night away.
- It might help to get in touch with parents and carers to let them know what the group will be doing. This should mean that everyone’s dietary requirements are covered. Many people will already have a good idea of what they can and can’t eat.
- Write down some information about the site you’ll be visiting for the trip. We’ve provided some points to think about below. Research into or a visit to the site will need to be completed to get all the information you need. Most sites will be happy to share this information about their facilities to make sure that your stay is comfortable. If they like, the group could also play a part in this research.
- Download and display the Allergens poster, Faiths and foods poster, and Guidance on hand washing poster.
Chat about food
- Before everyone starts planning meals, encourage them to take a few moments to think about what it means to be a ‘considerate’ cook. Remind the group that respect for others with regard to food is very important.
- Share the following statement: ‘Food at camp is bound to be different from what you’re used to at home. It’s really important to keep an open mind and try new things where possible. This could be how you find your next favourite food.’
Making meal plans
- Talk with everyone about how you’ll be cooking at the site you’re visiting, based on what was discovered about the site facilities. Run through the different questions that need to be asked (listed in the Campsite considerations drop down above).
- Split into cooking groups for the night away. Now, you could either:
- Create meal plans for the camp or expedition, taking into account the considerations discussed earlier. At the end, ask everyone to share their ideas and take the best ones to create a master meal plan.
- If everyone’s planning to eat together, ask each group of four or five to create a meal plan for one day of camp or for every meal on camp. If the camp is a week-long, everyone should at least work on one day’s meals.
- It’d be helpful for everyone with dietary requirements to let their group know, so that they can plan accordingly. If they’d prefer not to do this, the person leading the activity should make clear the ingredients that cannot be included in the meal plan.
- Give each group printed or digital copies of the ‘Allergens poster’, ‘Eatwell guide’, ‘Faiths and food poster’ and the ‘Scouts quick tips for food safety’. They’ll also need some recipe books or a device with internet access.
- On paper, each group should make a grid. Within each box should be a meal for a day of the night away. Write clear headings on each one (like ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’ and ‘Dinner’). Search for meals that can be cooked using a campfire, or the method of cooking allowed by the site and fill in the grid with the chosen meals, quantities of ingredients, equipment and prep/cooking time.
- Each group should aim for each meal to be nutritionally balanced and cater to everyone’s dietary needs. It’s best if one dish suits everyone, as this is easier, more inclusive and reduces the risk of cross-contamination. Where this isn’t possible, variations on these dishes would be the ideal alternative. Remind groups that potential allergens may need to be prepared separately on different surfaces using different utensils, which may add some details to the meal plan.
- When each group feels they have completed their menu plans and equipment lists, they’ll also need to take note of where they might find their ingredients and how they’re going to transport these to the site and store them safely and hygienically.
- Each group should share their plans with a leader or helper. Leaders and helpers should make any suggestions they have that might improve the menu. Then, each group should produce a final version of their meal plan.
Learning to plan meals for one another is an important life skill that we can all take forwards and use every day. Planning and making our own meals helps us be more independent and better able to take care of one another.
Everyone should take a moment to consider how they think their family or friends might respond if they offered to cook a meal for them. What do we think cooking for others helps us say about ourselves? Perhaps independence, selflessness and a sense of responsibility? How grateful are we to those who do the same for us on a regular basis?
Teach young people how to use cooking equipment safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Make sure it’s safe to use and follow manufacturers’ guidelines for use.
Check for allergies before you begin and read the guidance on food safety. Make sure you have suitable areas for storing and preparing food and avoid cross contamination of different foods.
- Fires and stoves
Make sure anyone using fires and stoves is doing so safely. Check that the equipment and area are suitable and have plenty of ventilation. Follow the gas safety guidance. Have a safe way to extinguish the fire in an emergency.
- Sharp objects
Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.
- Online safety
Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe.
For more support around online safety or bullying, check out the NSPCC website. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command.
As always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare (including their online experiences), follow the Yellow Card reporting processes.