Planning and purchasing the food for the meals at Orcas Summer Camp takes a lot of work ahead of camp. We chose to buy the best possible produce for the meals at camp. Not everyone knows, but the salmon we serve is Alaskan sockeye, caught the week before camp. It is fresh, never frozen, filleted, vacuum sealed, and packed in ice until cooked and served at camp.

Food Planning

We have developed a computer system written in Python to help with menu planning for camp.

We have 175(!) different recipes that have been used at camp. For each meal, we pick the recipes we want to serve at that meal, and how many servings of that recipe we will serve. For example, you can see the 2019 menu here.

The quantities don’t necessarily match the number of campers; we estimate according to what we think campers will eat.

Each recipe stored in the computer lists the grocery items it requires, the quantity for each grocery item, and how many servings the recipe makes. A computer script adds up the quantities for each grocery item across all recipes and meals to come up with a total quantity to be purchased for each grocery item.

This replaces the manual system where Virginia would go through each recipe, add up the quantities in each grocery item, and come up with a final quantity to purchase for each grocery item.

Each grocery item in the computer also lists the grocery store that has the item along with the section of the store (produce, bulk, spices) where it can be found. A computer script produces a master shopping list, sorted by store, then store section, that we use for food shopping.

Finally, a script produces the recipe book that is printed and used all weekend in the kitchen for cooking. A web version is available here.

Food purchasing

Purchasing the food for camp is an iterative process over a span of several weeks. The first few days are spent gathering non-perishable items at various stores, and packing them into banana boxes in a staging area (our living room). We have a chest freezer and frozen items are purchased at this time and stored in the chest freezer. We also have a refrigerator in the basement that is used for storing refrigerated grocery items. The master shopping list gets revised when grocery items are no longer available or too expensive.

Toward the end of the week preceding camp, we start purchasing the produce items and other perishables. We would store the perishable items in our basement to keep them cool. The weather turned very hot the last few years, and our basement became too warm to store the perishable items. We have a small Scamp camper, and it has an air conditioner. We started storing the perishables in the cooled camper to preserve the perishable items.

We purchase the last perishable items on Thursday before camp, like the fresh salmon from Barleans Seafood and lettuce from Joe’s Garden.

Early Friday morning all the perishable and frozen items are packed into ice chests and loaded into the truck.

Dairy products

We purchase all the dairy products from Island Grocery in Eastsound. This relieves us of storing and transporting a lot of refrigerated items. A week before camp, we place our dairy order with Island Grocery. After the truck is unloaded, several people drive to Island Grocery with empty ice chests to pick up the dairy order.