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Menu planning - what a disaster

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Last night our Scouts worked on planning menus for the upcoming campout. While this activity never goes as smoothly or as well as I think it could (or should), last night's was a disaster.


It took forty minutes for the guys just to decide whether to

cook Friday night, bring a bag supper, or eat at home before we leave. So much bickering back and forth about who likes what, or more precisely who doesn't like what. Arguments over pancakes or eggs for breakfast - so and so doesn't like eggs, so and so thinks cleaning up after pancakes is too hard. OK, let's forget about breakfast and move on to lunch. That was fairly easy and the guys all agreed on tacos. But, after agreeing on tacos they started arguing over hard shells or soft. Finally, one of our older Scouts mentioned that soft shells travel better than hard shells. That seemed to solve the argument. Then dinner. Dorito casserole is a favorite, with three guys saying to put it on the menu. Two others chimed in saying they wouldn't eat anything that was called a casserole.


With only fifteen minutes left in the meeting, it all finally came down to two of the older more experienced Scouts basically telling the younger guys "this is what we're going to eat and that's it."


What can I as SM do to help with this situation? Should we have a few meetings as a type of training dedicated to teaching these guys how to plan meals? Should I talk with the PLC at their next meeting and suggest that guidelines be given for menu plans: i.e., one meal must be dutch oven prepared, one meal must be open fire prepared, one meal must be a new recipe. Or, suggest that they make sample menus and the guys will choose from those. I know the younger guys would be happy eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and poptarts for every meal. Should that be OK? If so, I know the older guys will quit coming on campouts - they want REAL food.


As adults, while the boys are preparing their own meals, we always cook something new so the guys can see how it's done, smell its delicousness and even have a sample. Sure, after that they all say "oh yeah, we need to make that on our next campout. That was so easy. Dutch ovens are great. Wow, not too much cleanup. Etc. etc."


But, next campout comes around and the bickering begins with no thought to the new things they learned.


I talked with the SPL and PL last night after watching their growing frustration. They are really at a loss on how to fix this. As an adult, it would be very easy for me to step in, take control and run the menu planning meeting, but that's not the direction our troop has work so hard to take these past two years.


I would just like some suggestions on how I can help these guys without personally controlling the situation.




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Are they planning all as a troop or was each patrol planning their own meals?


If it is a small troop, then troop planning may work, however, the more people involved in planning the harder it is to get everyone to agree, so patrol-based meals would cut down on some of the arguments.


Even so, we've seen the same thing even with 5 guys doing the planning. What worked the last time we did this was that the patrol decided on two guys who were going to work on the first class requirement for meal planning and serving as patrol cook and buying the food. They took suggestions, but they were ultimately the final vote for what was planned.




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I just got out of a business meeting where a half dozen of us talked in circles and came to no conclusion. We had a good time throwing around ideas, but I am tasked with going ahead and implementing the solution (which at this point in time, I have no idea what that is).


I would get them a good outdoor cookbook (plenty of free-online ones are available). The patrols have a different person serve as head cook for each camping trip. That person decides the meals for the weekend from the selections in the cookbook. After each trip, the menus for that weekend's meals are removed from the cookbook. Keep it up until the cookbook is gone. When it is empty, get them a new one.



1. More leadership for the rotating head cook

2. Ensures scouts try new things

3. Adds variety in cooking options

4. Avoids food boredom

5. Frees up troop time

6. Gives scouts more time to practice their debating skills on other topics.



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Our SM does set some broad guidelines (no poptarts - breakfast has to be hot - must include a recognizable fruit or vegetable in at least one of Saturday's meals - they usually pick apples - etc.) I've noticed that when the SM doesn't do this then the boys will naturally fall back to hot dogs and poptarts. Or in the case of my son's patrol, they just don't bother to cook breakfast at all - "too much work" - which actually bugs me a lot since then they've wasted food that they bought and money too. Not to mention it is a lousy way to start the day.


Occasionally the PLC determine that dutch oven or open fire cooking will be required at an upcoming campout. If you have more than one patrol, or maybe even within the patrol if it is large enough, maybe they would like to have a cook-off focusing on some particular type of dish.


Name things "dorito pie" rather than "casserole." I admit my first reaction to anything "casserole" isn't generally positive either unless it is green bean casserole and we're talking about thanksgiving dinner.


In March this year we have a woman coming to our first camp with all of our cross over scouts, specifically to teach them how to do some dutch oven cooking. She's affiliated with a local outdoor club and writes dutch oven cook books or something along those lines too. Maybe something like that would help. Of course you don't have to bring in an outsider but rather than just showing them, teach them step by step with them making the dish for themselves too. If they're interested of course.


I'm not suggesting that you make this decision or arrangements for your troop but I do think it is within the SM's purview to offer suggestions like this to your SPL and PLC. As kids they have limited imaginations/experience when it comes to food so no reason you couldn't help them expand their realm of potential ideas a bit.


Other thoughts: maybe the PLC will want to dedicate an upcoming campout to working on aspects of the cooking mb.

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With 12 Scouts you have enough for 2 patrols. It is easier agreeing on a menu for 4-6 boys than for 8-12. Each patrol should do their own menu. CSJo is correct, the boys who need the cooking requirements should be the ones in charge of the menus.


Before the planning session starts you might remind them that they need to take into consideration any algeries & that they will not be able to please everyone all of the time so they should ALL be prepared to make some consessions. After that it is up to them.


It might seem like a disaster to you, & it might even actually BE one. However, the boys learn through their mistakes, and if you have an older Scout in each patrol he might be able to guide them past some of HIS mistakes.


At this point every Scout there has a working knowledge of the Food Pyramid. If the younger guys bully the patrol into doing a meal of poptarts, maybe the older ones will put their foot down the next time.



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We had similar problems in the past. Hot dogs, no dogs, pop tarts, general junk food type stuff, though they didn't argue quite as much as the original posters troop.


I started out by mandating a dutch oven meal on one campout, and then provided them with about 5 different recipies to choose from. That worked out really well, so we progressed to any kind of cooking but ASM/Patrol Advisor approval was needed on the menu, that way we avoided the all-junk food syndrome.


All the while, the adults have cooked up wonderful feasts on their own ( stews, coconut shrimp, even a dutch oven prime rib ) and have had many scouts drop by for a 'look'.


They now seem to have it down pretty well, they plan their own meals in a short amount of time, divvy up the buying/cleaning/cooking and nobody seems to argue too much.


I guess the point here is to step in as an adult advisor and strongly guide them for a few campouts, then let them move ahead on their own. Get their momentum going in the right direction and hopefully they will respond.


Dat's my $0.02.






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Thanks for the suggestions so far. A little more detail:


Yes, we do have 12 Scouts in the Troop. While we initially thought everyone was going on the trip, after last night only 8 are going and only five of them were involved in the menu planning last night. Admittedly, one of those guys is a chief instigator of roudiness and inattention in our troop and hasn't always been present at other times when menus were being planned (the more successful times). He's the kind of boy you'd like to ask "would you like some cheese to go with that whine?" Heh heh.


Great kid, but exasperating!


We have cookbooks and a bunch of simple recipes downloaded from the Internet all put in binders. For this upcoming trip, SPL asked the Scouts a couple of weeks ago to bring some recipes from home or to at least think about something they like and bring ideas for last night's meeting. I thought that was a great idea, but none of the guys followed through on it.


My take on your suggestions so far is that I will not be undermining our efforts toward boy-led if, as SM, I step in with some suggested parameters for menus.


Please keep those suggestions coming!








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Just an observation, but I think the bickering is much more about "winning" and "losing" than it is about individual prefers for particular menu items. I once saw a patrol arguing about menu items where the most vocal scout in the patrol wasn't even going to attend the campout. Sounds like no one is emerging as a leader of the patrol, or the patrol leader doesn't yet have the skills or self confidence to make the final decision.


Some possible things to consider:

- A conference with the patrol leader to teach some additional leadership skills specific to decision making in a group when consensus cannot be reached. (sounds like the PL has turned over his responsibility as leader to the group).

- A conference with the older scouts that you mentioned, asking them to step in as leader of the menu planning, (whether formally as a PL or troop guide, or informally, as the older scout that the others look up to and respect.)

- Provide a limited selection menu choices for the next several months. I found this beneficial to new scout patrols. I like your idea of asking the PLC to come up with the short list of menu choices.

- Its not clear from your post if you have multiple patrols, but if one patrol is completing their planning on time, they can move on to a fun activity, while the other patrols complete their planning.


I also like the other suggestions provided by others already, especially the head cook for the patrol being given the final say in the menu.

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We always have peanut butter and jelly available for the boys who opt out of a meal they don't like. Boys that eat peanut butter can pick the next outing's menu.


As an alternative to force feeding. I as an adult cook my own mess and add variety with each meal. I have many of the boys wishing to have what I have the next outing.


This only works if the adults can cook using their mess kit as a dutch oven.


I have been able to passively add a lot of variety to the menus because the boys get tired of hobo dinners all the time while I eat sweet/sour pork over a bed or fried rice. With a little extra care, one can also take the ingredients from hobo dinners and make a great stew. or maybe a sauteed hamberger steak with candied carrots and mashed potatoes with gravy. (extra ingredients: brown sugar and a little flour to thicken gravy) Milk and butter should round out the meal. Sometimes poor menus are a part of poor outdoor cooking skills and not the choices available to the boys.

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"What can I as SM do to help with this situation?"


Seems to me the process worked just the way it should. The BOYS discussed it and worked it out. Could it have been more efficient? Sure. And it will be over time. Broad guidelines from above are OK, such as respecting religious or dietary requirements, and "no junk food for meals". Other than that, let them do their thing.

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Nephew's Troop (with one 5 man patrol) alternates between wanting MRE's and Cup O' Noodle to grandiose ideas like Huevos Rancheros and Steak for their meals. Usually where they land is somewhere in the middle - Oatmeal and fruit for breakie, Grilled cheese & meat for lunch (with an alternative for Milk Allergic PL) and something hardy and hot for supper (Nephew recently learned how to make beef stew in a dutch oven).


The troop did a month of meetings focused on outdoor menu planning and cooking to help them prep for winter camping to come. The SPL and then SM still have final refusal on menus...and the SM is usually the one to take the shoppers out to buy the food. Now to learn how to budget.




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We experienced some similar problems when we did troop cooking. We did this until we had close to 20, and then decided to switch to Patrol cooking. It's been great ever since we "converted". I think the boys act much more decisively when they are doing it for themselves. I've also found that over time they get a good feel for what each other likes. Now their planning consists of coming up with general ideas, and then let their patrol grubmaster work out the details.


As for SM guidelines, I don't get after them too often about their eating habits. We do talk sometimes about food groups and nutritious meals, but I don't worry about it too much. One of my concerns is that they plan appropriately for the schedule and type of activity. For example, if we are planning on hitting the river at 8:30 AM, they can't plan on a big cowboy breakfast that will take 2 hours to cook and clean up. What we do is have the PLC outline basic guidelines (breakfast needs to be quick, need to be able to pack the lunch, you may want some good warm food for dinner, etc.). We then leave it up to the patrols to develop a menu that fits those restrictions.


Good luck! And remember, the pain of switching to patrol cooking is offset by those delicious meals you get to eat as adults! This past weekend our dinner was pork chops, baked potatoes, salad and desert. And, yes, we kept it to $3 per person.

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Ah, the essence of being Boy Lead... chaos


Does your troop have any youth instructors? Do you think you could get a group discussion on the principles of group dynamics, forming, storming, norming and performing with your menu planning as the test subject? It's not unusual for a group not to function well if the members constantly change. If you have a different mix of people doing the planning, there will always be some amount of "storming" going on. It may be a good idea to let the leaders and youth know its normal and not their "fault". Perhaps the PLC should place a time limit on menu preparation, say five minutes a meal. Lastly, I would be more in favor of the youth attending the camp out being the only ones talking and having the duty rooster done first and having the clean up crew having a voice on what is cooked as well. Just a thought

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Oh for the days of iron fisted Scoutmaster control. ;)


Not really, some time back the troop that I serve had a problem with patrol meetings very similar to what is being discussed and we were at wits end on how to address it.


What we did was to have the adults put on a patrol meeting that mimiced the ways the meetings were currently being done.The scouts loved it and that it was pretty funny, but when the adult meeting was over we asked the scouts to critique it and make suggestions on how to improve the meeting and ways to get around the problem 'scouts'.


The scouts came up with some very good ideas and, though it took some time, implemented THEIR ideas in their patrol meetings.


good luck and remember to go outside the meeting building before screaming :)



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"We have cookbooks and a bunch of simple recipes downloaded from the Internet all put in binders. For this upcoming trip, SPL asked the Scouts a couple of weeks ago to bring some recipes from home or to at least think about something they like and bring ideas for last night's meeting. I thought that was a great idea, but none of the guys followed through on it." It sounds to me that these scouts failed to do their assignment and therefore should eat what is served. Another point to consider is the eating habits in the home. Johnny may come from an organic food only while Billys family eats fast food and still Mikey eats only cereal. He likes it! BTW, how about the recipe for Dorito Casserole?

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