Every year our church youth group goes on a mission trip to East Saint Louis, where they spend a week in the community doing repairs, new building, and outreach while getting to soak in the rich culture of that area. I had the opportunity to go for a few days last year, and just got back from a two day trip Monday of last week. It’s a shame that I only get to go for such a short period of time, but I love getting to meet people in the community. Plus, getting to do things with my hands and spending time with the youth is pretty awesome as well!
Now, the reason that I bring this up at all is that we have to feed everyone. And while I don’t menu plan for the week (which is challenging enough – I spent a summer doing this back in 2005), I do get to go shopping.
I thought it would be fun to take you through that shopping process and to see just what it takes to feed 60 hungry people (85% of whom are teenagers who have worked hard all day) for a week! Also, for what it’s worth, this particular week our building did not have gas. So everything had to be cooked in crock pots and electric skillets. For sixty. (Sound scary? It was a little!)
Step 1: Create a Shopping List
I don’t have a copy of the list to share with you, but it was three or four pages long. Our typical shopping list for D and I for a week has anywhere from 10 to 20 items on it, and fits on a half sheet of paper.
Step 2: Form a Shopping Team
Since we generally shop at larger stores like Sam’s or Costco (it’s just too much food to get from more local stores), it helps to have a team of people to run around and take care of different items. This year, we had two adults (myself included) and four senior high youth. The challenge here is that we also price shop as we go, which means that the shopping list (see Step 1) isn’t fixed.
Step 3: Shop ‘Til You Drop
An hour and a half later…
The arrows indicate our carts, just in case you were wondering!
Step 4: Check Out
This is probably the most rewarding part of the entire experience. It’s hard to explain the looks of shock we get when we wheel up four, completely full Costco-sized shopping carts to the registers. The fun part is that the cashier, and a lot of the other customers, always ask what we’re doing that we need to much food! It’s a nice way to get to tell them about what we’re about and why we’re in the area in the first place.
Step 5: Load Up and Head Out
We have to get all of the food back to the center, so we pile everything into the vehicles and head out!
It somehow looks like less food now, but believe me – this is an efficiently-packed vehicle!
I thought that we would be set for the week with this haul, but the truth is, they went back to the store at least once during the week to get more food – especially for meat and veggies. It’s pretty scary watching 20 pounds of ground beef go into a single meal!
Again, a great, fun trip, with some fun food stories and a lot of wonderful memories with the youth and the community members. And who knows? Maybe next year I’ll get to go for a whole week!