I’m a work-from-home mom without childcare and my husband works around 60 hours a week. We have been remodeling a home since August, which means we are in-between houses in two different cities. Combine all that with 14 years of college student loans that have now come due. BUSY and on a BUDGET, that’s us! However, I joined a dinner co-op and it has made all the difference.
What is a “Dinner Co-op”?: A group of people (5 works the best) that live near each other and have similar size families. The group provides meals for each other during the work week, so cooking dinner only has to happen once per week! Of course there’s the weekends, however, we have so many leftovers and there is always some event to go to, that I still haven’t had to cook!
How does this work?: Monday Mom makes her meal for her family and 4 other families. She takes the meals at some time in the day (before dinner) and drops them off at the 4 families’ homes. Some of our moms in our co-op work out of the house, so we have a key or garage code to their homes and put the meals in their fridge or keep it simmering in their Crockpot. Meanwhile, Monday Mom picks up the pans that Tuesday Mom is going to need. Let’s say Tuesday Mom is making lasagna and needs an 8” x 8” casserole dish, well Monday Mom will pick up all of those from 3 homes, plus her own and then she will drop off Monday’s dinner at Tuesday Mom’s house last, giving her all the 8” x 8” pans. Add in Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday Mom and it just keeps going like this.
Organization: Someone in the group compiles all the meals our moms have submitted and makes a calendar. We know what we are eating for the whole month! We are lucky in that no one has allergies or special diet restrictions. We all have children and know not to make too spicy of meals.
Budgeting: Buying in bulk from our local Costco, using coupons, etc. are all great ways to keep cooking for 20 in one day, budget friendly. So far, I’ve been able to cook for 20 people and keep it under $25 for the week! Of course you have to consider the gas you use delivering, but it is still worth it! Having a homemade meal delivered to me 4 days of the week is amazing, plus it allows our family to try new things and get out of our regular routine of eating/cooking the same things.
What we cook?: Everything! Some ideas are: tortilla soup, lasagna, spaghetti with garlic toast, tater tot casserole, marinated chicken and veggies, broccoli cheese soup in bread bowls, tacos, pizzas, spaghetti carbonara, beef stew and many more!
If you think you can do this, I recommend it completely! If you have questions, feel free to email me at Jamie @thepatacakebaby.com