Have you been assigned to cook for Girl’s Camp, Scout Camp, Youth Conference, a family reunion or a large gathering? How to Plan Girl’s Camp Food & Cook for a Crowd and my newly updated eBook was originally created for Girl’s Camp, but can easily be adapted for reunions, youth conference, trek or any large crowd. I will teach you how to budget, plan, and prepare memorable meals for a large group. 

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd
Dutch Oven Molasses Baked Beans

This eBook is packed with: 

  • A 5-day menu with links to many of my favorite “large group” recipes
  • Step-by-step checklists for prepping and serving meals
  • Equipment essentials checklists
  • My best tips for success from decades of cooking for large groups

So let’s start making memories in the kitchen, if you’re cooking for a few – or a few hundred!

free ebook! – Printable Sample Menus, Duty List, Schedule for prep and Serving and Cooking Equipment List:

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd
Teriyaki Pasta Salad is perfect for Girl’s Camp!


Once you get the hang of preparing food for a crowd, and get over the intimidation factor, you’ll realize you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. My #1 tip is to take notes! It’s easy to forget the details such as quantities, brands, where to purchase and a timeline to name a few.

After years of answering questions about how to best plan for food for large gatherings, I’ve broken it down into 3 steps that are essential for successful planning. BUDGET, HELP, and ORGANIZATION.

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd
Kash’s Black Cherry Chocolate Dutch Oven Cobbler


Determining a budget and sticking to it will be one of the most important factors in successfully planning and cooking for a crowd. Usually a budget has been set, or you will be asked to create a budget and present it for approval.

I hesitate to give a “reasonable” dollar amount because food costs differ according to the area of the country or world where you live. For planning purposes, I’ve given a sample of how to plan a simple breakfast.

Breakfast is the least expensive meal, with lunch next, and dinner usually being the most costly meal. Let’s say we are feeding 40 people (2024 prices; these are approximate costs). These estimates are from Costco:

  • 20-pack Chobani yogurt:  $15.89.  $31.78 for 40 yogurt cups.
  • Double pack of granola, about 50 servings: $9.99 or make homemade granola
  • Fruit for 40: $ 40.00. I usually plan on about $1 per person. (strawberries, melon [not watermelon], bananas, blueberries, pineapple)
  • Milk–2 gallons: $6.89.

Grand total for a breakfast of yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, and milk: approximately $94. Divided by 40 = approximately $2.35 per person. This does not include any paper products, which I will discuss later.

I’ve given this example to illustrate two things:

1. Breakfast can be very inexpensive. Remember if you are feeding girls, many don’t eat breakfast at home, so less is more when planning for breakfast. If the day is filled with physical activity and you may want to start out with a big meal, or consider supplementing with a mid-morning snack (chocolate pb protein bites below) and serve a light breakfast.

Protein bites can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve

2. Budgeting each meal is key. With paper costs in 2024, I estimate a simple breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruit, granola for topping, yogurt and milk will cost about $2.75 per person, including paper products.

Why only 2 gallons of milk? With each gallon yielding 16 cups, that’s 32 cups of milk. Experience shows not every person will drink a cup of milk. Unless it’s chocolate milk 🙂  Which brings me to a TIP: Don’t serve OJ with a yogurt, fruit and granola breakfast, or with a pancake and fruit breakfast. Too many sweet items. Stick with water or milk.

Also, if you are serving a pancake breakfast, most will choose milk over O.J.  Chocolate milk seems to override this rule. No matter the menu, most kids will drink chocolate milk, even when served with a sweet meal!

If serving a cooked breakfast, plan on another $1-2 per person if you’re including breakfast meat such as bacon, ham or sausage. Meat adds a significant cost to meals. If you are on a tight budget, a better hot meal plan: pancakes, scrambled eggs, syrup, and fruit. The eggs will serve as protein and help keep the campers filled up longer and usually are considerably less than the cost of meat.

If you decide to serve bacon, here’s an easy method for preparing baked bacon. I suggest baking at home to avoid the grease and mess at camp, then simply heating up in the oven or a griddle for a couple minutes on location.

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd
Homemade Granola Recipes



Important aspects of a successful experience when cooking for a large group are to have a crew of assistants who are hard working, willing to accept responsibility, easy to get along with, and who will follow instructions. It helps to have people who have cooked and know their way around a kitchen, but not completely necessary! I cannot stress enough, if you are in charge of food, you should not be the camp director, or the YW president. Your main responsibility at camp should be Food Chairperson.

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd


For each one hundred people, I suggest 2-3 adults (besides yourself) to work in the kitchen full time. This means people who are not assigned other duties such as camp director, advisors, nurse, etc. Meet with your committee early and decide how responsibilities will be divided after you get to know committee members. Ask and observe their strengths.


Don’t sign women up to help in the kitchen if they are looking for a few days away from home. This is anything but a vacation! There are only a few minutes of down time each day. I’ve been blessed to serve with women who are dedicated to serving. But I’ve heard stories otherwise! Choose your help carefully 🙂

Three of my favorites, Brenda, Eileen and Melinda. We still laugh about that summer at camp when we were camp directors, music leader and food chair…
How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd


Most of the time at Girl’s Camp, the leaders of the girls and the girls themselves will be involved in the process of preparing the food. You will usually have the assistance of 4+ people in addition to your kitchen crew. Use the help you are given! It is best to map out what help you will need with each meal before heading off to camp. Meet with the YW President and Camp director and agree on time in the kitchen, including set up, serving, and clean up. This will alleviate stress or misunderstandings at camp. Working with the young women is an excellent opportunity to teach the girls about food, cooking, and the process involved in creating a meal!

Sloppy Joes are easy to make at home and just heat up! This homemade recipe is easy and one most people love. Perfect for serving with cut up veggies and fruit!



Organize meetings with your committee as early as possible. Determine the budget and your menu as early as possible, but be willing to make changes as you may need. Don’t set anything in stone too early, and be flexible. Make sure the menu plan is feasible for your location. If you don’t have ovens available, don’t plan Baked Ziti for 300. If an outside fire pit is not available, don’t plan to eat foil dinners! Triple check the cooking sources that are available to you. Ask questions about the size of grills, if you need to provide propane, lighters, wood, etc.

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd


One of the most important tips for planning and executing a successful experience in the kitchen is to visit the kitchen IN PERSON before you get too far into the planning stages. You’ll be able to see what equipment is in the kitchen, what supplies are available, and look at the space. Ask the person who is in charge of the facility if what you see is what you get when you arrive.


I suggest taking photos to place in your file and share with others who will work in the kitchen. A physical visit to the kitchen will eliminate many headaches down the road. If you see a freezer, ask if it works. Same with an ice machine, Is the running water safe for drinking? Make no assumptions. This may sound a little over the top, but better safe than sorry.

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd


I’m all about lists! Keep a detailed list of menus, tasks, timelines for serving meals  efficiently.  An equipment checklists plus the detailed lists mentioned are a few of the documents I keep in a folder or binder when planning. We compiled the lists mentioned in one printable PDF, complete with space for your own notes. You can create your own specific checklists using the outlines provided below.

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd
The Best Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, regular or gluten free!

free ebook! – Printable Sample Menus, Duty List, Schedule for prep and Serving and Cooking Equipment List:



When planning a Girl’s Camp menu, always consider a few things. First, I like to have one fresh item for each meal. This can be a salad, cut fruit, or fresh veggies with dip. I try to keep it simple and use in-season fruits and veggies to avoid high costs. Don’t try to introduce food that the majority will not be willing to try, such as fish, desserts with nuts (for allergy reasons as well), or anything too spicy. For salads, you can always place nuts or seeds on the side.

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd
Grilled Chicken and Kale Salad


By this I mean one really good homemade item. For example, on the Baked Ziti dinner night, we make homemade Baked Ziti (at home, before going to camp), add store bought breadsticks brushed with garlic butter, Caesar salad (chopped romaine, grated parmesan by the bag, bagged croutons, bottle dressing), veggie sticks, and dessert made by ward members. Only one of the items is homemade, but totally worth the effort, and makes the meal memorable.

Best Baked Ziti


Which brings me to this thought: you can buy everything pre-made from Costco. But it will taste like you bought everything from Costco. Yes, it’s easier to heat up frozen food, but the food is such a rich part of your experience, why not go the extra mile and prepare something homemade that will be a pert of the memory of Girls Camp? I promise that if the food is good, the girls will remember it long after they pack up their sleeping bags! I have girls who STILL come to me (who are now married with their own families) who remember the food they ate at camp, trek, or youth conference. They relate experiences to me about cooking for their own little families now, years later!

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd
Complete Cafe Rio copycat recipes linked on this photo


I pay special attention to prepare meals for those with food allergies and vegetarian diets. At each meal, we have a gluten free and a meatless item (which is easier than you think!) I’ll illustrate this in the Sample Menu link. For extreme diet/allergy it is best to have one person on the committee be in charge of those with food allergies and work with the nurse and parents to ensure the girls with dietary needs are safe.


No matter the amount of planning or preparation, the weather may not cooperate with your menu! If you plan for popsicles in July, and a cold front moves in and the girls are freezing, they most likely won’t want a frozen dessert. Try to plan accordingly.

If you are in the mountains, hot chocolate is almost always welcome on a cool morning. During the hot summer months, make sure to have plenty of cold water in coolers on hand. More than you think you may need. Place a couple of ice blocks in per day and check water level frequently. Watermelon is also low cost, and serves as a cool fresh treat on hot summer days.

Hawaiian Haystacks for Girls Camp
Hawaiian Haystacks are a great way to feed a crowd and has something everyone will love.

free ebook! – Printable Sample Menus, Duty List, Schedule for prep and Serving and Cooking Equipment List:

How to Plan Girl's Camp Food and Cook for a Crowd

We try to update this post each year with new information that may be of help. I’d love to hear about your experiences/best tips in the comments and have you share this post on Pinterest or Facebook or Instagram with anyone who might benefit from this information. Thanks so much for reading ABK, and have a great time at CAMP!


Si & Team ABK