One very useful idea I’ve learned from Linda May, Girl Scout leader and camp director extraordinaire, is to serve bag lunches as the final meal of an event. Linda does this at the annual winter camp she organizes for our service unit, and my troop has done it at several troop camping weekends.
It’s wonderful because you can prepare the meal a few hours in advance and then clean up completely. Not only are there no dishes to wash, but you can have the girls clean the entire lodge or tent unit while their lunches are waiting on a table outside or near the door. Then they grab their lunches and eat outside or in the car on the way home, so there are no crumbs scattered on the clean floors. Dole out the lunches, fold up the table, and you’re done!
It’s easy to customize bag lunches to suit special dietary needs. All you have to do is make a checklist-style menu and circulate it so that each person can order her lunch. Then you write names on the bags, and it’s easy to get the right lunch to the right person. I like to arrange the lunches alphabetically by first name so that people can find theirs more quickly.
Here are the details of exactly how I did the bag lunches at our last camp weekend:
Two weeks before, one patrol of girls made a list of the ingredients they wanted to offer:
- sandwich fillings: creamy peanut butter, grape jelly, strawberry jelly, ham, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, yellow mustard
- bread–they felt it would be too complicated to offer a choice of bread, “so let’s just have whole-wheat because it’s better for you.”
- chips–a variety pack of little bags
- fruit: apples, bananas, and peaches
- juice–“Bottles or pouches or whatever kind of single servings is cheapest, but 100% juice in assorted flavors.” In most contexts I would purchase only containers that could be recycled, but since these lunches were going to disappear into cars with the girls I wouldn’t be able to organize the recycling effort, and among the choices at Costco at that moment the pouches were much less expensive, and they are made from less plastic than a plastic bottle that might not get recycled…so I went with pouches of 100% juice.
We circulated a menu for sandwiches, but the chips, fruit, and juice that went into each lunch were randomly selected; we figured anyone who got something she didn’t like could trade with someone else. One girl wrote, “NO DAIRY!” next to her name, so we made sure she got a dairy-free flavor of chips. We were a little short on fruit (because we’d served fruit at other meals and had fruit bowls sitting around for snacking, and slightly more of it had been eaten than we expected) but one of the mothers attending camp had brought a bunch of little bags of baby carrots, so we put carrots in every lunch and gave fruit to everyone except the Daisies, who are smaller and don’t eat as much.
I split my Junior troop into two groups of four, for camp chores: One group cooked Saturday’s lunch and cleaned the lodge on Sunday. The other group cleaned up after Saturday’s lunch and made the bag lunches. (We were at camp with a Daisy/Brownie troop and a Cadette troop, so they made the other meals.)
We assembled the lunches in the dining area as soon as it was cleaned up from breakfast. That kept us out of the way of the girls who were washing breakfast dishes in the kitchen.
As I collected the supplies, I came to the horrifying realization that I had bought sandwich bags but had forgotten about lunch bags, so we had nothing in which to place the completed lunches!! We did some frantic brainstorming. We considered asking all the girls to bring their bandanas to wrap their lunches in, but we weren’t sure everyone would have a clean bandana at the end of the weekend. Finally I noticed a bag of newspapers one of the other adults had brought (for covering tables during messy crafts) and we wrapped each lunch in a sheet of newspaper secured with masking tape, on which we wrote the girl’s name. These also served as placemats while eating, so it worked out fine, and we didn’t spend money on little paper bags! But the bags are easier to pack.
Another adult supervised the girls as one of them sliced cheese, one sliced tomatoes and tore up lettuce, and two assembled the sandwiches, checking off each order as they prepared to fill it. They then handed each sandwich to me or my Cadette helper (thank you, Hannah!) and told us whose it was. We added it to the other components assembled on a paper, folded the paper around the food, taped it shut, and wrote the name. In retrospect, it would have been smoother to have written the names on pieces of tape in advance and had the sandwich-makers bring us the tape and the sandwich together, but it worked out.
As a leader and driver, I’ve usually found that I’m busy shutting down the camp until it’s time to leave, and then I’m driving and prefer not to eat while driving because it’s too distracting (particularly on unfamiliar rural roads), so I often don’t have a chance to eat my bag lunch until I get home. But when I get home, I’m tired and my son is excited to see me and wants me to do things with him, so it’s convenient to have a lunch that’s ready to eat right away!