My cooking club was one my favorite way to save time and money in kitchen. I started it with some girlfriends from church several years ago. We haven’t been active for awhile now and I miss it!
How did it work?
Once a month I picked a freezer friendly recipe to share with the other members of the cooking club. I made several batches of that one dish, froze it, wrote out the cooking instructions, and then handed it out at our “cooking club exchange.” Each member of the group would make a different dish at home and bring it to exchange.
Allow me to say this again in case anyone is confused: Let’s say 4 people were in the cooking club. I would make 4 batches of one recipe on my own time at home. Then I would take those dishes to the exchange and hand one out to each person while keeping one for myself. They would all do the same and I would end up coming home with 4 different freezer friendly meals.
This ended up being a huge time saver for me. It was much easier to make 4 batches of one meal than to make 4 different meals! I loved seeing what everyone made each month and coming home with a variety of meals to stash in my freezer.
The cooking club also saved me money. It was cheaper to buy things in bulk to prepare my meals. Plus using my cooking club meals on busy nights saved me from the temptation to grab take out.
There are several things to think about when starting a cooking club.
What types of families do you want in the club? I recommend seeking out people with similar sized families. It wouldn’t make sense to include a family of 6 if everyone else is only a family of 2. Personally, I think a cooking club would be perfect for single folks. I always hated cooking for just me and this would solve that problem!
Where do you want to exchange the meals? My group was made up of families from church. We brought our meals to church in coolers and exchanged them in the lobby after the service. It was easy since we were all planning on being there anyway. The picture above is from an actual exchange at my church. (And yes, that is Hey Donna!) Other options: meet at one member’s house or exchange at work with coworkers.
How often do you want to exchange? Our club did an exchange once a month, but with the option to “opt out” at any time. As the moderator of my cooking club, I would send out an email each month announcing the next exchange date and asking who will be participating. Then I let everyone know how many meals to prepare.
How many people or families do you want in the club? My club started out with 4 small families. It was a good and easily manageable size, but… when 1 or more people had to “opt out” for a month, it was disappointing. Eventually, we expanded to 6 families. That was better. People felt more freedom to take a break without feeling like they were letting everyone else down.
How many servings should each meal have? Obviously this will depend on the size of families in your club. We were all small families. Some couples had no children. Other couples had very small children that didn’t eat much. Originally we started exchanging a regular full size recipe, which is usually 6-8 servings. That was way too much. We quickly decided to cut recipes in half and aim for 3-4 servings. It made more sense to us to have just enough of a really good dish than to have too much of a dish we didn’t care for. After all, not every recipe is going to be a hit with everyone.
After you figure out the general structure of your cooking club, there are a few guidelines you’ll want to set. These are the rules we agreed on:
– We are exchanging a main dish – not an entire meal. Don’t worry about side dishes.
– Keep the meal within a reasonable price range. Gourmet is not the goal. Frugal is ok, but cheap is not. (I have heard of other groups setting a specific price range.)
– Package the meal in containers you do not need back; freezer bags, disposable pans, or cheap tupperware.
– The meal should have little or no prep work required. Mostly we are looking for dishes that can go in the oven, the crock-pot, or just be reheated.
– Boiling rice or pasta for the meal is fine, but please include the rice or pasta with the dish.
– Include cooking instructions for every dish. (I’ve heard of other groups requiring a copy of the recipe also. That seemed like too much extra work for me.)
– Avoid all items on the “Bad Foods” list. (We asked each family if there were foods that they hated and we tried our best to avoid them. Our “Bad Foods” list included things like black olives, mushrooms, and really spicy hot dishes.)
– Let the group know at least one week before the exchange if you can’t do it that month.
My cooking club was a fantastic way to save time and money. I would highly recommend it!
Have you ever been part of a cooking club?
This post is part of the 30 Days to Save Some Green series. Every day this month we are sharing tips on saving money and going green. Plus there are giveaways and link-ups happening throughout the month! Be sure to check out all the 30 Days to Save Some Green posts.