Chew On This

The menu should then be “post-costed” after it is served to determine the variance in budget versus actual cost. Keep detailed records as to how much was prepared, used, wasted, and left over by creating a food-production form.

When figuring cost, don’t forget to add condiments, cooking oils, seasonings, and garnishes for each serving prepared. These are often side items that are forgotten, but can be very expensive.

Organic foods often cost considerably more than traditional products.

A product must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients to be labeled “organic,” but a product with at least 70 pecent organic ingredients may be labeled “made with organic ingredients.”

Buyers should be aware that organic foods are no safer than nonorganic foods, according to government standards, and there is no scientific evidence, thus far, that has shown organic foods to be more nutritious than nonorganic foods. In recent studies, consumer panels have found no marked differences in taste or appearance between the two.

Other Cost-Saving Tips:

• Use nonfat dry milk and margarine in cooking instead of liquid milk and butter.

• Avoid the higher cost of pre-sliced meats and cubed cheeses by buying large pieces, and slicing or cubing them with commercial equipment.

• Maximize the use of leftovers, but remember they have the same cost served the second time around as they did the first time, but at least you are not throwing them away. This is an effective use of assets or products, and only a skilled kitchen manager or cook will know how to efficiently accomplish this.

• Rotate food products, using first-in, first-out inventory practices and taking a physical count of all products at least once a week. Know what’s in-house and what’s missing. Camping has had a long tradition of permitting campers and counselors to conduct late-night “kitchen raids,” but if not planned and well-supervised, this can be an expensive exercise. The same is true for “pack-out meals,” designed by well-intentioned–but inexperienced–camp staff members who request considerably more food from the kitchen than needed for their campers. Most of this food cannot be reused. And counselors tend to use significantly more foil for cookouts than needed at a very expensive cost. All of these procedures require strict monitoring in order to keep food costs in line.

There is no simple way to beat the food-inflation monster that seems to be lurking around every corner of camp, but following a few tried-and-true management principles and with conscientious stewardship in the kitchen, you will be able to cope successfully with the rising cost of food.

George Hughes, M.B.A., J.D., is executive vice president of Signature Services Corporation. He can be reached via email at For more information, visit

Do you have a question regarding food service or nutrition? Call us at (866) 444-4216 or send us an email at and we’ll print the answer in Camp Business!

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Related posts:

  1. Food Allergies And Food Intolerances
  2. There’s No Such Thing As A Special Diet
  3. Is A Dining Service Right For Your Camp?
  4. Dining Hall Design And Kitchen Layout
  5. Kids In The Kitchen

One comment on “Chew On This

  1. Kevin Sullivan on said:

    Are you kidding me – “Buyers should be aware that organic foods are no safer than nonorganic foods, according to government standards, and there is no scientific evidence…”
    When was this article written? In the 90′s? I have long ago decided that the government really does not have my best interests when it comes to grading or informing me about food.
    Can’t believe that this was written in a magazine that targets youth development workers such as myself. We advocate that since we are asking staff and campers to go120 hours a week in the heat and humidity of the outdoors in summer that we better supply them with the best fuel possible. Organic, fresh and made from raw materials food items are what we fuel with. We do have the evidence that it is better for you.

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