How to Plan Meals

How to Plan Meals

Preparation is Paramount

Houseboating 102 is a series devoted to teaching you the finer points of houseboating at Lake Powell and today our experts are weighing in on Houseboat Meal Planning.

The Experts' Take

 Gail Buckley - Lake Powell Houseboating 102 Expert
Gail »

There are different ways to plan meals for you and your group. Some people assign a “head chef” who buys all the food and coordinates all the meals. If that works for you, fine. But over the years (and I’ve been doing this for longer than I care to admit!), my friends and I have figured out a fun and efficient way of doing meals that I’d like to share with you.

Divide up your group into...teams...So each team gets a certain meal on a certain day

It works like this. Divide up your group into “couples” or “two’s” or “teams.” They can be spouses, pairs of friends, adult siblings, whatever you like. Then divide up the total number of meals for your outing, and assign them evenly to the different teams. So each team gets a certain meal on a certain day; given the number of days you’ll be spending at the lake, the schedule may rotate more than once. My husband and I always volunteer to create the first big meal on board. It’s a lot of fun—plus, this way, we can spend the rest of the outing relaxing and enjoying everyone else’s cuisine!

Make your meal a good meal. A complete meal. Include everything it will require: all the courses, all the fixings, and so on. If it’s something like a casserole, it’s easy to make it in advance and bring it aboard in a cooler chest.

For our groups, breakfast and dinner count as “meals”; lunch is always a combination of leftovers and snacks. (Your mileage may vary! So feel free to tweak this strategy to your group’s needs—and stomachs.

Jim Knapp - Lake Powell Houseboating 102 Expert
Jim »
You might laugh, but I've seen people bring deep fryers for cooking a turkey. Don't do it.

First-time houseboaters always wonder about planning meals. And rightly so: Dining can make or break your houseboat experience. I’ve been here at Lake Powell for a long, long time (I first arrived here in 1989), so I can tell you, from experience, the easy ways to make each meal a success.

Divide the duties

The best method, I’ve found, is to carve up your party into sections, with each section responsible for a dinner and a breakfast. (You can do a lunch as a meal, or as a snack, as my colleague Gail Buckley noted in her article on this topic.) Once meals are assigned in advance, there’s less chance of anyone forgetting anything. Be sure to pack your special spices and things you won’t be able to get at the store. Speaking of which…

Shop at the last minute

That sounds suspiciously easy, doesn’t it? Well, let me qualify that advice. I’m based here at Wahweap Marina in Southlake, and we’re only about ten minutes from the town of Page (read: “Walmart”!), so you can get all your perishables just before you board so they’re nice and fresh, and will keep the longest. If you’re houseboating out of Northlake, at Bullfrog Marina, you’ll need to do all your shopping in advance. It’s nice and secluded up there—the way lots of people prefer it.

But if you do start down here at Wahweap, I suggest you shop really early in the morning or really late in the day. That’s because all the supermarkets in Page get jammed with people in the middle of the day—you guessed it—stocking up for their houseboats. So avoid the crowds.

What not to bring

You might laugh, but I’ve seen people bring deep fryers for cooking a turkey. Don’t do it. Those same people were the ones who caused fire damage to the soffit of the overhanging deck. Honestly. Each boat includes a kitchen and a grill, so take advantage.

How to get your stuff here

About 90 percent of our visitors arrive by car. They’ll tow big box trailers, loaded to the gills. Or they’ll tow a powerboat to bring along, and load it up with gear and coolers. Either way works. And if you don’t have a powerboat, be sure to rent one! (Check out this great article we’ve posted about powerboats and other water toys.)

Can you overload your houseboat? While anything is possible, the typical family will not overload our typical houseboat. They may tend to load it incorrectly or unbalance the boat. But we can help with that. That’s why we’re here.

Can you overload your houseboat? While anything is possible, the typical family will not overload our typical houseboat. They may tend to load it incorrectly or unbalance the boat, but we can help with that. That's why we're here!

Pre-board if you can

It comes with a slight additional cost, but this service is sure worth it. Consider this: It can take hours for you to load up your houseboat. The different members of your party may well arrive at different times. So if you’ve got an 8 a.m. check-in, you may not leave the dock until noon! That’s half a day of your vacation spent.

With pre-boarding, you can load up your houseboat the night before. You can even spend the night on board, since the craft is hooked up to shore power. Then when you get up the next morning, you’re the first to get your houseboat instruction—and the first to be on your way.

Pre-boarding is limited. Be sure to book yours in advance.

Leave the cooking to us

We have more than houseboats here at Wahweap. We also have some pretty amazing chefs, as well as chef-houseboats that can accompany your party and serve up gourmet meals right where you’ve beached your boat. We’ll cater to your every whim—and your every meal. That’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner for your entire stay.

As you might have guessed, this service isn’t inexpensive. But boy is it ever worth it.

“But isn’t there another way to save on cooking effort?” you may ask.

There is.

Simply contact our Food and Beverage department, and we can do all the pre-work for you: Shopping, labeling, providing all the ingredients and instructions. Then you’ve got your meals all ready to go. It’s delicious, it’s more affordable than full-on catering, and as you might have guessed, it’s pretty popular. You’ll get a selection, and pick our your choices, and you’re set.

However you choose to do it, I think your meals will be great. But of course I believe that houseboat meals, at Lake Powell, always taste best.

Robert Knowlton - Lake Powell Houseboating 102 Expert
Robert »
Count on being good and far from the nearest market, so plan and pack carefully.

People often ask me if there’s a secret to successful meals when you’re houseboating. I don’t think there’s one secret.

I think there are two.

For me, it’s all about the group you’ll be houseboating with. I’m still in my late 20s, so I’ve gone on two very different types of houseboat vacations: 1) with family, and 2) with my friends. And as it turns out, the meals—from the planning, to the cooking, to the cleanup—vary quite differently, depending upon the group. So in this article, I’m going to describe both ways… both “secrets,” if you will.

With family

When I go houseboating with my family, there’s a wide range of ages aboard: everyone from toddlers to parents in their 50s. Obviously, the littlest ones can’t cook (or pay), so the labor (and the expenses) get divided among us elders.

My family has done a lot of camping, and houseboating is very similar, in terms of meals. Count on being good and far from the nearest market, so plan and pack carefully. Don’t forget condiments, snacks, and so on.

My family is also very structured when it comes to meals. My parents like to take charge, and I’m happy to let them. They’ll write up menus/tasks and distribute them in advance: “Tuesday will be hot dogs and burgers, with Bill and Sally in charge; Wednesday will be Mexican night; Thursday will be homemade pizza,” etc.

Even with the division of labor, it’s a fun group effort. Everyone pitches in to clean up after meals, so the place is nice and tidy if we want to watch a movie at night. It’s all very structured and organized and makes for nice smooth sailing, both literally and figuratively.

And in case you couldn’t tell by now, I was using it as a setup for the other end of the spectrum:

With friends

It couldn’t be more different. My old college buddies are more casual, and less structured. You’d think the only thing they can remember to pack is the drinks.

So while I’m happy to be part of the crew when I’m with my family, I take charge with my friends. I’m the captain. One of my trusted and most responsible friends will serve as first mate. (This way, I’m not captain 24/7, and get to have fun, too.)

I’ll do the shopping in advance. I buy the food; they pay me back. I wait until the end of the trip, because I’ll add the fuel bill to the tab.

It doesn’t sound quite fair, does it? I mean, I’m the one shelling out all the money up front. I’m the one doing all the shopping. How does it balance out?

With labor!

When I’m captain, my friends do all the manual labor. They do the cooking, the serving, the cleaning. They dig the anchors. They wash dishes. You might think that this would cause a mutiny, but it’s not the case at all. My friends love it! It’s part of the adventure, part of the experience. (And the meals I plan, like spaghetti, are easy.) In fact, when the trip is over and I calculate how much they owe me, they often offer to over-pay. They’re, in short, good friends. Which leads to my final bit of meal-planning advice:

Learn from your mistakes

No one wants to mess up when it comes to houseboating, but when you’re orchestrating, say, a dozen friends who haven’t all done this together before, you can’t be perfect. But you’ll see where you erred. At the end of the trip, you’ll hear yourself thinking, “Wow, Joe and Suzy didn’t do any work! I’m not so sure I’ll invite them back the next time.” On the other hand, you’ll also have thoughts like, “I was pleasantly surprised by the great job Rick and Cindy did—and I didn’t realize they were such good cooks!”

So your next time out, you’ll be able to have your cake and eat it, too.


About the Experts

Gail BuckleyGail Buckley’s houseboating adventures date back to the 1980s, when she and her husband would visit the lake several times each year with friends. In 2010, she turned her love into a new career at Lake Powell; today, she’s the Boat Rentals Manager for Northlake at Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas

Jim KnappJim Knapp first moved to Lake Powell more than 25 years ago; today, he’s the Director of Boat Rental Maintenance for Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas. A factory-certified mechanic for numerous top marine powerplant brands, he’s also a licensed U.S. Coast Guard captain for 100-ton craft.

Robert Knowlton -Robert Knowlton started his career at Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas as a seasonal worker during college more than six years ago. Today, not only is he a full-timer—he’s the Director, Southlake Boat Rentals, based at Wahweap Marina.

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