A few weeks ago a friend and I got together for a “bulk cooking” day. We made 8 meals in 2 hours for $38 dollars!
I’ve got a secret for you: cooking in bulk (especially with other people) can save as much money as using coupons!
Really? Well, if you plan ahead anything is possible…
I save money first by buying more and second by using more.
Buying more of high priced grocery items like meat saves on the price per pound/serving. We can get a better deal on a “family pack” of meat than we can on a small 1-2 pound package.
We also are using ALL of what we buy. For example, one of the recipes we made called for 1/2 cup of apricot preserves. A single jar is more than 1/2 cup but when we double or triple a recipe a single jar of preserves is just the right amount and instead of paying $3 for 4 servings (because there is a chance we won’t use the remaining preserves), we are paying $3 for 16 servings!
We had a great time cooking together, cut our cooking time down by about 8-10 hours over a the following two weeks, saved a ton of money and had some REALLY good food!
Below are the first few basic steps to organizing your own cooking day with a friend or family member:
:: Find friends or family members who have a similar family, and likes and dislikes. But not too many people.
We didn’t spend a lot of time comparing our families tastes but we do have a very similar family structures.
We guessed that 3 or 4 people would be the most we could handle at one time (and more than 2 would require more time and more preparation).
:: Decide how many meals you want each family to end up with.
We started with just 8 meals (4 recipes split in half) to avoid being overwhelmed. Since our children are young, splitting meals in half made sense for us but you may find that one recipe is just enough for one meal in your home.
:: Spend 1-2 weeks letting everyone pick out recipes and share them with the group.
NOTE: be careful not to choose recipes that involve a lot of complicated cooking steps. Stick with recipes you would cook at home (or that you know how to cook at home).
We started with recipes that were already tested and designed for this type of cooking. Websites like Once a Month Mom, Cooking with Friends Club have several menu plans to search through for recipes your family will like.
We did choose a couple of random recipes that worked out great after we took some time to think through the cooking/freezing process.
:: Choose 2-4 recipe suggestions from each person and list out every ingredient required to make them.
:: Double or triple the recipes (based on how many meals each person will have and the number of participants) and list out all the ingredients. Be sure to add amounts required for all the recipes together to get a complete list.
:: Send the ingredients list out to the participants and have each person note any substitutions for health or allergies. Ask each person to check their pantry for items they may already have on hand.
:: Compile the remaining ingredients into a shopping list.
:: Nominate or assign a shopper, a host (this is where you will actually DO the cooking and preparation), and a cooking coordinator.
The shopper will be responsible for all the ingredients needed for cooking
- collecting coupons and money from the rest of the group
- shopping for the food, maybe with a helper
- reminding others what they said they could provide
- getting all of the food to the hosts home for cooking day
The coordinator breaks each recipe down into steps to be most efficient with time.
- make a list of all of the items that need to be chopped
- make a list of all of the “mixes” that need to be made
- make a list of all the sauteeing/frying/boiling/baking that needs to be done
- make a list of all foods that need to be processed/blended/shredded or pureed.
- The coordinator also communicates to each participant what type and how many containers will be required for each meal.
Aside from providing space and being kind enough to open her home for cooking, the host also provides all the kitchen equipment required for cooking and sets up her kitchen in stations on cooking day.
- A sink of water for washing dishes as you go and an empty dishwasher for immediate loading.
- A station for chopping (cutting boards, knives and containers for the chopped foods).
- A station for mixing (blender, whisk, bowls, spatulas).
- A station at the stove with skillets, pots and utensils.
- A station for food processing (processor, shredder, grinder).
- A station for meal assembly (this is where all the containers/dishes will be placed for each person).
- a trash can out, empty and easily accessible
- towels for clean up.
:: On cooking day everyone will bring their dishes and other supplies to the host’s house, set up and start cooking!
:: As you cook you will get a feel for who needs to be doing what and in what order.
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