Team Cooking

October 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm 28 comments

I’ve been doing some research into the concept of team cooking. I got to thinking about it because there’s a group of gals from my church that get together and do this every month or so.

Here’s how I think it works:

  • Create a group of people you want to cook with.
  • Set a date and time to do it (maybe a Saturday morning when husbands can watch the kids?).
  • Find a few recipes that freeze/preserve well and plan to make a few.
  • Buy supplies and ingredients and do some prep work (especially if you’re hosting).
  • Cook a bunch of stuff together and everybody gets to take some home to freeze!

Here’s why I think it would be cool to try:

  • Getting to hang out with my friends on a Saturday morning.
  • Having a couple freezer meals always on hand (maybe even one per week?) would be awesome!
  • Sharing the cost probably makes it cheaper (I’m just guessing).

If any of you have ever done anything like this, let me know! I’m really interested in the practical (“How would I actually set this up?”) aspects of such an undertaking.

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Entry filed under: Food.

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28 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Megan  |  October 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I’ve done this before. There are lots of different ways you can organize it. The group I did it with organized it like this:

    We got together one evening and chose meals we all thought our families would eat. We then decided how many of those meals to make per family (there were 6 of us in the group and we decided on 3 of each meal, so we needed 18 of each recipe)

    We chose 18 recipes, so that each of us was responsible for making 3 of them. We then took our lists home and figured out how much of each ingredient we needed to get. We then gave the lists to one person who compiled the MASTER grocery list. This list got divided by store (one Aldi, one Sams, one regular store) and then the designated shoppers went shopping for all of it.

    They gave their receipts to another gal who was in charge of accounting. She did the math and figured out how much each shopper spent, how much each of the 6 needed to spend, and how much each of the non-shoppers needed to give to the shoppers. Whew! And we hadn’t even started cooking yet!

    One house was the designated “store” where we all went to gather what we needed to make our three recipes. We did what we could on our own (pre-prep) and then chose a Friday night and went to a large church with a large kitchen. We did all the cooking there because they had several stoves, lots of counter space, deep sinks, etc.

    We cooked all. joking. night.

    Then we cleaned.

    Then we went home and tried to stuff all those meals in our freezer and collapsed.

    Suggestions? Smaller group, less amount per person (maybe 4 people and 2 of each kind of meal per person?) though if you’re going to do it, you might as well just get in there and do it.

    Also, make sure you like everything. We ended up trading several meals because my family wouldn’t eat anything with olives in it and another family wouldn’t eat the beans. We swapped.

    We also had the advantage of living on a seminary campus, so the shared responsibilities were easier since we were all just right there.

    That was probably more than you were looking for. 🙂 Hope it goes well!

    Reply
  • 2. Julie B.  |  October 17, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    I was invited to participate with a group that set up like this:

    There were 6 people participating so each person made 5-6 of the same meal and froze them. Then they all got together bringing their 5 frozen meals (keeping the 6th for themselves) and exhanged them at a fun get together. Everyone went home with 5 frozen meals. There were some basic rules in place to try to keep costs down and comparable between the dishes.

    Reply
  • 3. Nick  |  October 17, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    hye, what if the guys want to cook? JK. I saw the part about the husbands watching the kids. hey, it’s a great idea:)

    Reply
  • 4. Hannah  |  October 17, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    My sister and I often plan and cook meals together and freeze a few portions each. (I just got back from making cornbread muffins and apple-potato soup with her.) We have a few recipes that we know that both our families like and that freeze well.

    My advice would be to start on small scale. Maybe only cook with a few friends, and only try about 3 or 4 different recipes in total. Planning and shopping ahead of time is essential, and even if you can do some of the chopping ahead of time–that will help things go smoothly.

    And finally, plan to go out for dinner that night or order take-out. You don’t want to “use up” one of your freezer meals right away, and you won’t want to cook another meal when you get home! 🙂

    I hope this works out for you, and if you get some good recipes out of this, be sure to share!

    Reply
  • 5. Veronica  |  October 17, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    We’ve done this many, many ways. For a while we got together each month and made 25 meals. We finally quit because it was costing more than we expected. This was partly because the last week before the cooking date we all ate out alot because the only meals left in the freezer were a month old and the ones no one really wanted to eat anyway. The other part was that we still went to the grocery store regularly anyway to purchase fresh fruit and veggies. When we added it all up it was more than they would spend to make meals fresh each day.

    The time thing is tougher. I think it’s nice not to have to plan and prepare a meal each day. But the cooking days were LONG, HARD days. When the kids were young it was nice to have an excuse to leave them at home with my hubby and be with my girlfriends for the day. But now that they’re older I love spending my afternoons cooking while the kids are in school. Again – I’m not sure how much time is really saved but it certainly reduces the time spent each day.

    My experience with the particular meals is that the meals that freeze best tend to be loaded with fat and sodium. Some of the healthier options were only healthier because you supplemented them with fresh bread or veggies that you bought that day anyway.

    I like your friends suggestions of starting small and with only a few meals a month. Track your costs carefully because you may be surprised at how it all adds up – especially if you’re storing items in freezer bags.

    Good luck, though! Keep us updated on what works for you.

    Reply
  • 6. artsieandie  |  October 17, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    my best advice after two times….
    keep it small. 5 people and 5 meals was plenty.
    divide and conquer: one shopper, one tabulates receipts and tells people the cost, one hosts and does a little prepping, one preps meats (like cooking up ground beef or shredding chicken and chopping onions), and one is the director/list maker.

    I think that the dinner coach site gives a lot of info if you sign up. you have access to forms to help you plan, etc. there is TONS of info.

    lastly, plan your recipes around that week’s sales and it’s MUCH cheaper.

    Reply
  • 7. artsieandie  |  October 17, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    PS. with a group as small as I described you are able to tailor to special needs/desires like gluten-free and likes Asian cuisine. Often for smaller families, one portion will make more than one dinner for you, so you are getting more than 5 meals. I also always order multiples of meals that I really want, and then I have TONS to freeze for no-brainer meal nights.

    It really helps if someone in the group has a Costco membership for bulk items like cheese and chicken.

    It doesn’t have to take all day, especially if you make sure to prep foods and plan the order of cooking beforehand. You should mostly be assembling the meals during your time together, not chopping. We have successfully made 4 to 5 recipes in 5 hours (with plenty of chatting in between). We have done 9-2 on a Sat and 6-11 on a Friday night. Both worked well.

    Reply
  • 8. nmwally  |  October 17, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    2 words: “Let’s Dish”. 🙂

    I’ve done it once or twice and it’s a fun evening out with the girls where all the legwork is already done, and the food is REALLY good.

    Of course, the cost-effectiveness of it all depends on how many are in your family. I did it when it was just my hubby & me, before we had kids, so each meal went a long way.

    Reply
  • 9. Carissa  |  October 17, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    My best friend and I just did this! She came over last Saturday to help me prepare meals and side dishes to freeze, since we are expecting a baby soon. Next month, I will go to her house and help her prepare meals for her family. It was a delightful time to talk and work, while the hubbies kept the kids.
    My own kitchen is small, so two people was just right. Her kitchen is larger, so she might be able to have another friend or two over.

    Reply
  • 10. stacey  |  October 17, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    I have a neighbor on the corner who has done this in the past. She wanted to do it here also…….I declined. I love to cook, but don’t want a bunch of people in my kitchen mess’n wit my stuff, If ya catch my drift. She said you also have to set a lot of rules because there were some people who try and get away with really cheap dishes while others were spending a lot. Plus….what if someone can’t cook worth a hoot???? Then you have a meal that rots……and then you have to pretend you like it….blah blah blah. Hahahahah……we have friends that can’t cook to save her life…..I have 2 of them. Trust me…..the free meal aint worth it….I have had them hahahahahahah. It might work for you though……who knows.

    Reply
  • 11. jan  |  October 17, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    We also have tried many permutations over the years. The once-a-month option (complete with cookbook) is fun and easier in that it has all the lists made out for you, as well as the prep order — less decision-making — the down side is that there’s less control over the meals. We only liked about half of those, and have tried doing it ourselves, with just favorites. I love to cook, but I agree with Veronica’s description of the cooking days being “LONG, HARD DAYS”. My daughter and I just did a variation a couple of weeks ago, but the difficulty there is (for us) sorting out the receipts (how do you cook for a family of 9 in one corner and 1 in the other?) 🙂 and figuring out meals that freeze, that we both like enough to put that much effort into it, and divvying it up in a way that feels right to us both (and that’s with only two of us!). What I’ve oozed into over the years, at least on paper, is this: Cook about three times what feeds our family each on Saturday and Sunday of meals I can freeze, freeze half, eat the two unfrozen halves over three days, thaw two formerly frozen halves and eat them over three other days, and go to W night suppers (or other noncooking options that work for you (some families do popcorn or cereal on Sunday evenings, or going out, if the budget so allows). Clear as mud? I don’t adhere to this strictly at all, but it works best for our family’s configuration and schedule, where I’m busy all week, like to cook, and need a lot of fast meals for the weekdays.

    Reply
  • 12. Katrina  |  October 17, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Hi Molly,
    Here is a post I did a while back on something similar.
    http://byhisgoodgrace.blogspot.com/2008/04/budget-idea-dinner-swap.html

    Katrina

    Reply
  • 13. Sherly  |  October 18, 2008 at 7:03 am

    there a place where i live that for a cost they plan and prep everything. you go with the girlfriends and follow the recipe. you can even divide the recipe in to 2 if your family is smaller, or divide with other friend and that also lowers the cost.
    example: recipe servers 6 I divided in half with a friend, or I keep it but make 2 meals out of it.
    it’s great!!
    there was no planning, buying and no figuering out the bill. you just show up and put it together and if your family don’t like
    onions omit them 😉
    the place plans a whole months of meals and you pick which ones you want.

    Reply
  • 14. Erin  |  October 18, 2008 at 9:54 am

    My friend and I have been doing this over the last few months! It has been so much fun and so helpful. Not only is it terrific to be able to pull out a meal and defrost and eat it, but it has come in handy when we hear of a family who needs a meal.
    There is a great book that I checked out at the library called The Thirty Day Gourmet. These two ladies have been doing this for years and have really practical tips on how to make things run more smoothly. They offer lots of recipes but we prefer to adapt our own. I’m one who loves to have a “plan” and this book helped with that.
    Another idea is to shop by sales. Like last week, we found ground turkey for–get this–$1 per pound!!! We bough twenty pounds and spent the day making taco soup and spaghetti sauce. We made ten of each and each meal came out to about $2.80 per MEAL. We feel like superheros 🙂

    Those are just a few of my ideas. Have fun!

    Reply
  • 15. Sandy Harberger  |  October 18, 2008 at 11:08 am

    The book Once-a-Month Cooking gives some really great tips for this. There’s also a cookbook of freezer friendly recipes that I like- The Best Freezer Cookbook. This is how my husband and I survive. I cook once a month, and freeze everything in individual glass dishes so we don’t have to eat the same meal all week long. And we aren’t tempted to go back for seconds… We have a small separate freezer that is only for our dinner and lunch meals. It’s great! It saves so much time!!!

    Reply
  • 16. Gretchen  |  October 18, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Hey Molly, I just found your blog and love it!! Thank you! We have done this twice and it has been so fun and something that blesses your family at the same time. I echo Andie in a few things like do as much prep ahead of time as possible so that all you have to do is assemble. Our group has a wide variety of dietary restrictions but it has been sort of fun to try new recipes. A smaller group (like 2-3) could also be nice in that you could really tailor it to meals all of your families love. My friend in Spokane does both a large group about every 4-6 and a smaller group every 2 weeks. Also thinking through which recipes freeze well is really crucial. Assigning specific roles was also helpful like Andie pointed out. Also some great up beat music helps 🙂 It is great to spit the shopping too like someone can hit Aldi’s and find as much as possible there and then someone else can go to Costco and then to Rainbow/Cub if they are having a great sale. The time we tailored our menu to current sales saved us a lot of money. Hope that is helpful.

    Reply
  • 17. Shannon  |  October 18, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I haven’t done this yet, however one of my close friends participates in a group like this and I like the way they do it. Each of the women ( I think there are about 7 of them) emails the group a choice of 2 recipes – and whichever one gets the most votes is the one that woman makes. They each shop and prepare the meals on their own time – and then show up for a girl’s night out with meals already cooked and ready to go so they can just relax and enjoy each other’s company. This also helps with the childcare issue since they all tend to have kids around the same age and they just let them loose in a basement playroom on nights the husband’s can’t watch the kids. I definitely want to check out the cookbooks mentioned in one of your comments as I am planning to freeze a bunch of meals myself soon before my next baby is born. If you hear of any other good ones, I hope you’ll post about them!

    Reply
  • 18. js  |  October 18, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    My daughter and I get together now and then to make these burritos. They are great to pull out of the freezer for a quick meal and great when you want to take a meal to someone. They can be rubbed with a little butter and baked or browned slowly in a skillet or even heated in microwave. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

    Jill’s Burrito’s
    40 Mission Burrito Size Flour Tortillas (1 Costco pkg.)

    6.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    Garlic Salt
    Pepper

    1 large onion finely chopped
    1/2 pkg of Costco fresh mini peppers (red, yellow, orange) finely chopped with seeds
    10 cups cooked brown rice, cooled
    5 cups shredded mozzarella
    5 cans (12 oz.) black beans-drained and rinsed
    leaves from 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
    4 cups mild salsa
    12-16 oz. canned diced green chilis

    Season both sides of whole chicken breasts with LOTS of garlic salt and pepper. Broil, or BBQ chicken on low setting. When it is cool enough to handle, chop chicken into little pieces. Saute onion and fresh mini peppers together in a little bit of olive oil. You will probably have to do this in 3-4 batches depending on your pan size. Combine all ingredients in a *LARGE bowl and mix together well. Wrap tortillas, 10 or so at a time, in a towel and heat in microwave before filling. Fill each one with about 3/4 cup of filling. Fold up tortilla, kind of envelope style, and then wrap in wax paper for freezing. Place 4-5 wrapped burritos in a gallon freezer bag and place in freezer.

    We use a 13 quart mixing bowl–pretty huge! We work together on 2 batches of these and each come away with 40 burritos and smelling like burritos!

    Reply
  • 19. mo willis  |  October 19, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    when i lived in idaho, a group of friends would get together and do this, but a little differently than i have seen posted so far. we even created a cookbook! when i was ready to do my meals, i would let them know, usually 5-6 worked best. i would say, ok, freezer-mealing my house, this saturday, 9ish. and they would show up, each one with a big bowl and measuring cups, big spoons. i would have prepared by cooking meat, chopping veggies, etc…. when everyone got there, we would pass out recipes and everyone worked on one recipe at a time. i would have marked the freezer ziplock bags with contents and directions. and did i mention chocolate? whoever’s meals we were working on had a steady supply available! and there was always a designated cinderella at the sink, washing and rinsing as needed. then, someone else would take a turn, their meals, their house. that simplifies the finance part without compromising the fellowship part. definitely requires some upfront organization, but worth it and fun, too! any one wants more details, let me know! i’ll be watching the blog……

    Reply
  • 20. Dawn  |  October 19, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    I have a great recipe book for you. It’s called The Big Cook. It’s a great way to get a bunch of meals in the freezer. I try to keep 30 in my freezer…and it’s a breeze to put them together!

    Reply
  • 21. Megan  |  October 20, 2008 at 6:46 am

    ok, i tried this once and goodness, i’m not sure if it saved money or time or not???

    1. the group was comprised of four women- my good friend and i and her mom (who organized it) and one of her friends. four in the kitchen was enough!

    2. the time with the two awesome mentor women was a great way to talk all morning while we worked- but maybe we should have each prepped a portion of the food at home, then just assembled it all together??

    3. oh, and my friend who bought the food is against large chain stores like walmart, so she got ALL our supplies at a very expensive local store…so i resolved if we do it again, i’ll grab the groceries…somewhere else…shh.

    there are so many great places on the internet for advice on doing this better! i hope i do it again!

    it was really great and fun and…took waaay longer than it would have taken me to make the meals alone…and for sure cost more! (and the recipes weren’t that great…) but the talking was great…and isn’t that just as valuable to women as food? and…i did get away with not cooking for several future nights…so it’s all evened out in the end…

    Reply
  • 22. Jen B.  |  October 20, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Molly,
    I did this with some girls last year when we were living on campus at the seminary. We set it up like “Let’s Dish”. (Have you been there? It’s GREAT!) Everyone chose a meal and brought enough ingredients for everyone else to make the same dish. We used foil pans and plastic bags for freezing. It was great to have meals on hand, have all of the prep done and try a bunch of new recipes. The only tricky part was having enough room in the kitchen to prep the meals. It got really crowded in our little apartment. You also have to be sure to clean out your freezer first. Happy meal prepping!

    Reply
  • 23. Connie Naresh  |  October 20, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    I love the interaction here and think several of you have visited my Teaming Up to Cook blog or web site http://www.dinnercoach.com.

    I’m trilled we can help each other take care of family meals. Keep up the great work.
    Connie Naresh

    Reply
  • 24. The Koller Family  |  October 21, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    You know, this sounds like a great ministry for a church actually. A small church. I may have to present this to the ladies at my church. Thanks for the idea.

    Reply
  • 25. Caryn  |  October 22, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    When you get started let me know. I wouldn’t mind trying it out. 🙂

    Reply
  • 26. Ashlee  |  October 30, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    I just ran across this and I posted a link to your post.. I would love to try team cooking! I love to cook anyway! What a great idea!!!

    Reply
  • 27. daniel  |  November 6, 2008 at 3:56 am

    i think the saying goes: too many cooks, spoil the food… or soup ? 🙂

    Reply
  • 28. shawnda  |  November 10, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Sounds like a great idea….wish I could join ya!

    Reply

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