36 meals in 2 hours.

36 meals in 2 hours.

or "10 Tips to Start a Cooking Group."


Life on Circle Avenue 36 meals in 2 hours

This post is a little digression from the normal stuff I talk about here BUT a much needed one! If you are a mom or are responsible for cooking the meals for your family... please read on!


I joined & helped-to-start a Cooking Group about 6 years ago. There were 6 of us moms who needed socializing (since we had little babes crawling on us and sucking the life out of us), help with meal/recipe ideas and getting out of that rut of cooking the same dinners every week. You know, so you're not staring at your husband as he walks in the door with a blank look on your face. Yeah, that doesn't go over too well with husbands although my own husband was more than gracious to me many times as I just couldn't physically come up with something or was too tired to care.

Anyways, when we started this group- it was just a "let's give it a try and see how it goes" mentality. Well, 6 years later, we are still meeting together every single month. Yes, it is a commitment and we do not make excuses-- we make it happen every month. There have been blood, sweat and tears (literally- not all at the same time though!) but after we are done and can see that we prepared 36 meals in 2 hours, we can breathe a big sigh of relief knowing that we have all these dinners prepared and waiting for our families to devour!

So, I thought I would share some ideas/pointers for you if you are curious as to how this works. There are many different kinds of cooking groups but I really believe our model is the BEST because you can do the work TOGETHER! Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen for hours by yourself creating meals for other families? Sorry, but that isn't fun for me. And- I have heard of a group that takes turns delivering meals to other families once a week. Sorry, but I have enough chaos at home during dinner time let alone traveling to other homes during rush hour. No thanks. Trust me... our group has it down and we really think that so many other moms could benefit from their own!

So, here are the pointers:

1. Find about 5 other moms who have a similar family size. This helps for portion control and pricing remains equal. Also, ask about allergies- if one of the family members has a severe allergy to a major food, this might not be a good group for her to join in.

2. Make sure you can all commit to one night a month. No flaking out for lame reasons (my husband has to work, my kids are sick, yada, yada... unless you have a newborn we don't have too much pity on slackers!) Encourage them to have their husbands see the value in this group (it may take a few months for husbands to get it) and have them partner with you in watching sick kids, etc.

3. Pick a consistent night of the week that works for everyone. In the past, we picked any day of the month that worked for everyone but we have found that a specific day (ours is Sunday) works for consistency. The weekdays are very busy for all of us.


4. Take turns hosting. This is an imperative. We host on a rotational basis. Example: I hosted in August at my house. I planned 6 meals (times 6 families) and shopped for all ingredients myself. The cost for the meals are split up by the 6 families. So, we are creating a menu of 6 meals - each family walks away with 6 meals which is a total of 36 meals prepared on Cooking night.

5. Think Crock-pot and Freezer Meals. We typically make meals that can be frozen. Some are breakfast dishes (like quiches) that can still be frozen and occasionally we will make a meal that needs to be eaten fresh. Marinades for meats work great, casseroles and pasta dishes are common too. Anything that can be thrown in the crockpot and left to cook is perfect. Over the summer most of our meats are marinated for grilling.

6. Start a "community" spice bag. This is to save money on those spices that we use on a regular basis and don't want to have to purchase every single week. One of our moms was smart enough to get a clear plastic hanging shoe organizer and we store the spices in there when we have our cooking night. This helps us see what we have/need and saves money over time by not purchasing duplicates spices. This can add up otherwise.

7. Read a book or two on freezer essentials, assembling meals, etc. Here is a great one for starters; it gives helpful hints on what not to freeze, how to freeze meals, etc.

8. Start a Recipe Binder filled with recipes that all the families love. This will become a wonderful reference for you and your friends to look back on. Don't be afraid to repeat recipes. We don't always feel like inventing the wheel each month, you know?

9. Come to Cooking Group night ready to work! The work is really two-fold. Working to assemble your meals, but also working at your friendships- this is a great excuse to catch up on your friend's lives! There will be some moms who just find that for whatever reason, they cannot keep coming. We have had a few of those- they either moved far away, didn't need it as much anymore, or just couldn't commit to the monthly meetings. That's okay but make sure that you all agree together on your expectations for the next mom joining!

10. Try it and see if you don't love it. It may take a few months to get the hang of it, but you AND your friends will LOVE it. It will make your life so much easier! By the way, we are spending, on average, $35 for the 6 meals. That is a pretty good deal!

Let me know if you have any specific questions in the comments section below and I am curious... are you all a part of a cooking group?? or do you need to start one pronto??

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