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Cutting food & campsite costs

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In another thread, Basementdweller wrote:


We have several multi scout families to 10 bucks for food for the camp out can become 30 real quick. That is simply going to the free campsites.

We already hike and fish, Free museums around, state historical sites. on and on and on. Jamboree, Philmont, northern tier are unobtainable.

The Fall camporee cost $15 to just get in the door, $10 for food that is a $25 weekend which is $75 for one family.

Klondike derby is $35....just the entry.......

Our fundraisers barely cover Recharter and Summer camp

Troop Gear isn't a problem, We have patrol boxes and tents for 40 scouts. We have transportation. It is food and camp site costs.


but lets look at the cost of the program


Fall camporee $25

November Camp $15

December Party $10

Recharter $35

January Cabin $30

Feb Klondike $40

March Camp $25

April Camp $10

May outing $15

June Summercamp $180

July FishingCamp$15


$360 bucks and that isn't with a bunch of expensive outings. In our council that is like $1,000 worth of popcorn.

With three that is more than a grand.



Personally, I'd drop popcorn like a hot potato and switch to something that'll give your troop more bang for its buck. But that's another topic entirely.



Anyone able to chip in with some ideas to help reduce those food and campsite costs?


Off the top of my head:


- Monitor your shelf-stable staple foods carefully, and stock up whenever they go on sale - not necessarily close to a campout. Tuna fish, Spam, pancake mix, instant mashed potatoes, pasta of any sort, beans, dry soup mixes, dry milk, etc. - they can last a good while, and be had for fairly cheap by a good bargain shopper. This may require some adult action, as adults go grocery shopping far more frequently than kids.


- Same for non-food items. Things such as paper towels, dish soap and TP can add up quickly. But if bought at store-brand, deep-discount prices and stockpiled (not purchased just before each campout), you can save some money.


- If you have some talented anglers and there aren't any fish consumption advisories in your area, fish for food! It's free! ... and it'll be some of the best eating they've ever had.


- Cut out juices and drink mixes and substitute water (free!) instead.


- In winter, purchase bulk hot chocolate mix and measure it into individual servings instead of buying those expensive individual packets (e.g., Swiss Miss).


- If you're mainly doing car-style "plop" camping, ice for coolers can be a very large expense. Instead of buying expensive bagged ice, find a committee member or parent with some extra space in the freezer. Clean out some used plastic ice-cream or sherbet tubs, fill 'em with water and freeze 'em. When it's time for a campout, just drop the large iceblocks into the cooler. Free!


- Do a pricecheck of fresh fruit and vegetables at local farmers' markets vs the grocery stores. They're often cheaper direct from the farmer.


- It's a bit more ambitious and would take some trial and error, but you could try dehydrating foods as a patrol project instead of buying them.



Campsite costs can be a more challenging issue. Basementdweller mentioned free campsites, so I assume you've hit all the public ones close by. Not knowing what's in your area, there might be some off-the-beaten-path private locations that would require developing relationships with landowners. I'm talking about farms, woodlots/tree farms, hunting preserves, etc. My first troop had a great relationship with a local landowner who had an "island" (albeit separated from the "mainland" by just a dribbly creek) that we went to frequently, free of charge.


Also, $65 of your total goes to district events - camporee and the Klondike. If they're busting the budget, don't go! There's nothing that says you can't do something else those months.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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yeah, but Klondike and council Camporee can be great fun.

I think I would skip the troop food supply for now. As mentioned, food gets stale, gets infested. I believe I would try bringing food from home. With plenty of advance notice, each family might get told that on August 15th they need to donate to the troop 3 packages of hotdogs, or cans of tuna, or 2 boxes of pasta; on Feb 8th 2 pounds of burger, etc. This is not going to be convenient, will take co-ordination, may need topping off at the last minute to cover the families that don't come thru. It's just that buying one extra food item per week will be easier than $10 all at once.

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As you mentioned we have a Pantry that we draw from. We watch the adds and stock it up when a good deal happens. Can goods and such......


We do not use paper goods, well other than TP, The boys bring their own mess kit and we have dish towels by the bag that we wash and dry after each camp out. No paper towels, plates or plastic silverware. Minimal cost.


I think 10 bucks is super cheap for 5 quality meals.


Last camp out our menu

Friday cracker barrel......Dutch oven pizza

Saturday breakfast....Make your own omlets

Saturday lunch......Cold cut sandwiches, chips apples and koolaid

Saturday Dinner......Western ribs, mashed potatos, corn, butter bread and ribs. Ribs were on sale for $1.29 a pound

Saturday Cracker barrel.....Pie iron fruit pies

Sunday Breakfast Pancakes and Bacon Bulk bacon from a local smoke house 50 cent a pound.








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Looking at some of the things that you have listed, lets remember that there are people out there that have made it through the budget with things that fill.


Rices and Pastas are good things that fill a good space. Works at my house.


Here are some other suggestions that may be helpful.


- I agree with the farmers marakets. Go to places where they vendors are local, maybe catch then towards the end of the day if they need the space for more, they might give you some stuff


-BREAD - Go to your local bakery, they may have an outlet store. They sell bread that may be similar to the day old rack. I was able to get a 2lb loaf of bread (The Long ones) for $0.98. YOu can also get hot dog and hamburger buns.


- Go to your local neighborhood grocery stores. (We have Foodlion) They usually have a good deal on a lot of the store brand itmes.


- Try buying in bulk if possible. Large things of Oatmeal, Countrytime lemonade, and things like that may save your budget.


- When it comes to your cold cuts for your sandwiches. Do you have a family that has a home meat slicer. I have one that I got for my anniversary. What i do sometimes is buy a fully cooked ham (Without the Bone) and run it through the slicer. Sometimes you may find this can be cheaper.


- As above, maybe someone has a meat grinder. Buy the cheapest cut of beef and grind it yourself (You can also control the amount of fat you put in too)


- Does you CO have a Freezer you can use. That may be a place to store some of your foods.


- Maybe start a scout garden in your area that you can maintain for your own vegetables. (Yeah I know this is a stretch) (Hmm, Would this help with the gardening MB)

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Basementdweller - Keep in mind these are ballpark, rounded figures for food costs. Your mileage may vary based on local conditions. Just one example of many.


Friday night: Eat dinner at home before departing, or bring-your-own sandwiches.


Saturday breakfast: Eggs and bacon. $4 for two 12-ct eggs (for this meal & lunch); $5 for slab of bacon. Fresh fruit ($10 total for whole weekend - bananas, apples, oranges, etc., which can all be good trail foods or healthy in-between snacks). Water.


Lunch: Trail-style meal - bagels (12-pack for $2.50), peanut butter (small container for $3), hard salami ($3), hard-boiled eggs. Trail mix ($8 total for all ingredients for entire patrol - store-brand granola or cereal, raisins, peanuts). Fresh fruit. Water.


Dinner: Pasta & tuna casserole ($2 for pasta, $4 for two packs of tuna in foil); side of corn, green beans, carrots, peas, etc. ($4 for two cans); Baco-Taters (instant mashed potatoes $2 pouch, .50 cents for rationed baggie of Bacon Bits); pudding for dessert ($3 for two boxes instant mix). Water.


Breakfast: Oatmeal ($4 for good, healthier non-instant kind; $3 for honey to drizzle in for flavor), fresh fruit; finishing up leftover eggs & bacon, if any. Water.


Rounding up, thats about $60 for a weekend per patrol, or $7.50 per Scout, or $22.50 for that three-member family.


By stocking up with on-sale shelf-stable foods (Boomerscout: note shelf-stable, meaning foods that wont generally spoil or attract bugs) such as the pasta, tuna, canned veggies, instant potatoes, instant pudding, oatmeal), you can bring the cost down even more. The trick is for your patrol quartermasters or grubmasters to fashion the menu around items you already have. In my home, I wouldn't be able to last the week without leftovers of some sort. Use the same principles with your patrols.


You can also trim the budget further by ditching items such as bacon in favor of pancakes ($2-3 per box, and unless the patrol is ravenous, you still have at least half a box left for next time - properly packaged and stored, it won't go bad). To vary up lunches and replace the potato chips, which really don't add any nutritional value and can be expensive and difficult to store and transport, consider string cheese, dried fruits, store-brand "Fig Newtons," summer sausage, etc. Make inexpensive additions to any meal with biscuits (Jiffy mix, $1 a box); rice ($1 a box); pasta sides ($1 a pouch); etc. ... all relatively inexpensive options.

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I am impressed you can do all that for $10. Still, if you need to go cheaper, one breakfast could be of bulk cereal


canned goods close to their expiration date have little nutritional value left; rotate


looks like the answer is to work on non-sales fundraisers

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I didn't think we were doing much of anything other than making it work.


Far as bulk cereal and red drinks go. Most of the boys are ADD and on meds. Cereal and some of the things I would consider normal breakfast fair are off limits. We have several that grow horns and a tail if they get too much sugar and artificial coloring.


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One thing I have seen done is the troop creates a menu, buys in bulk, and splits up the supplies to the patrols. Essentially each patrol sends in a proposal of meals to the PLC. PLC votes on it. One adult, the troop QM and patrol QMs got to Sams and buy the food. The food is then divided up amongt th patrols.


Gotta be VERY careful doign this as it can easily be made to have the troop Qm do the shopping without hte patrol QMs, taking away form the patrol method IMHO.(This message has been edited by Eagle92)

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These are all awesome suggestions, and would no doubt benefit all troops, regardless of location.


The only tip I'd add is this: find some old scout handbooks, and fieldbooks, and randomly check how scouts did it back then. Not for nostalgia's sake (though that can be satisfying), but because scouting wasn't always the "Gucci" high-dollar activity it has evolved into now.


As others have pointed out, gear can be shared, procured from thrift stores, or made at home. Delicious food can be made from the simpliest of ingredients (my old fieldbook has some recipes I like to this day).


While the economy remains questionable for now, it's important to let our scouts and their parents know we are doing everything we can to keep costs low.


Ten dollar nalgene water bottle? A simple plastic one from your local grocer is probably less than two bucks and just as effective.


High dollar sleeping bag "made from space age polymers?" No reason a scout can't pin two blankets together during the summer time. Old scout handbooks will show you how.


Official patrol cook kits? All very nice and shiny. But at the end of the day, it's still aluminum. Goodwill might have a collective of old coffeepots and pans for a fraction of the price of the Official BSA Cook Kit--and may be more durable.


The cool thing is the outdoor experience is just as good with inexpensive gear as it is with expensive gear--in fact, it's probably more enjoyable with less gear because you aren't spending all your time fretting, tracking or adjusting the high dollar stuff.

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Without getting wrapped around the axel for fundraising, we use our council sponsored fundraisers (popcorn in the fall and camp cards in the spring) for individual camperships (generally summer camp, but it could be used for any camping). It it our goal to hold other fundraisers to help defer the cost of outings and camping. This is new to our program this year.


We have our scouts do all the shopping for camping (food). Generally this amounts to $10 or less per campout. This includes Saturday: breakfast, lunch and dinner; and Sunday: breakfast and lunch. This is an average of $2 per/scout per/meal.


In spite of this, over the last year, our troop cost analysis revealed that the cost to participate in every event for our troop was over $900/year (we currently have no siblings in the troop but that will change next spring); I do consider this high, but let me add that no scout actually participated in every event, so no one acutally paid this out, though three came close.


As SM, this is a real concern for me. But it is not entirely within my ability to fix. Only with the parents and the committee can fundraising be organized to help defer these costs. This has been our biggest challenge. I am working with the committee to try to have a budget planning meeting to discuss and plan troop fiscal matters for the coming year. With our troop having doubled in size this past year and with us expecting us to nearly double again in the spring, this is something we need to carefully consider.

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Basement -- let me say thank you for making Scouting so affordable for the boys in your troop. At $360 for the year, including recharter and summer camp, that's less than $1 per day for Scouting.


Rather than being beat up over the cost of your program, you should be pleased at it's affordability. What are these kids eating at home? You're telling me they eat for less than $3 per meal?




Not to be a cold-hearted SOB about it, but parents have an obligation to feed their children. If you can't afford $15 to feed them for the weekend, how are you feeding them the rest of the week? Three bucks a meal isn't a bad deal. Sure, costs for mutiples can add up, but this is a surprise to these these families? Do grocery stores and restaurants give them quantity discounts?


Who's going to watch the ads, shop the sales, and manage the troop pantry? Will each patrol do this or will this turn into another adult/troop hijack of a patrol function? I have no doubt that our patrols waste probably a quarter of their patrol budgets every campout due to over-buying, buying food to satisfy sound menu planning that the boys don't ultimately eat, and throwing away half-jars of condiments and other things that parent's don't trust after a full weekend in the woods. (My wife has threatened bodily injury if I bring another half-jar of ketchup home.) But I see that as a cost of the patrol method and of young boys trying their hand at menu planning and shopping for the first time. If we "adulterate" that process, is it worth the two or three buck per boy we save? Are the boys learning to cook, clean, take care of themselves and work together while eating cold cereal to save money?


And while you may save money clipping coupons for the troop, you're really converting dollars for volunteer hours. Even if someone is willing to take this on, is this the best use of that particular troop resource? I used to work with a guy who got the camp a great deal on imperfect baked goods at a local commercial bakery. He would get up at 4:00 am, drive 30 minutes each way to save the camp $20 bucks on cinnamon rolls. THE HECK WITH THAT! My time is more valuable than that, especially at 4am!


Except for church youth groups (which don't typically do a lot of off-site activities) I know of no other organization which is as affordable as Scouting or which goes to the lengths Scouting does to ensure that all boys can participate regardless of their families' financial situation.

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I'm not saying that the staples will last forever. You certainly want to rotate your shelf-stable items. But they'll definitely last for the several months between campouts.




The "sound menu planning" you describe is part of the learning process, to be sure. And especially starting out, you're going to have waste and picky eaters and cooks who don't know what they're doing. (I vividly remember my patrol on my first campout all huddled around a stove on a chilly day, waiting for the hot dogs to cook ... one at a time.)


The point I'm trying to make is that there are plenty of cost-cutting options out there for a patrol that plans ahead and monitors its staples carefully. That's precisely the job of the quartermaster or grubmaster. The role of the adults would simply be to keep an eye open for items on the patrol's wish list and snag them below a certain price point.


There are a ton of thinking-outside-the-box options when it comes to food in the outdoors. I've found that getting away from the car-camping mindset makes things a lot cheaper. There's no easy way to pack hamburgers, buns and potato chips on your back, for example, so you move toward one-pot meals and cut out the expensive convenience foods.


Condiments? No need for waste. Just have everyone pick up a couple extra individual-serving packets of ketchup, mayo and mustard when they hit the local fast-food joint. Problem solved (and it's free). Do I sound like one of those cheapskates? Yep, but it works.


Grocery shopping for bargains and finding ways to stretch a menu dollar is a necessary - even vital - skill for adulthood.

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In addition, I'd share the basic concern with the boys. Have a brainstorming session with them on how to reduce costs for the camping aspect of the program. They may come up with some great ideas on their own and be inspired to implement them. It's also a good real world learning experience.


On the food side, a couple of ideas:


1) give your scouts a food budget and then cutting it back say 15% - 20%. It still lets them make the decisions and plan the meals, but now they need to work within real world constraints.


2) provide each patrol a set of camp sized staples (condiments, TP, etc...). Basically, there would be enough for one campout. As much as possible, use reusable/refillable containers (i.e., a small bottle of ketchup). Then, each patrol is responsible for keeping these up-to-date on campouts. This could be part of their patrol boxes or something separate. They manage keeping them filled & stocked. Encourage them to keep them stocked through buying in bulk and filling them prior to a campout.


3) as some others said before - encourage them to manage costs through responsible environmental actions. i.e., no paper cups/plates, no single serve packages, minimize wasted food/staples. I'm amazed when I go camping to see some of the stuff people bring and then throw away.


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