New Camp Food Options

There are certain foods that every camp considers a staple.  Hamburgers.  Pancakes.  Corn dogs.  And for anyone working at camp, these foods quickly lose their excitement.  We eat meal after meal in the cafeteria, and each week we are almost guaranteed the same menu as the week before.  It works. We choose them because they are safe.  We choose them because they are easy. And we choose them because they are easily identified as camp food.

But new foods can refresh an old menu.  And sometimes new foods can save us a few dollars.

So here are a few ideas that might be new to your campsite, and are fairly simple and cheap options. (You’ll see the theme of various types of “bars”.  These are useful because they provide your campers with options, and options are good).

  1. Pasta bar.  Spaghetti is a camp staple, but it can become tired.  There’s nothing special about spaghetti (unless of course you serve it with meatballs the size of your face).  Consider doing a pasta bar instead.  Offer two or three types of noodles and a few different sauces, including a meatless one.  Penne, rotini, and bowtie pasta are all great choices for large groups because they don’t stick together that easily (unlike spaghetti, which is actually one of the WORST pastas to use for large groups).  Serve a traditional pasta sauce, a creamy sauce, and maybe try something with extra spices or a unique flavor.
  2. Hot Dog Bar.  Want to know how to make a kid’s eyes go wide?  Give them a hot dog, and then show them a table loaded with every possible topping they could ever imagine.  Most kids will probably still choose the basics, but the fact that they could have chosen gravy for their hot dog, or salsa, or chili, or even pudding?  That makes all the difference in the world.
  3. Homemade pizza.  This sounds like a lot of work, and it does take more time than throwing mini corndogs in the oven, but it really is a very simple meal to make.  Pizza crust sheets can be purchased, so there’s no need to go through the work of making dough.  And you don’t need to offer as many veggies and sides because everything is right on top of the pizza.  It is also much healthier than other options, because you are able to closely monitor what ingredients go into making it.  If you do it right, pizza night can quickly become the favorite evening for all your campers.
  4. Overloaded salad bar.  Many campsites already offer a salad bar option to their adult groups, but usually make a full meal to go along with it.  Occasionally it may be a good idea to offer your groups only an overloaded salad bar.  Make sure there are a couple types of lettuce, and several protein options, and leave it at that.  Your groups will appreciate a lighter meal, especially your women’s groups.  The easy, quick, cheap nature of this meal will give you the opportunity to be more extravagant in other areas.
  5. Breakfast bread bar.  This one might seem a bit strange, because most people are used to receiving full breakfasts at camp.  But think about what full breakfasts include; carbs.  Lots of carbs.  Sometimes eggs, maybe really fatty meat.  But the majority of the meal; carbs.  So on a day you would normally make pancakes and sausage, or waffles and bacon, consider doing a bread bar with fruit.  Offer a wide variety of breads, plenty of condiments, and your guests will still love your breakfast.  Banana bread, lemon poppy seed, cinnamon, zucchini, monkey bread, and the list goes on!  Note:  This is probably best reserved for older groups, and make sure that you are using it to replace your more expensive breakfasts, because otherwise it could increase costs.
  6. Breakfast for supper.  That’s right.  This is something we do at home when we don’t feel like cooking, but something that kids always love.  Why not bring it to camp?!  Pancakes, eggs, and sausage are a great way for campers to end their day.  And this is a cheap supper option for your campsite as well.  You can be sure that campers will return home telling their parents how awesome breakfast for supper was.  Note:  This meal will work best with kids.  You would do well not to use it with adults.
  7. Quiche, omelets, frittata.  Camps serve eggs A LOT.  And almost always they are scrambled.  Or maybe frozen omelets that get popped in the oven (sketchy?).  But, particularly for your older groups, the egg options are endless.  There are literally hundreds of ways to prepare eggs, and your campsite could benefit from trying a few new ones.  Quiche and frittata are good options because they can serve easily as the main course, and have meat and veggies baked right in.  Omelets, especially made-to-order ones, make your smaller groups feel really special.  It is amazing how much better your meal evaluations are at the end of an adult retreat when you make the effort to offer omelets with a variety of fillings to your guests.  You can change absolutely nothing else, and your rating will still go up at least a few points.

Not sure where to get your recipes? (They really do have an amazing selection, and the recipes are all ranked with reviews, so you know before making it whether others like it.)

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  1. One of my favourite camp breakfast innovations was breakfast pizza – all of the usual pizza toppings, including lots of veggies, and scrambled eggs instead of pepperoni.

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