Friday, July 19, 2013

How I did Girls Camp food for 250 girls and leaders

From my IG post during camp:
"I am currently at church girls camp and cooking the crap out of everything for boat loads of people, but it's going well. So well that I am drunk off the fun and spilling teriyaki sauce all over myself. Also, someone give me a foot massage."

So here is the post about girls camp. You can skip over this. It is extremely long. Or bookmark it and send it to the sad, stressed person you know who got the calling to do food for your stake Girls Camp next year. I know that when I was prepping for camp, I would have wanted a big blog post telling me what worked for someone else. Hopefully this helps at least one person!

Our stake does stake camp every two years. The stake president really wanted the girls to spend more time together as a stake, so he thought having them eat together would work great. In comes the schlemiel asked to make that happen. And this year, it was me. I was called into the stake president's office way back in December and asked to take this calling. Honestly, I knew that at some point in my life, I would be asked to do something like this. But I thought it would be further down the road! I got the calling in December, but couldn't really jump into action until a month or so before camp. So I had time to think about it and "sit on it". In that time, I had a lot of self-doubt and stress about this. I should be embarrassed about how stressed this made me. But I survived!

I was asked to choose one assistant, so after a lot of thinkin', scopin' and prayin', I asked my friend from my old ward, Stephanie, to be my right hand gal. And oh was she. Couldn't have done it without her. If you ever get called to do food for stake Girls Camp, look for the hardest working, smartest, nicest person you can find.

During the months before camp, I did get a few logistics worked out. Our camp didn't have electricity or any kitchen facilities. It was camping in every sense of the word. We just had running water. One thing I knew had to be done was that our stake needed to rent a refrigerated trailer. I couldn't imagine the mountain of coolers and ice I would have needed. So I submitted my proposal for that to the stake presidency and they approved it without much trouble. We figured out that each girl needed to have about $3 (if I can remember correctly) added to her fees to cover the trailer. Originally, I wanted a refrigerated truck, but come June, I couldn't find one to rent. So I started looking for a 12 foot trailer instead. It turned out to work just fine. I had a truck to pull it and it turned out to be cheaper than we thought. It was $150 a day and the generator took 5 gallons of gas a day. We only ran the generator during the day. Everything stayed nice and cold without it being on at night. Plus, it's loud. At night, it could have been easily heard from the parking lot where we parked it. So it was best to have it off at night anyways.

Another thing we had done well before camp was convince the stake presidency that our stake needed to purchase two commercial-sized grills. That was easily done because they wanted to anyways so they could use it for lots of church functions. They are just a good thing for a stake to have. They bought THESE ones from Sam's Club. We have one for catering and she works great. Between the grills and my two-burner Camp Chef stove, that was all the cooking heat we needed.

Once I got a solid Girls Camp schedule from the stake camp director, I worked out the menu. Here it is:

Monday - Set up day
Lunch: Leaders and YCLs bring a sack lunch or get lunch in Heber.

Dinner: Leaders and YCLs go to dinner in Heber at the Dairy Keen.

Breakfast (50 people, stake leaders and YCLs): yogurt and granola, bagels with cream cheese, peanut butter, jelly and hot chocolate and orange juice

Lunch (50 people, stake leaders and YCLs): Make-your-own cold-cut sandwiches, baggies of cut veggies and cups of ranch dressing, watermelon, potato chips

Dinner: Grilled teriyaki chicken, pesto pasta salad with summer veggies, watermelon, potato chips and lemonade

Breakfast (25, steak leaders only): Chocolate chip pancakes with syrup, fresh pineapple and grapes, hot chocolate and orange juice

Lunch (250, whole stake): Make-your-own cold-cut sandwiches, baggies of cut veggies and cups of ranch dressing, watermelon, hard-boiled eggs, bags of chips, string cheese, granola bars. There will be the option to eat there at the pavillion or take a brown paper bag and take your lunch to be with your ward or head out on a hike.

Dinner (250, whole stake): Pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw, corn on the cob, potato salad and lemonade

Breakfast (25, stake leaders only): Oatmeal with fresh berries and almonds, hard-boiled eggs, hot chocolate and orange juice

Lunch: Frito bag walking tacos with all the fixings, apples, fruit leather and Capri Suns. (This will be served to everyone, but it is mostly for girls that need to be certified to cook something on their hike with the Buddy Burners. They will have all the fixings for the tacos and then heat up the pre-cooked ground beef mixture.)

Dinner (40, stake leaders and stake presidency only): BBQ baby back ribs, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. Dessert: grilled pineapple with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Breakfast (25, steak leaders only): Donuts, granola and yogurt, hot chocolate and orange juice

Some notes on the menu: 
*I wouldn't have done corn on the cob. That was a dumb move by me. I didn't realize that half of those girls had braces! DUH! So next time, save the money and just get bags of frozen corn at Costco.

*We exed the oatmeal the morning of and just opted for yogurt and granola again with the fresh berries. The oatmeal was just going to take up too much time.

*The hot chocolate was loved by all. The night before, I would fill a pot with water and set it on the camp stove. Right after I woke up and got out of my tent, I would go turn on the stove before I did anything else. Once boiling, I mixed up a bit batch of hot chocolate instead of having people spoon in powder themselves. I also added a hefty helping of half and half. Because that's just plain delicious. We had purchased styrofoam cups with lids and we would fill up the hot chocolate and have it ready to go for when our beloved stake leaders came to breakfast. It worked out perfectly. With the leftover hot chocolate, we would pour it back into the big pot, cover the pot and put it in our refrigerated trailer. We would just add more water each morning and make more hot chocolate instead of waste what we had.

*The baggies of cut veggies with cups of ranch dressing were a giant hit. At camp, everyone eats so much junk. So to have a little baggie of fresh carrots, celery and cucumbers was a welcome sight. In the bag, we also included a little 2 ounce lidded souffle cup with ranch dressing. It was a bit labor intensive to prep all of the, but totally worth it. We used them at lunch and just as snacks.

*Fresh watermelon was everyone's favorite. And luckily, each of the 18 watermelons was a good one. The girls and leaders loved having watermelon at almost every meal.

*My husband gave us the best tip on doing the teriyaki chicken. Teriyaki chicken tends to burn easily because of the high sugar content in the sauce. But we were able to make it work without any burning at all! We ordered exact 4 ounce portions of chicken breast from Sysco and I asked our Sysco guy for a really thick teriyaki sauce. Instead of marinating the chicken in the teriyaki sauce, we poured the sauce into a big pot and we would dunk the chicken in it after we grilled it and then set it into our pans. It worked perfect and everyone loved the chicken. A note on Sysco: you have to have a Sysco account to order from them. We do because we have a catering company. They were great to work with. We ordered our Frito bags for the walking tacos, teriyaki sauce, chicken and coleslaw dressing form Sysco. Find a friend that has a Sysco account and use it! Especially for the chicken!

*For the pesto pasta salad, we kept it super simple. Pasta, red bells, olives and green onions. And then we bought Kirkland prepared pesto, thinned it out with a bit of olive oil and then poured it over the pasta. It was super easy and delicious. BUT, we should have bought more pesto. And we WAYYYY over bought on pasta. But luckily, it is cheap and it wasn't too heartbreaking to toss it.

*I would cut out the lemonade next time. It wasn't necessary and the girls didn't seem to care that much about it. They usually just filled their water bottles up with water anyways.

*Do you know what walking tacos are? It where you have a bag of Fritos (we got 2 ounce bags from Sysco) and you make a taco salad in the bag. The girls had to cook something over a fire for some of their certification, so we came up with this for lunch. After their hike, they came to the kitchen area and made a lunch bag of the fritos, the taco meat filling that had already been cooked and bagged, a lidded souffle cups of diced tomatoes, onions and cheese. We had lettuce, but it had gone bad by the time we were serving at camp. We took the cups of tomatoes out of the baggies of lettuce and tossed the lettuce. It worked out just fine without lettuce.

*The ribs only worked because I had my husband bring them up that night. He was such a champ for doing it. He roasted them at home and then brought them up to camp where I grilled them and basted them with BBQ sauce.

*On Bishop's Night, my friend was coming up with her bishop husband, so I asked her to bring up the donuts for the next morning and the ice cream for the dessert. The dessert didn't workout that night. We just didn't have time. So I wouldn't do that next time.

So what did we made ahead of time? We roasted the pork for the pulled pork and bagged it and froze it. We boiled all the pasta for the pasta salad and bagged it and refrigerated it. We boiled all the eggs. We made taco filling for the walking tacos by combining cooked ground beef with canned chili and then froze it into small portions in sandwich baggies. We boiled the potatoes for the potato salad and put it into pans and refrigerated them. Needless to say, the week before camp was basically hell. I won't lie. Oh the amount of TV my kids watched...

We split our grocery list into perishables and non-perishables and had two different shopping days. Dearest Steph got all the non-perishables two weeks before and we kept it all in my garage and then we both did the perishables two days before camp, which was Saturday. That night, I organized a cutting and prep night at my church kitchen with my Relief Society. A few angel women came and helped us chop tons of vegetables and prep bags and bags of stuff. I think that is what really saved our bacon at camp. The only thing we cut at camp was watermelon.

The way the trailer worked is that we would go to it before and after every meal. We would drive my truck the two minutes to it, load up and then drive back to our kitchen. It sounds like it was a big deal, but it totally wasn't. We had set up two 8 foot tables in the trailer when we packed it so that we had different levels to work with and that was perfect. It was so surprising to see how quickly our full trailer became empty as the days went by!

We set our kitchen up with 5 8 foot tables and 2 EZ Ups. Our tables were three in a row and two on the sides, like a half square. We had lots of counter space and it worked great. It never seemed cluttered, which would have stressed me out. We had a few bus tubs with our cooking and serving utinsels and a clothes line hung up to dry our towels. We also kept our paper plates and cups and silverware there. For the silverware, we kept them in the number 10 cans from the olive with a label on them. So one for the forks, one for knives, one for spoons and one for napkins. We kept a gallon zip-loc bag over them when we weren't using them. We also had a clock which proved to be so valuable. People referred to it all day. And we had a white board with the day's menu on it so people knew what grub we were going to be serving.

Speaking of serving, we had 4 buffet lines. We had another EZ Up set up adjacent to our kitchen area and under it was four 6 foot tables set up in two lines. Each side of the table was a buffet line. With that many lines going, we were able to get everyone fed really fast. Maybe in less than 15 minutes. There were no long lines for waiting.

The hot boxes are what really made things work out. Luckily, I got to bring two of our catering hot boxes. They kept the food perfectly warm for hours. We bought a whole case of disposable foil pans from the restaurant supply store and they fit right into the hot boxes. Foil pans were the only way to go. We used them to serve everything and the ones that weren't too thrashed after dinner, we rinsed them out and saved them so we wouldn't run out. So foil pans and hot boxes- totally essential! You can rent hot boxes from Diamond Rentals for cheap.

I am sure there is good info I forgot about, but if I remember, I will add it. If you are about to embark on the tough calling of camp food and you have questions, go ahead and email me. I would be happy to help. I really mean it.


  1. You and Steph were amazing!! Hard-working talented women. Great food and also great company. Thanks for the laughs. :)

  2. You need to add some google tags to this so that people can find this post on a search engine. So much helpful information. I knew you'd nail it, I told you from the beginning.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this.. Now I know if I'm ever asked to cook for camp the answer is no. :)

  4. Now that's what I call selfless service

  5. you are awesome ... that is all

  6. Thank you for all your comments. This has been extremely helpful.

    1. You are so welcome! Let me know if you ever have questions!

  7. What kind of hot boxes did you use?

  8. I've been cooking for Sacramento Stake girls camp for 14 years! We serve about 240 girls and leaders. Super fun.

  9. This site is a huge blessing! I am cooking for 400 for a stake activity, and there is a TON of great info. Thanks!

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.