Worried about sending food to Camp Oasis this summer? It doesn't have to put you over the edge. In this post, I'm going to share how I planned, prepped and packed a week's worth of SCD-legal camp meals without going insane. You can do it too!!
1. PLANNING. Review the camp menu for the week and then create your meal plan.
If a menu isn't provided, ask to see one. We are very lucky here in the northwest, to have a progressive CCFA chapter that is a great liaison between SCD parents, Seattle Children's Hospital and the local YMCA camp that hosts Camp Oasis. A month prior to camp, CCFA-NW sent us a copy of the camp menu so we could review and plan our SCD menus. The first thing I did was review the menu, cross off anything my daughter could not eat, and then figure out how to provide legal substitutes that would be as close as possible to what the rest of the campers would be eating.
I did this for two reasons...
- It took less effort to copy an existing menu than think up a whole new one.
- I wanted my daughter to have the most authentic camp experience possible and that meant dealing with crappy camp food...LOL! I guess I shouldn't say crappy, but you don't get catered to at camp, and I wanted her to experience that. Like a "normal" kid.
Feel free to approach this however you like, but the point is to make a meal plan. You will need to account for every breakfast, lunch, dinner and probably 2 snacks per day. Keep in mind that a some of the meals will be kept in the freezer, so make sure to pack things that freeze well.
For your reference, I'm attaching copies of the 2014 Pacific Northwest Camp Oasis Menu, my adapted SCD-Menu, and the Camp Food Packing Instructions. If you click on these links, you can download word documents of the menus that you are welcome to cut/paste/adapt for your own use. The packing instructions will help you organize and label your food so that it's as easy as possible for the kitchen staff to get your child's meals out at the right time.
I'm also linking to a blog post from Gut Harmony, written by one of my SCD friends that contains 4 years worth of SCD menus that she has sent to camp for her son: Diet in Summer Camp. (This blog is also a great SCD resource, so be sure to look around while you're there!)
Please keep in mind that the process for sending food may be different at your camp, so be sure to check with your camp organizers before proceeding. If there is no firm SCD policy at your camp, you may be able to use these guidelines to help set a precedent. :)
2. PREPARING. Batch cook the week or two before camp. Freeze portions as you go.
Once you've created your meal plan, you need to prepare the food. This does not have to be a major ordeal. The way I approached it was to make my camp menu to feed our family the week or two before camp. Each time I made something, I would double the recipe so that I'd have leftovers to send to camp. This takes very little extra time and you can build your camp food "inventory" one dish at a time instead of having to make everything at once. As you are putting away your leftovers, simply freeze them in the containers you will be sending to camp, so that you don't have to re-package later.
For breakfast, I sent mostly the same things every day, so I made big batches of pancakes, breakfast sausage, breakfast cookies and bacon over the course of a week, froze things as I went and then boxed them up all at one time. Fresh fruit was provided at camp to supplement. To keep things simple, I got some honey packets at Starbucks to send for the pancakes. (I asked to buy some, but they were nice enough to just give me a bag-full when I explained why I wanted them.) If you do this, be sure the packets contain 100% honey, not "honey-sauce" or some other made up condiment. If you can't get packets, or don't trust the contents, consider sending spun honey in little condiment containers...this will be less likely to leak and spreads on like butter.
FYI...We use Hempler's Applewood Uncured Bacon. (Ingredients: natural pork, water, sea salt, organic honey, celery powder.) Yes, the celery powder is probably illegal, but we have not had any trouble with this bacon, and since any bacon is legal once a week if cooked until crispy, I figure this is waaaay better than any other bacon we could be eating. And no, I don't usually feed my child bacon 4 times a week, but it's camp! Crappy food, remember?? ;)
I don't have photos of my other meals, unfortunately, but I sent a variety of things from chili, to hot dogs to jambalaya...matching meals as best I could...sending other things when I couldn't find a good sub. Keep in mind that food will be nuked to reheat, so anything that is supposed to be crispy, will end up soggy. I couldn't figure out a way to send a decent SCD-legal pizza, so I just made something else for that meal. I want my daughter to have that "normal" experience, but not at the expense of her happiness and soggy pizza is just sad. For everything I sent, I included all toppings, sides, condiments, etc. and utilized the salad bar and camp-provided foods as best I could to supplement what I was sending.
3. PACKING. Stock up on inexpensive food containers. (The dollar store is your friend.)
I hit the dollar store for most of my food containers because I wanted to keep this affordable and suspected many things would not make it home. I chose these 2-section containers that were 2/$1. I liked that I could put the main course in the larger compartment and extra condiments, etc. in the smaller section. And yes, they probably leached BPAs into the food when being reheated in the microwave, but I felt like this was ok for one week. The boxes of ziplocs were also just $1 each.
The dollar bins at my local drug store were also a good source of small containers for snacks. Some things could go straight into ziploc bags, but I was worried about baked goods getting crushed and wanted hard-sided packaging for those. I was also cognizant of having "fun" packaging for snacks, hence the colorful containers and treat bags.
The hardest thing to find was tiny leak-proof containers for condiments, so I found some little pots with screw on lids in the travel-size bins at Target. They were about 3/$1. I honestly do not know if they were food safe, but I figured that for the tiny amount of ketchup going into them and the length of time they would be in use, it was a minimal risk. Consider yourself warned. ;) Sistema also makes great condiment containers that are food safe, but are kind of spendy for what they are. I bought some of those too.
Finally, be sure to pack everything in a cooler to take to camp. We had a 1.5 hour drive to camp and we never know what traffic will be like. You do NOT want your food to go bad on the way to camp.
A FEW EXTRA TIPS:
Here are some of the pre-packaged foods I sent as snacks. You can find a wide variety of aged cheeses that are individually wrapped. Larabars are also easy to find...just be sure to check ingredients and only buy the ones that are safe....duh. I've also had luck with Wholly Guacamole...as with anything processed, it's probably not technically legal, but we haven't had any problems with it. I sent these to go with carrot sticks the camp was providing. I also included a variety of dried fruits and home-baked muffins and cookies. If you are able to send nuts, those are good too.
All of the snacks got bagged up and labeled and they all went into one jumbo ziploc. I asked that this bag be kept in the fridge the whole week, instead of the freezer, so the cheese wouldn't get funky. As I packed, I put end of week snacks in the bottom and packed start of week snacks on top, so they would be easy to find. (FYI: You'll notice that there is Moon Cheese in one snack bag...this is not SCD-legal, they do dust their cheese cubes with some kind of starch to prevent the cubes from sticking together before freeze-drying, however, my daughter hasn't had problems with them...as it turned out, she doesn't really like them either, so we don't buy them anymore.)
I usually make my daughter an SCD yogurt smoothie for breakfast every day, so I wanted to make sure she got those at camp. I had no luck finding an inexpensive container to put them in, so I just used some of my glass jelly jars. These worked fine, but my daughter said that the smoothies were kind of gross by the end of the week. I think in the future, I would just send a few for the first few days or skip them all together.
My daughter reported being very happy with her meals....and most of the containers made it home! She was one of about a dozen kids at her camp on SCD last year. This year, there are going to be about 25!
We won't be sending food to camp this year due to the higher number of kids on SCD. Instead, the CCFA-NW chapter has actually hired personal chef, Travis Bettinson, to cook for the SCD kids this year. If you are interested, here's what Chef Travis will be cooking: 2015 Camp Oasis SCD Menu. This menu has been approved by Seattle Children's Hospital and was reviewed by all SCD parents prior to camp. Families who can, were asked to contribute an extra $100 to offset the cost of hiring the chef, but most are more than willing to do so...we would have spent far more than that on food for the week anyway.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST...
Please keep in mind that any camp that is willing to accommodate a special diet is doing you a favor. Make it as easy as possible for them to implement your meal plan and your efforts will be much appreciated. That means being organized, respectful of how much space they have in their fridge, and polite. In most cases, the kitchen staff will not know the rules of SCD, so you need to be as clear as possible in your instructions, without being rude. They want to be helpful, so help them help you. :)
I hope this post has been helpful for families who don't have quite as much support for SCD in their area as we do here in Seattle. I would love to know what other questions you have or what tips you've come up with for sending food to camp. Please feel free to leave comments below, drop me a line or start up a chat on Facebook. I love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by!! XOXO, Cindi