Tonight before leaving the office, I spent an hour in front of my laptop updating a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet tells me how much of several types of food to buy for a campout (and we have our club campout this weekend, so this will prolly be my last post until I get back from that).

I added several missing food items to it tonight, so hopefully we won’t forget anything (like tomatoes and salad dressing). There have been… complaints.

Anyhow, in this spreadsheet I enter the average number of servings per person I think we’ll need for each item and for each meal. Not everyone eats every food we bring, and there are some foods that few people eat, but that I buy anyhow because I (and a few others) like them. So if I think 20% of the people on the trip will eat a serving, I enter in 0.2 for that item.

We generally eat six meals on these campouts, from Friday supper until Sunday lunch. So I have six columns in the spreadsheet. If we’re having PB&J for lunch and I think each person will eat an average of two sandwiches, I enter “4” in the bread row for that meal’s column (each sandwich requires two slices of bread).

Then I have another column that tells me how many servings of an item I expect to get out of whatever quantum it comes in. For bread, that would be 20, because the average loaf has 20 slices.

The spreadsheet calculates that I’ll need 4.25 loaves of bread, but it ups that to 5 since it’s hard to buy a quarter loaf. I also have (bad) estimates for how much each item costs, and it guesses the bill. My high estimates seem to cancel my low estimates, so it actually comes up with a reasonable number even with bad-ish data.

This has worked out pretty well in the past (except for the food items I forgot to include), and I’m thinking it should do pretty OK this weekend too.

After I adjusted the spreadsheet for THIS campout, Jonathan and I went shopping and bought the stuff on the list, except for a few items – some of which we already have, and some of which I will buy tomorrow (ice). Then we took it to the church, and grabbed the (mostly empty) food tubs out of the trailer.

One of the first things we found was liquified bananas from the April 30-May 2 campout. I thought I was going to hurl. I poured it into the dumpster as I retched, then filled the tub with water, emptied it out, and then filled it again. Then I scrubbed it out with dish soap. Ugh! The smell is mostly gone though.

As we were putting food into the tubs Jonathan had a brainstorm. I didn’t think we had time to execute it tonight, but I will surely attempt this on the next campout.

He suggested that we put Friday supper food in one tub, Saturday breakfast in another, etc. One tub per meal. We’d also have a common tub for stuff we use at every meal (like salt). We have three coolers, so we could put two breakfasts in one, two lunches in another, and so forth.

We already have a system for the equipment tubs that works very well. A couple of years ago we put numbers on every tub, plus a list of things that were in that tub. But the magic part is that I then entered all that data into a spreadsheet and sorted it alphabetically. Then I thought up every synonym I could for every item – plastic baggies, sandwich bags, ziplocks. I printed out this alphabetized list and posted in the trailer.

Before we did this, I would find myself rummaging through half a dozen tubs looking for duct tape or a hatchet. Now all I have to do is look at the alphabetic list and go straight to the right tub. To make this even better, I put the tubs in numerical order in the trailer, and sometimes when we get them out, I line them up in numeric order on the ground. It saves a tremendous amount of time. It also solves the problem of “where does the cutting board go?” Look at the list. Tub 10. By having everything in its proper tub every time, I have gotten to the point where I know a good deal of the list without having to consult it. Duct tape is in tub 1. Fire starting stuff in tub 2. Rope is in tub 5.

Since we did that, it is so much easier to find everything – with the notable exception of any particular food item. This is because the food tubs just say “food” and there are half a dozen of them to rummage through. So hopefully this tweak will make camping even better.