Making dinner seven nights a week can really wear you down. How can you mix it up a little without spending money on take out? Start a cooking co-op. The most important thing is that you only add people that are dependable and follow through. You don’t want to add in your nice but flaky friend that will leave you dinner-less on a Thursday night. There are quite a few ways that you can organize this. Pick the one that works best in your lifestyle.
Exchanging once a month feels like the least time commitment for an all month exchange. At least the time is compacted into one day a month. Each person will need to make dishes that freeze well. It’s a great idea to buy the same freezer containers as a group. This way no one has to worry about returning things to their rightful owner. Remember in a month with 4 weeks each person will be responsible for 4 dishes. It’s up to you if you want to have 7 people or 5.
Arrange a Cooking Party
Rotate host houses and make that one day a big cooking party. Don’t forget to have a relaxing lunch break. Time passes fast when everyone’s chopping. Cooking together means you don’t have to arrange a drop off time for all the food. Each person will take their booty home with them. Of course, if no one has a big kitchen, you can meet and exchange pre-made food in a once a month exchange.
Develop a Plan
It’s important to have good communication so you don’t have people making duplicate dishes. You can be a specific as you want. You could decide on the exact recipes or have each person take a theme like Chinese, Italian, Thai, stew, or soup. Use any idea that will make it easier to have variety. You can have 1 person pick recipes for each week, or negotiate so everyone can cook there favs. If everyone is on the same cooking level they may enjoy the challenge of new recipes.
Arrange Your Meal Exchanges
You could also choose to meet and exchange the goodies once a week. This way you can swap salads and other foods that can’t be frozen. In fact, if you all live close you could have a pick-up at the dinner making member’s house or do a door to door delivery on your night. You could still get together once a week and have a cooking party. I find it’s harder to get a weekly meeting together with a group, so don’t get disappointed if that doesn’t work out for you. Having dinner made by someone else and not having to cook is a big treat no matter how you do it!
If you can’t imagine having this kind of time commitment, you and your friends can start smaller. Have a one time soup or muffin exchange and see how that goes. Then next month try a dinner exchange where you each cook 1 dish for one another. You need to mold the co-op into what will make your life easier. This is a great way to include people you might not want on a weekly exchange. If it’s just a soup swap once or twice a year, you’ll still get yummy food and time with friends.
Check out the Soup Swap website for some great tips. They’ve been doing this for awhile and have the soup exchange down to an art form.