Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dinner Cooperatives

We set up and participate in a dinner co-op and we LOVE it. I'm passing along the idea since it's really an amazing time, money, and stress saver! And who doesn't want more of that? :)

The basic idea is cook once, receive many times. Here's how it works:

We have 3 families in our co-op. 4 is really good, too. I'm amazed at the amount of food we always have!! AND we freeze leftovers. I'm getting ahead of myself . . . we really love this!

Okay, so basically on your night, you cook and make 3 (or 4, depending on how many families are doing it) times the amount of food you usually make. This is your messiest night and it's really not even that bad (and the other nights are REALLY easy clean up)! Package and deliver it (we all use Gladware and take out boxes and pots--put your name on a piece of tape on things you care to get back)! The other nights? Sit back, set the table, and dinner comes HOT to your door and ready to eat! WE LOVE IT!!

Here's how you set one up:

1. Choose a few families to participate (3-4 works best--you do have leftovers!)

2. Get together and decide on days, times, and menu preferences (for example, our group has several people who are weight conscious and into healthy eating and so we try to eat healthy foods and avoid deep fried foods and for some medical reasons among members, our group avoids beef instead substituting ground turkey and eating a lot of chicken, pork, turkey, and fish). We do a main dish and sides but no desserts (easier--less is more--AND healthier) and we generally do 1-2 vegetable/salad sides. Depending on the meal, we generally don't deliver things like salad dressing and butter and sour cream as most everyone has these condiments. Your first meeting is where you hash out details like who likes what, favorite foods, foods to avoid, days, times, etc. This can take all of 5-10 minutes.

3. Email a calendar of menus. The first family fills out several months' worth of meals on their chosen day (Monday, Tuesday, whatever). The next family fills it out and tries to vary foods so that you're not eating all chicken or all Mexican on the same week. And so on. Once everyone has filled it out, print it up, tape to the side of your fridge, and ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY!! You get SUCH variety, it's MUCH less stressful, it saves money, it's EASY, and it's WONDERFUL!!

Our group (we all live within a mile and a half of each other) does this on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at around 5pm (delivery). We find that we have leftovers on most other nights. So, aside from cooking ONE time a week, we cook MAYBE one other time (or get pizza or order take out or whatever). Every family who has ever participated in this has said that we all seem to save about $20-25/week (that adds up)! And we all enjoy MUCH more variety and share recipes. It's so nice to have dinner show up at the door--we highly recommend this!

There are variations on this--some co-ops get together to eat (this sounds fun but very time intensive to do regularly). There are websites with more ideas and tips, too.

Some sample foods from our group include (get ready to salivate):

* Pesto Pasta with salad and french bread
* Parmesan crusted Pork and oven roasted potatoes and veggie
* Grilled Afghani Chicken Kabobs with Grilled fruit and veggies and grilled Na'an (Indian bread)
* Grilled Pork chops and corn on the cob and fruit
* Chicken and Sour Cream Enchiladas with pinto beans and corn
* Shrimp Mozambique and salad and rice and bread
* Quick Stroganoff with Spinach
* Italian chicken salad croissants and green salad
* Baked Manicotti and salad
* Chicken Fajitas and Spanish Rice and Refried beans
* Grilled turkey burgers with all the fixings and corn on the cob
* Grilled Teriyaki Salmon and brown rice and veggies
* Italian Fondue with veggie dip platter on side
* Hummus and Pitas and veggies and fruit
* Ritzy Poppy Seed Chicken Pasta and Broccoli
* Taco Soup with all the fixings
* Indian-spiced lentils with peas and rice
* Tuna Noodle Casserole and green beans
* Chicken and Broccoli Casserole and Salad
* Pork Gyoza (potstickers) and rice and veggies and Edamame (soybeans)
* Taco Pie with all the fixings
* Salmon Cakes with Baked Sweet Potato and Veggie
* Portuguese Stewed Chicken with homemade Portuguese Bread and Spinach
* 3-bean chili and baked potatoes
* Chicken Bountiful and baked zucchini and broccoli and cauliflower and homemade rolls
* Lasagna and salad and homemade applesauce
* Crockpot Cheesy Meatloaf with veggie
* Shrimp Scampi with Pasta and salad
* Black-Eyed Peas with Ginger and Yogurt and Basmati Rice and Fruit
* Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti and vegetable
* French Onion Soup and Salad and Crusty Bread
* Chicken Cordon Bleu and Wild Rice and Veggies
* Clam Chowder and Salad and Crusty Bread
* Chicken Chimichangas with rice and corn and black beans
* Pasta with sausage, seafood, and cream sauce with salad on the side
* Santa Fe Chicken Tortellini Casserole with veggies
* Tuscan Soup and Salad and Crusty Bread
* Chicken Pot Pie with salad
* Teriyaki Chicken Bowls with rice and veggies
* Roasted Ham and Baked Potatoes and Veggie
* Creamy Chicken Enchiladas with corn and beans
* Incredibly Stuffed Lasagna with meats, veggies, and cheese with toasty garlic bread
* Chili and homemade corn bread with honey butter
* Fragrant Tilapia with Mango-Avocado relish and Brown Saffron rice
* Chicken Crescents with veggie sides
* Gourmet veggie pizzas
* Mexican haystacks and fruit
* Mexican Lasagna and salad and fruit
* Portuguese Marinated Pork with rice and sauteed spinach and homemade bread
* BBQ Chicken with funeral potatoes and salad
* Spicy Oven-fried chicken and cous cous salad and veggie
* Beans and rice and salad and mango slices
* Turkey and stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes and veggies and cranberry sauce and rolls
* White Wine Chicken and rice and broccoli
* Broccoli Cheese Soup and bread and salad
* Moroccan style chicken and vegetables with cous cous
* Portuguese marinated pork chops and oven baked potatoes and Snap Peas
* Chinese Corn Soup and salad and seasoned french bread
* BBQ Pork Sandwiches and potatoes and 3-bean salad
* Soft chicken tacos with all the fixings and beans and rice
* Ham Bean Soup with rolls and spinach salad
* Homemade pizza and Caesar Salad
* Stuffed Green Peppers and Jasmine Rice and Fruit Salad
* Italian Spaghetti Squash and salad and bread
* Shrimp and Chicken Creole and cornbread and veggie
* Chicken Stir Fry with sticky rice
* Baked Salmon with cucumber sauce and cauliflower and broiled tomato rolls
* Sausage and Pepper Stir fry and rice and fresh fruit and veggies with dip
* Taco Salad with all the fixings
* Pork Chops and Potato pancakes and applesauce and green beans
* Fried Haddock and Potatoes wedges and veggie
* Grilled Kabobs and Bread and grilled veggies and fruit

You get the idea! :) Doesn't it sound FANTASTIC?? It is!! We highly, HIGHLY recommend it!