Food Shopping Tips

Prior to a trip, each patrol meets and plans their own menu.  Part of the menu planning is developing the shopping list for all of the ingredients and supplies needed to transport, store, and prepare the food; clean up after the meal; and dispose of any waste generated during the meal.  The shopping process can be summarized by four steps:
  • Menu Planning
  • Shopping List
  • Shopping
  • Reimbursement
This page will touch briefly on three of these topics, but the most detail will be given about the shopping process.  Please review the suggestions before shopping for food with your boy so you can help him make good decisions about which food (and how much of it) to buy.

Menu Planning
This step of the process will be completed during one of the Tuesday night troop meetings, usually about 10 days before the date of the trip.  We want to give you enough time to plan an evening that you can shop with your son.  (As noted below, if the boy is doing the shopping and making the decisions, the shopping trip will likely take longer than you expect).

Shopping List
Also during the patrol meeting, the patrol will determine what ingredients, sides, and condiments they will need for their meal.  For instance, if they decide to have sandwiches for lunch, they should decide if they want mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce, cheese, etc to put on the sandwiches.  They will also decide how much to get.  For example, a  patrol of 7 boys that wants turkey sandwiches for lunch may determine that they need 14 slices of turkey.  Or they may decide they need 12 slices of garlic bread to go with their spaghetti.

The Shopping Trip
During the patrol meeting, the patrol leader will assign one of the boys to do the shopping for the trip.  This is usually a boy who needs to do the shopping to complete one of his advancements requirements, but it may be an older scout.  It really depends on who is going on a given trip.  The shopping trip is where you, as the parent, will be most involved in the process.  To help you know what to look for and what to talk to your boy about, we have a list of considerations and a list of suggestions for you.

  • It is important that your son be an active lead in making the decisions while shopping.  You should guide and help, but he should have the final decision in the products selected.
  • We have limited space to store and transport food.  Smaller packaging is preferred.
  • Once we open a container, it is difficult for us to store it properly.  Packages that can be used up in a single meal are more efficient for us.
  • It is better to have a little less food than they boys want to eat than to have a significant amount of waste (which we have to carry out with us).  The trips are only one weekend long and we will not to let them starve. 
  • A scout is thrifty!  While it isn't necessary to buy the lowest quality product available to save money, it usually isn't necessary to buy high-end products.  Remember that when we are camping, we tend to be hungry enough that middle-quality food tastes very good.
  • Plan sufficient time.  Your son likely doesn't have as much experience shopping as you do and it could take him more time to make decisions in the store.
  • Please do not shop at Costco/BJ's/Sam's Club or other bulk item stores.  The items at this store are almost always more than a patrol can eat and produce a large amount of waste.
  • Packages at stores such as Giant Eagle and Heinen's are usually sized close to what we need.
  • Encourage your son to read the packaging to determine how many servings are in a package.  Knowing how to find and interpret this information is a valuable skill and takes practice.
  • Do not go to the deli counter.  Sometimes a shopping list might say that the patrol needs 14 slices of turkey for sandwiches.  That is the minimum they need to feed the patrol.  But it is usually more economical to buy a package of 20 slices from the refrigerated section.  This process can help your son make decisions that balance cost and quantity.
  • The quantities on the shopping list are the minimum need the patrol has identified.  The boy should examine the package options available and determine if he should buy a little less or a little more.  In the sliced turkey example, he should probably buy a little more.  But if they need 14 servings of chips and a package comes with 12 servings, they can probably do with a little less.
  • Avoid buying canned goods in units larger than 12 ounces.  Sometimes the boys overestimate what they will actually eat.  (the classic example of this is baked beans.  They will often say they want 3 cans of baked beans, but then only eat one can's worth.  If we have smaller cans, we can encourage them to heat one can at a time and generate less waste)
  • Squeeze bottles are a great idea, when possible.
  • Resealable packages never hurt, but are not necessary.

When shopping for a patrol, please do so separately from your regular shopping.  If you want, you can take your son on your regular shopping trip, but have him keep a separate cart for the patrol food.  Please pay separately for the patrol's food.  Keep the receipt and submit it at the next Tuesday night troop meeting and the troop will reimburse the expense.