Thursday, March 19, 2009

Guest Post: Cooking Co-Op

Here is what a lot of you have been waiting for! Jen Tolbert shares her cooking co-op tips with us today in her Guest Post. Enjoy! Feel free to leave any questions as a comment and we will answer them on Saturday as part of our last day freezer meal Q & A session!

The other way I love using our freezer to make meal planning easier is by participating in a cooking co-op with friends. This is the one that my husband will say "saved our marriage"! We had only been married a year or so when I first joined a co-op at my church. I was working until 5:30 every night, we had one car and we were living on a small income. By the time my husband picked me up and we finally got home I was starving and in no mood to cook what little food that we had. Joining a co-op put already made food in my freezer at a price that fit into my budget.

What is a cooking co-op?

A cooking co-op is a group that swaps meals on a regular basis.

Here is how it works:

1. Establish a group, or a coop. I suggest you try 4 people to start with and then consider moving up to 6-8.

2. Establish rules such as what day you swap each month (such as the first Sunday of every month), how many people should your meal should serve (I suggest 4), and do you have to be in it every month (we let people sign up on a monthly basis).

3. Schedule a sign-up cut-off (such as you must sign up by the 2nd Wed of the month) and have everyone sign-up with:
a. their name and phone number
b. Name of the meal
c. if their family has any food allergies or strong dislikes

4. Now you have 2 weeks to cook your meal! If there are 6 people total in your co-op you buy ingredients do make your recipe x6. Save money by buying family packs of meat and #10 cans of sauce. Freeze each batch in a freezer bag, label with name of recipe and date you made it. If you left out onions for one family, label that too. Freeze your bag as flat as possible so they will stack nicely. It will usually take me a 2- 2 1/2 hours or so to make 4-6 meals instead of the 6 hours it would have taken me to make one each night.

5. Email your recipe along with reheating instructions to everyone in your swap. Reheating instructions often say something like: thaw in fridge overnight and reheat on stove top or microwave until hot.

6. Bring your meals in a cooler to the designated "swap spot" at the designated time and SWAP! Now you have a variety of homecooked meals to take home that will only take minutes to reheat!


Mama Llama said...

So timely! I stumbled across your post in a google search for "starting a meal co-op!" I just had my 3rd baby a few weeks ago and have bene wanting to do this forver with some neighbors!

Anna at Joy In Every Step said...

I just stumbled on your blog today. I greatly enjoyed your post. I started a cooking club a few months back and love it! It has been such a blessing. We do things very similarly to how you do things. I wrote about it here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts I have enjoyed visiting you blog.