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Small Man has some severe nut allergies, so whenever he goes on school camp, we’re required to send all his food.  It can be tricky coming up with a menu that will last well over a week, but we just about have it down pat now. I thought I’d write about it in case it’s useful to other parents in a similar situation.

Some suggestions:

1. Buy a big esky (cooler, ice box) with wheels.  There’s quite a lot of food to pack for a teenager and if you have an incredibly heavy esky that needs to be carried, you’ll either piss the camp staff off straight away, or give your kid a hernia.  Neither of those outcomes is ideal.

2. Don’t kill yourself trying to make balanced meals.  Remember that anything you send is probably going to be better than camp food anyway, so don’t get too distressed about the fact he won’t be eating fresh vegetables by day five.

3.  Involve your child in the meal planning process.  And the week before, do a test run to make sure he’ll eat the meals you send.  Most camps will provide a fridge and freezer to store the food in, and a microwave to reheat, but they won’t actually cook anything for you, so you’ll need to have everything precooked and frozen.

4. Write a daily menu, so the teacher in charge doesn’t have to decide what food to serve.  Print out or write a label for each meal and stick it onto a brown paper bag, then put all the food for that meal in the bag.  Remember that the less work the staff have to do, the more time they’ll have to focus on your child.

5. If the allergies allow it, go heavy on the breads and baked goods.  Not only are they easier to eat, they’re less likely to go off if they’re accidentally left unrefrigerated.

6. Over-cater slightly and send more food than your son or daughter actually needs.  It’s better to waste a little than have a hungry bear on camp.

Here is a list of the food we sent, in case it provides some ideas.  Most of it was homemade, but we bought some packaged bits and pieces to pad out the menu:

  • Olive and cheese sourdough rolls, frozen
  • Spelt sourdough rolls, buttered and vegemited, frozen
  • Mini apple pies, baked in muffin tins, refrigerated, first two days only
  • Homemade thick crust pizza, refrigerated, dinner first night
  • Penne bolognaise, frozen, dinners for remaining three nights
  • Tinned baked beans and sliced bread for toasting, for breakfasts
  • Apples for morning and afternoon tea
  • Chocolate chip cookies, for the cabin
  • Tetrapak juice, single serves
  • Tetrapak chocolate milk, single serves
  • Cherry tomatoes and cucumbers
  • Packaged crackers and cheese dip, for supper and snacks

I realise it’s not a huge variety of food, and in Small Man’s case, it will mean eating pretty much the same food each day (though not at every meal).  But they’re all things he loves, so he’s more than happy to do that.  More importantly, we’re confident that the food will keep well for five days, which is always the biggest challenge in this kind of exercise.  This is definitely not the time to be sending sushi or lightly cooked chicken dishes!

It’s a lot of effort, but definitely worth it.  Small Man set off with a big grin on his face, happy to have familiar food for the next five days!

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