6 Build-Your-Own Recipes for groups

Outfitters, camps and caterers are all struggling with the growing challenges of accommodating a mix of dietary restrictions within the same group. Imagine a group of folks including gluten-free, vegetarian, lactose intolerant and rabid carnivores all sitting around the campfire awaiting dinner.

We’ve found time and time again that the “build your own” option (when time allows!) is the best way to make sure everyone is well-fed and happy. Build-Your-Own recipes tend to be buffet-style and are assembled by the eater. That way, the onus is put on the eater to find foods that they can safely and happily eat.

Getting the quantities right for each group can be the tricky part. Try turning on automatic substitutions in your Wholesum account to make this part easier.

In the meantime, here are 10 great recipe ideas that we’ve found can be crowd-pleasers and flexible enough to accommodate most needs:

1. Taco Bar

Taco bars are a staple of the camping world, and offer such a wide-range of flexibility that it can be hard to find folks that this option won’t work for. Some ingredients to consider to make sure the wide range of dietary restrictions on you:

  • Black beans – a great protein option for non-meat eaters
  • Faux Meat – There are lots of great Mexican-flavored plant-based meat options out there
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) – This might fit under faux-meat, but is worth a shout-out on it’s own. TVP plus a little taco-seasoning can recreate ground beef easily and quickly
  • Corn Tortillas – You might want to bring wheat tortillas as well, but corn tortillas will help with the gluten sensitivities
  • Veggies – Lots of options, of course: greens, tomatoes, peppers…etc

2. DIY Sandwich Bar

There are tons of amazing Sandwich bar recipes out there on the internet. The trick, we’ve found, is to make sure to think broadly about what a sandwich might mean to those with restrictive diets (eg. a gluten-intolerant vegan). Your standard turkey sandwich won’t do the trick. Remember to include some of the less common ingredients that will create some creative options:

  • Guacamole – Great on sandwiches for just about everyone!
  • Hummus – An excellent vegan alternative to meat
  • PB & J – Not for everyone, but this is a standby for the less meat and veg oriented folks
  • Veggies – Throwing in some green peppers, shredded carrots or sprouts can add some diversity for vegetarians
  • Faux-cheese: Though not necessary for most vegans if enough veggies are available, there are plenty of sliced cheese substitutes out there

3. Build Your Own Kebabs

This one provides a bit less flexibility, particularly if the cooking surface is of concern, but it can be a great way to cook over a fire or a BBQ that allows the eater to choose what is on his/her Kebab. A variety of meats and grill-able veggies should do the trick. Some creative additions:

  • Pineapple
  • Tofu
  • Eggplant

4. Hot Cereal Bar

Breakfast options can be a bit tougher when it comes to build-your-own standards, but a hot cereal bar can go a long way. Oatmeal, for example, doesn’t usually contain gluten and can usually do the trick for most diets. Be sure to include a variety of toppings: fruit, raisins, nuts, brown sugar…etc

5. Hearty Salad Bar

The hearty salad idea isn’t too far off from the DIY Sandwich buffet, but allows for a lot more creativity. Check out some of these resources to get your ideas flowing:

7. Savory Hobo Pie

For those of you running camping-based trips a savory hobo-pie is always a hit for dinner. The idea is simple but the options are endless: Provide everyone with a few sheets of aluminum foil, create a buffet of meats, cheeses, veggies, grains and seasoning. Invite everyone to load their foil sheets with everything that they want, wrap it up and throw it in a bed of hot coals from the fire. Be sure to provide some vegetarian proteins (tofu, beans or faux-meat) and you’ll be all set to accommodate just about every restriction with one meal

Aww… shucks: What users are saying about Wholesum

It’s been just over 2 years since we officially launched Wholesum in an effort to help outfitters, camps, caterers and event planners streamline their menu planning.   We took a minute to check in and look back on what some of our early adopters have said about their use of Wholesum these last two years:

“For years we did all of our menu planning in excel spreadsheets, it worked but was labor intensive, required a good bit of knowledge and experience to not screw it up, was tough with dietary adjustments, and generally not very nimble or user friendly for guides.  Wholesum has changed everything.  Last year I said numerous times, starting my wholesum account was the most important thing I did.  Now I can adjust for dietary restrictions or different kinds of groups on the fly with ease, we are more efficient in our buying which has greatly reduced waste and our guides are supported with easy to use menus adjusted for their specific trip and group.  Happier clients, happier guides, saving a ton of money and less work for me!  Basically it is an all-around win.  For how much staff time, my time and food expense we are saving this is the easiest and best money saving thing you can do this year.”
—Erik, Orange Torpedo Trips

 

“Wholesum has been a total game-changer for us!

We were able to hire a full time food shopper with no previous experience and she was able to immediately start using the software and there was no guess work on the shopping lists. We have more flexibility with menu planning, enhancing our guests culinary experience. Setting up the recipes, creating the meal plans and exporting the shopping lists to an excel spreadsheet was very intuitive and efficient. ”
—Gia, Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures

 

“Wholesum has not only made my job of preparing our food packing list for a 9-month field season easier and more efficient, it has also helped reduce our staff’s workload, helped to forecast our season food budget, and to cut down on food waste.”
Daniel, EPI

 

“Our field staff used to get bogged down with hours of ingredient conversations, spreadsheet calculations, and reviewing recipes for dietary restrictions. With Wholesum, menu planning takes a few minutes.”
Katie, Wild Rockies Field Institute

 

“We used to have an old, outdated Excel spreadsheet full of errors, which was a struggle to use. Now, Wholesum Food Calculator allows us to easily drag and drop menu items, and print an organized grocery list in minutes! Bring on the field season!”
Lisa, Grand Canyon Trust

 

Have feedback you like to share with us (or the world!)?   Don’t hesitate to reach out.  We’re always happy to hear how Wholesum has impacted your organization and (on the flip side) are always looking for ways to improve the platform.  We couldn’t have done it without users like you!

Menu Planning Logistics

Our customers come from many industries. If you’re regularly planning menus for large groups of people, Wholesum could be just what you’re looking for, whether you’re an outfitter, a caterer, an educator, or another professional in charge of providing meals. We’ll take some time over the next few months to look a bit further into these industries, and how Wholesum is helping customers in these fields plan menus, navigate dietary restrictions, scale meals track costs, develop accurate shopping lists and so much more. This May, let’s start with outfitters!

We’re excited to feed people delicious meals that enhance their outdoor experience, but – in most cases – we have other things to take care of, too.  For many outfitters though, it can be a real headache. There is a surprising amount of complexity that can go into planning a menu for a trip: group size, trip duration, ingredient quantities and – increasingly – dietary restrictions. Here’s how Erik Weiseth of Orange Torpedo Trips put it: “For years we did all of our menu planning in Excel spreadsheets.

Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve learned to reduce the brain pain over the years:

  • When planning meals for groups, whether in the back or front country, make sure you consider how you’ll be storing food at night and what your refrigeration/ice situation is – health and safety are key.
  • Meal options that are a “build your own” can be a great way to accommodate the varying needs while simplifying planning and giving clients more autonomy in food selection (e.g. sandwich bar, taco bar, or oatmeal bar.)
  • Remember, appetite size can vary! Metabolic rate skyrockets in cold temperature, so make sure to plan for large appetites if you are expecting chilly conditions. Age, weight, gender, and level of activity can also cause real fluctuations in the amount of food you may need to pack.
  • Keep in mind what device(s) you’ll be cooking with, the length of your trip, how you’ll be carrying your weight (raft, backpack, canoe + portage, van, etc.), and your level of exertion. These aspects of your trip will dictate what kind of food (fresh, frozen, dehydrated, etc.) you should bring, how light it must be, how many calories you and your fellow campers should consume, and how you’ll want to pack those meals.
  • Take stock of who you’ll be traveling with, including their age, level of fitness, and dietary restrictions, as these facets may also influence portion size and alternative ingredients.
  • Have fun! Pack something special, something sweet, and/or something spicy. It’s a fantastic surprise to have steak the first night or chocolate after a long twelfth day! Every meal is a little bit better when eaten under the stars.

Finally, make sure you are using the appropriate technology for your operations to streamline planning. If you have a small-scale operation or staff that generally steer clear of computers, pen and paper may be your best bet. Spreadsheets can also be a great option if you are using “ration” or “pantry” style planning, but is usually insufficient for preset menu planning (The book NOLS Cookery is a great resource for ration-based ideas and calculations.)

Three years ago, when we had exhausted all other technology options for menu-based planning, we started developing Wholesum Food Calculator (www.whlsum.com) to help others streamline food planning. Wholesum is the only menu planning tool designed specifically for large groups and/or multi-day trips. It’s a cloud-based platform, and has a suite of functions available based on feedback we’ve received from users including substitutions for dietary restrictions, easy scaling, and detailed shopping and packing list options.

In Erik’s words, “Wholesum has changed everything. Last year, I said numerous times, starting my Wholesum account was the most important thing I did. Now I can adjust for dietary restrictions or different kinds of groups on the fly with ease, we are more efficient in our buying which has greatly reduced waste, and our guides are supported with easy-to-use menus adjusted for their specific trip and group. Happier clients, happier guides, saving
a ton of money, and less work for me!  Basically, it is an all-around win.  For how much staff time, my time, and food expense we are saving this is the easiest and best money saving thing you can do this year.”

Leveraging technology has also changed the game for Gina Randono, co-owner of Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures. “Wholesum Food Calculator is a powerful tool for our business. We were able to hire a full-time food shopper with no previous experience and she was able to immediately start using the software with no guesswork on the shopping lists. We have more flexibility with menu planning, which has enhanced our guests’ culinary experience. Setting up the recipes, creating the meal plans, and exporting the shopping lists were very intuitive and efficient.”

At the end of the day, we hope that – like us – some of these tips and tools can help make menu planning easier and more enjoyable for years to come!

 

Is Wholesum right for you?

There are a number of meal planning apps out there – some for individuals, some for families, some for potlucks, some for bakers. So what sets Wholesum apart?

Wholesum is specifically designed to take the complexity out of meal planning for groups. Are you feeding meals to more than a few people regularly? Do you have to plan around dietary restrictions? Do you host multi-day trips or large events? Do you have your own recipes you want to use, but could use help scaling up and down based on group size and number of meals served? Then Wholesum might be right for you!

Here’s what a few of our users have to say about the benefits of Wholesum Food Calculator:

“Wholesum has been a total game-changer for us!” — Gia, Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures

“We used to have an old, outdated Excel spreadsheet full of errors, which was a struggle to use. Now, Wholesum Food Calculator allows us to easily drag and drop menu items, and print an organized grocery list in minutes! Bring on the field season!” — Lisa, Grand Canyon Trust

“Wholesum has not only made my job of preparing our food packing list for a 9-month field season easier and more efficient, it has also helped reduce our staff’s workload, helped to forecast our season food budget, and to cut down on food waste.” — Daniel, Ecology Project International

“Our field staff used to get bogged down with hours of ingredient conversations, spreadsheet calculations, and reviewing recipes for dietary restrictions. With Wholesum, menu planning takes a few minutes.” — Katie, Wild Rockies Field Institute

So what are you waiting for? Start your free trial today! https://wholesumfoodcalc.com/users/sign_up

100,000 meals served!

Can you believe it, over 100,000 meals served already in 2017?!

That sizable number is a testament to all of the great, hardworking people who have found that Wholesum Food Calculator saves them the headache, time, and money that too often goes into meal and menu planning for groups. You have other things to focus on – whether it’s planning trip logistics, a program curriculum, or prepping gear – this does not have to be one of them! With a growing number of customers who find that Wholesum is a time and money saving game-changer, we’re so happy to help.

Wholesum helps users plan menus around dietary restrictions, group size, and so much more, and then streamlines the process of shopping for ingredients, and cooking great meals. We’re pleased to see the real-world value of Wholesum for staff members across the spectrum of specialties – from river guides to event planners to wildnerness adventurers – is filling bellies out in the great wide world of forests, rivers, mountains, and everything in between.

To another 100,000 meals!

Mobile Apps for Easy Wholesum Shopping

One of the key benefits of using Wholesum is that we take care of the complicated math behind your multi-meal, multi-day trips and provide you with a complete shopping list, summarizing and organizing your recipes’ total ingredients – by store and department, if you like.

Although many people prefer printing out a hard copy list (and can do so in an editable Excel spreadsheet or PDF format), another camp of our customers like the ease of keeping track of what they’ve picked up and what they still need to purchase on their phone. It is for those users that we’re excited to announce the release of our iPhone and Android Wholesum mobile apps!

Your mobile shopping list will be synced between devices. Make edits on your laptop, and they’ll immediately be reflected on your phone. Perhaps you are shopping at one store on your phone while your coworker is at another on their phone. Just make sure you check off what you’ve picked up, refresh your app by pulling down on your meal plan page, and everyone’s lists will be in sync!

 

Given the detailed nature of menu planning and recipe creation, these apps focus entirely on the shopping lists that you create. So make sure you develop your recipes and meal plans on your computer, and then when it comes time to shop, you’ll have a responsive mobile option in your pocket! Apps run on iPhone and Android products.

Group meal planning made simple – and now, on the go!

New functions to simplify your meal planning

We’re always working to improve our web-based tools to simplify your group meal planning. With your feedback in mind, we have added additional options to make your meal planning and shopping easier, so you can focus more of your time on other areas of your work.

 

1. Import Any Recipe from Allrecipes.com!

Creating your recipe list just got a whole lot easier. Now, instead of just creating your own custom recipes manually or importing them from the Wholesum Cookbook, now you can add any of the thousands of recipes on allrecipes.com. Just click “Add from allrecipes.com“, paste the URL of the recipe, and you’re done!

2. Calendar-based planning

Many of you mentioned that your meal planning wasn’t just about meals and ingredients, but also about dates and scheduling. We heard you loud and clear. Now, schedule all of your meals using a calendar and meal grid to schedule each meal served each day throughout the duration of your group plan.

We hope these updates will prove valuable to you. Our goal is for you to spend less time on meal planning, so you can spend more time focusing on your expertise!

As always, let us know if you have any questions!

Pantry or Ration Style Planning

Some organizations that run multi-day outdoor trips may choose to pack rations rather than specific recipes. For example, perhaps you would prefer to pack a specific amount per person of carbohydrates and proteins rather than specific recipes in which they’ll be used, with the expectation that you’ll make your meals using what rations of basic ingredients have been packed like a home cook might see what’s in the cupboard before whipping up dinner with what’s on hand with familiar meals in mind.  While the language of Wholesum is designed around recipes, Wholesum can actually work effectively to accommodate ration planning effectively as well.

IMG_1022

Some suggested changes in use to plan rations:

  • Rather than create a complete recipe with multiple ingredients, use the recipe creation functionality to create one recipe per ingredient (eg. create a “recipe” called “pasta” or “rice”).
    • Select the # of servings per recipe as “1”
    • Enter a quantity of this ingredient that typically equals one serving

This will allow you to add ingredients to your pantry during the meal planning process

  • Use custom tags to indicate which food group this ingredient/recipe fits in (eg. If your “recipe” is rice, create a custom tag “carbohydrates”)
  • When planning your meal plan, indicate the number of individuals, add ingredients to your pantry/meal plan and select how often you’d like to eat a specific pantry item, how many individuals will eat them and click “Create Meal Plan”

Nutrition Labels for Value Added Farm Products & Artisan Food Makers

Are you a farmer or food entrepreneur making value-added products or other artisan food specialties? Surprise – Wholesum can help you, too!

cookies

Whether you’ve perfected the recipe and marketing plan for your jam, artisan bread, soy nut mix, yogurt, Grandma’s cookies, or kombucha, you might be interested in using the math wizardry behind Wholesum to help you shop for and track the costs of ingredients.

Additionally – depending on the size of your operation – you may also want to (or need to!) develop that oh-so-familiar nutrition label before your product hits the farmer’s market table or grocery store shelves.

Before you do, check out these guides that have been developed just for you by experts:

Adding Value to Farm Products: An Overview – ATTRA

Adding Value to Farm Products: Getting the Legal … – Farm Commons

And if the complexity of your recipe, marketing plan, or business size necessitates it, work with professionals (like the folks at UNL’s Food Processing Center) who know the ins and outs of requirements and can help you understand the nutritional details.

And make sure to check out your local state Extension specialists, too. They will have the low down on state-specific regulations and resources.

Welcome to the WHOLESUM Food Calculator Blog!

Welcome!  We hope this blog, like the application itself, will provide a treasure trove of resources for all things food and food measurement.  Whether it’s useful rules for calculating serving size, great recipes for your next camping trip or helpful tips on how to use WHOLESUM Food Calculator, we hope you find what value in all of the posts to come.  Thanks for keeping an eye on our work and please don’t hesitate to contact us by email or through the comment section on each post.

Bon Appetit!