As we talk this week about ways to make dinner stress-free, I wanted to start with one of my favorite options. Lately, I’ve been participating in a food group and I lo-o-ove it! It helps me spend less time in the kitchen and less money on groceries. The best part is, I only have to think about one meal per week!
Curious about the details? Here are they are…
Who should be in your food group?
A food group can be made up of as few or as many people/families as you’d like. The key is that they have the same food preferences as you. If you eat only Paleo or whole foods, are on Weight Watchers, or have specific food allergies like gluten or peanut, your food group could be comprised of friends who have similar food preferences.
How does a food group work?
Every food group is different, but the basic idea is that each person takes a turn cooking the same meal for the entire group.
Let’s say you have 5 families in your group and your assigned day is Monday. You would make 5 of the exact same meals and deliver to an assigned drop off point (or their homes) on Monday. For the rest of the week you’d be off kitchen duty! Someone else would prepare the meals on Tuesday, then another person on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
How many families should participate in a food group?
It’s really up to you how many people should participate in your food group. I personally cook for 5 families each week and that works great for me. However, I know several groups who are comprised of only 2 or 3 families.
If you wanted to try it out with just one friend, I’d say go for it! That would actually be ideal in many circumstances.
Let’s say your kids have soccer practice every Thursday so you barely have time to cook; kin fact, you end up eating out more than you’d prefer. You could actually double the meal you make on Tuesday for your friend let her prepare a meal for you on Thursday. You’d have a healthy, home-cooked meal with minimal effort.
Most groups seem to prefer 3 to 5 participants. However, if you’re extra ambitious, I guess you could have 14…or even 30 in a group! That’s waaay too many for me, but who knows, cooking 30 of the same meals one time a month may work great for you!
Does a food group save money?
The short answer is: It depends.
If you usually eat out, then having a home-cooked meal each day could definitely save you money.
If you eat plain chicken and a bag of frozen veggies every night for dinner, then a food group may not shave anything off your budget.
If, however, you try new recipes often (or would like to get creative in the kitchen) then food groups are a great way to do that economically.
Let’s say you make your meal plan for the week and you have to buy 2 lemons, cayenne pepper, garlic, and ginger for one recipe and you need to get basil, jalapeño peppers, and pomegranates for another. When you make one recipe of each, you’re sure to have extra ingredients that may or may not go to waste sitting in the fridge and pantry. By doubling or tripling the first recipe, you’ll cut your grocery list in half (because you won’t have to buy basil, jalapeño peppers, and pomegranates) and you’ll use most, if not all, of what you actually do buy from the store.
For the types of meals you get to eat for the week, you’ll definitely save money and reduce waste.
Communication is key.
You may have a ton of questions going through your brain right now:
- What if I don’t like what they make?
- What if I need to take a week off?
- What if there are a few foods that I just don’t like?
- Where do I drop off the food?
The questions are endless. But since every group is different, just make sure to communicate with your food group. Set up an email list, Facebook group, etc. and be upfront. Send them links to the recipe you plan to make and ask them to do the same. If there is an ingredient you don’t like, let them know so they can leave it out of the recipe. If you need to take time off from the group, let them know. If you need to switch the drop off location, let them know. The key is to be open and communicate.
Participating in a food group cuts your grocery time since you don’t have to buy as many diverse ingredients, you spend less time in the kitchen cooking, and I’m sure I don’t have to mention how much it reduces kitchen cleanup time. The benefits are numerous and it’s one of my favorite ways to meal plan right now.
Of course there are many other ways to make meal planning easy so this series will continue throughout the week. In the meantime, though, have you ever participated in a food group? Do you have any burning questions about food groups? Let me know in the comment section!
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