Ah, camp! The great outdoors! Smell that pine, the clear mountain air, that....camp food! Yes, fellow 'Food Freaks', we can certainly be thankful at least one time in our lives for our allergies. And that's when we DON'T have to eat the camp food!
But how, you ask, does one send their children (or themselves as counselors) to camp if they have food allergies? Well, I recently did just that, and I will pass on to you (as brief as possible) what I did to make it happen. Hopefully my information will be helpful....and even spur you on to better ideas than I had!
The first 'must do' was to call the camp and speak with the folks in charge of the kitchen. Food allergies, as you know, are not the 'oddity' that they were even five years ago. So chances are, you will speak with someone who understands. I happened to get in touch with the owner of the camp. I explained to her that I would be sending up meals for my sons, and asked if the preparations that were required for those meals would be possible. The particular camp my kids attend has two refrigerator/freezers in the cafeteria. It is important that you have a place to store the food. Also, you will need to have one 'designated person', either from your group or from the camp, who is responsible for heating up the meals. Kids have a limited time to eat, and having the meals heated for them rather than them doing it will give them enough time to dine.
Once you have a name and a confirmation, you are all set. It may also be helpful to obtain a menu of the week's meals. That way, you could see if there would be something served that your child could eat, and therefore not have to pack as much for that day. Unfortunately, the promised copy of the menu from my kid's camp never arrived!
I then planned a menu for each meal. To keep things simple for breakfast, I packed gluten free cereal, both cold and hot. I also knew that this camp served fruit with each morning meal, and my boys can have milk, which they also provided. For lunches, I was able to find some prepared entrees, such as Amy's Macaroni and Cheese and Enchiladas. (You may have to search more if dairy and soy allergies are present.) This was less cost effective, but it sure beat an entire day in the kitchen! I simply labeled each box with the word 'Lunch', the child's name, and the day it was to be eaten. For 'sandwich' day, I packed GF lunch meat, their bread, and condiments. I was sure to put mayo & mustard in a sandwich bag, in which the corner can be snipped off to squirt onto the sandwich. That way, there's no risk of 'crumb contamination' from the camp condiments.
For dinner, I simply planned to send homemade, fully cooked 'TV dinners'. Both a friend and I did this, and it worked out wonderfully. For my boys, I planned two different meals, to be eaten on alternate nights. I prepared lasagna to be eaten on Monday and Wednesday nights, and for Tuesday and Thursday nights (they came home Friday), I prepared grilled chicken, potatoes and veggies. For one of the chicken meals, I added a marinara sauce and topped it with a little mozzarella. They loved it.
The meals can then be placed in freezer safe containers (the rectangular shaped work best). I then wrote on each lid the child's name, the day it was to be served, the meal it was for and the microwaving instructions. I then froze the meals. Then, at camp meal times, the counselor simply removed my son's meal from the freezer and 'nuked' it according to instructions.
For snacks, I purchased a bag of chips and divided that into baggies with their name and the day written on it (otherwise, they may have eaten them ALL the first day! Twelve year olds!). For desserts, I purchased a variety of cookies and labeled each box.
All of this was placed in a cooler for the ride up. Once at camp, the frozen and perishable foods were put in the fridge/freezer and the dry foods were put back in the cooler and stored by the fridge. This kept any mice away, as well as teenage cooks who might have wanted to 'sample' the cookies!
In the end, I discovered that not only did this system work beautifully for my boys, but they were the envy of every individual up there! They heard more than once, 'Oh, you wouldn't be able to trade, would you?" So instead of feeling like 'food freaks', they felt like kings! And the best part, they didn't come home sick!
Happy Camp Cooking!