Saturday, January 15, 2011

My LIFESAVER - Cooking Group

I once thought that once- a-month cooking meant one thing: casseroles! I am not a casserole kind of girl, and I thought that's what cooking groups made. Not so! Our version of "cooking group" makes incredible marinades, delicious, healthy sauces, and even gluten-free dishes! The time spent cooking together not only serves our families, but it builds our friendships, and saves us money to boot....lots of money! You just wouldn't believe how economical it is to cook this way! There are several ways to organize this kind of a group, but let me walk you through how we do ours:

1. Pick a group of 4-6 people who you enjoy being with and who like to cook -- or who at least want to learn to cook!
2. Designate a "buyer" for the month. In our group of 6, we shop in teams of 2. In my sister's group of 4, they plan and buy individually. The buyer(s) picks 10-12 recipes, then buys all of the ingredients for all of the families. In our group, we times each ingredient in each recipe by 6. The math takes some concentration, so I highly recommend you leave the kids at home, unless they are walking calculators! Usually the people planning also host the group that month at their house.
TIP: Costco will shop for you with a very detailed list if the order is over $500. This has been really helpful for me!
3. Pick a place in your house where you can organize all of the ingredients. For me, I use our dining room. I tape each recipe to the wall or to a chair, then I place the ingredients that go with that meal underneath the recipe. Common ingredients like olive oil, onions, salt, garlic, vinegar, etc. go on the middle table for all to use.

4. Each cook comes prepared with an apron, a cooler, a knife, cutting board, and mixing bowl (if needed). My sister's group cooks during the day while the kids are in school. My group starts cooking at 6pm. We line up our coolers on the front porch or in the garage.

5. Each cook takes a recipe from the wall or chair, and goes to work! The meals are either bagged in ziplocks or placed in aluminum pans. We label them with a Sharpe pen then place a meal in each cooler.

6. We pay the person who bought all of the groceries, then we go home with our coolers, 12 meals, and a sheet that lists each meal and the directions for cooking. I like to post this on my freezer where I store my meals so it doesn't get misplaced.

That's it! I HIGHLY encourage you to give this kind of cooking a try! We have to cook for our families anyway, why not make it fast, economical, and fun to do!

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