December 18, 2014

Kitchen Sisters’ Club: Tasty Tuesday

Sep25

This month over at (in)courage, we’ve been talking about in real life friendship. We are kicking off week four with practical ways to build community, and they asked me to share a bit about building friendships through my Kitchen Sisters’ Club. Yes, that’s our corny term we coined in the late night hours when we had laughed too much, and most likely not had enough sleep.

It’s a perfect sneak peek for Tasty Tuesday because I know that many of you have participated in some similar kind of meal making club, and I’d love to hear how you have done it.

Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to attend an old fashioned Quilting Bee.  As I rock on my covered front porch, I feel the warm breeze brush against my cheek.  Busying my hands by stitching beautiful fabric squares, I catch up with all my neighboring girlfriends who come together regularly to share community.

I open my eyes though, and reality sets in. I don’t sew, nor do I have the desire to cut quilting squares, yet I’m enchanted with this concept because there was a fun purpose for gathering, they shared life together, and productivity occurred.

That desire was the genesis behind my Kitchen Sisters’ Club: a gatherings of friends, who came together to make meals for our family. As a young mom, it was often difficult to justify a “girls night out,” yet when I combined the best of sharing sweet friendship with my girlfriends, along side making multiple meals for my family, it was a win-win proposition.

Over the last fifteen years, I have organized these meal making get togethers multiple ways, with many different ladies, and varying sized groups ranging from six to twenty-six. One constant remains. When the need for community mixes with very practical needs, it’s truly the best of both worlds.

This past weekend, I led a meal planning workshop at my Becoming Conference where hundreds of women raised their hand in agreement that the “What’s for Dinner Question” remains a constant source of strife.

I mean, do we really need to feed them again? They just ate last night?

When I think of meal time,  the old adage rings true, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” When I have no set plan, I tend to resort to the same three or four meals over and over again, which doesn’t always win the adoration of my family. Since I’m always looking for new inspiration and accountability in the kitchen,  meal swapping meets both of these needs, along with a beautiful outlet to spend time with friends.

It’s a wonderful way to try new recipes, eat healthier, and fellowship, while saving both time and money in the kitchen. As a bonus, I  go home energized and encouraged to do a better job for my family.

So many scriptural principles are lived out during our time together, including Galatians 6:2. We truly carry each others burdens together as we desire to live intentionally with even the most mundane of tasks.

Briefly, there are three different ways in which I have organized my Kitchen Sisters’ Clubs. The method I choose depends on the group and my schedule.

1. Make all the meals at your own home and drop them off at friends’ homes.
They, in turn, do the same thing for you on another day. Typically, this group shouldn’t exceed four women.
Example: I make four of our family’s favorite Taco Casseroles, or possibly my Simple Sesame Chicken, salad, and my easy homemade french bread, and deliver them to three neighbors. Then the next week, they do the same for me. This is the one option where the meals do not need to be freezer friendly, since you deliver and potentially eat it the same day.
( I write a lot about meal planning and easy food preparation over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, so my readers know that cooking a main dish in bulk takes the same amount of time as one recipe, so one of my biggest kitchen tips is to always double or triple our recipes, so that we’ll have another meal for later.)

This first option only works well if you’re in close proximity to each other. I know of ladies who have done this for years with the same four friends, now that is a blessing.

2. Host a meal making party in ones home where everyone brings the ingredients for their main dish.

Typically, I have done this with anywhere from five to eight ladies.

Each friend was “assigned” one main dish (her preference). She would bring all the ingredients for that entree (x the number of ladies in attendance), and we would then assemble the meals together in my kitchen. So if I choose Mexican Lasagna, I would provide the ingredients for eight Mexican Lasagnas.

If I am shopping for one meal, I might as well shop for eight.
Through much trial and error, I eventually set down basic ground rules, such as everyone had to provide two lbs of meat per meal, the recipe must fit an 8×10 pan etc. For those with smaller families, they just divided the meal in half, and received even more meals for their family. There is always so much fun and laughter to be had by all.
The only down side is that my kitchen is a complete wreck when it’s done, but so worth it.

3. Host in either a home or church kitchen – one person organizes, sets the menu, and buys the ingredients.
This requires more work from one person, but there is the option of taking turns with organizing this every month.
The pictures shown above was an evening like this. I set up “stations” with instructions for each meal. I provided all the ingredients (except for two of the meals in which attendees brought their choice of raw chicken or beef in ziplock bags, and we made crock pot meals). The guests then covered the costs of the ingredients.

Some of my favorite freezer meals that I’ve used for our gatherings:

Easy Taco Cassserole

Mom’s Homemade Sloppy Joes – guests leave with bag full of meat and bag of hamburger rolls

Burritacos

Favorite Lasagna

Asian Pork Tenderloin

Dump and Run Taco Soup

I’d love to hear how some of you have organized your meal making groups. When I launch 10 Minute Dinners on October 1, I will be kicking it off with 31 Days of 10 Minute Dinners,  and hope to include detailed posts on this very topic.

What are some of your biggest struggles when it comes to meal time?

If you have the desire to build community through starting a Kitchen Sisters Club, I’d love to help.

These gatherings are such a wonderful time of fellowship, and yet there’s a feeling of total accomplishment when the evening is completed. I  know that many readers here have probably done similar things, and I’d love for you to chime in with the specifics of how you have set up your meal swapping groups.


Comments

  1. I absolutely love this idea! Getting women together to cook is a wonderful gift! I do a “cooking/baking” day with my sister & mom, but I love the idea of gathering friends to do so too. Thanks!

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  2. I really love this! I’ve been wanting to start something like this with my sister-in-laws to help us take time to get together and save some time in the kitchen. I think it would be a great fellowship time!

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  3. I’ve tried organizing both a Soup Swap and a Muffin Swap before, where you make a large batch of one kind and 8 or so ladies get together to trade, but I can never get enough participants. I think some are wary of other families’ allergies and special diets.

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  4. This is a fantastic idea. I might try it with two or three friends and see where that leads! Thanks!

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  5. We do this each year with tamale making. Tamales are pretty labor intensive but a lot can get done when lots of hands – both big and little – are spreading masa, filling and rolling.

    I’ve also done some canning with a friend. We canned the last of our venison to make room hunting season. The guys did all the cutting and we did the canning. It was amazing how much can get done with 2 pressure canners and lots of people working and having fun.

    It’s a fun way to build community. My children can’t wait for tamale making day this year.

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  6. I have always wanted to do this with the ladies of my church. I was just afraid to bring it up because I am the youngest mother and assumed I’m the only one with this what’s for dinner problem.

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  7. Dawn Lister Lindell Oh no, definitely not. I am struggling with it more now, than I did when the kids were younger. :) Go for it!! They’d love you for getting the ball going.

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  8. I loved hearing your talk about this at Becoming! I was thinking about trying it with my women’s small group from church, but I’m worried that we all have very different eating and cooking styles (i.e. some do all organic, etc.). But I’m giving it some thought and maybe can figure out a way to have it work!

    Any suggestions?

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    Jen Reply:

    Yes, that is something that our groups had to wrestle with as well. If someone does only organic, it would be very difficult since many won’t want to pay the extra for organic, but there are ways to work around the different eating styles and tastes. I’ll have to address that in a post.

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    Lydia (Thrifty, Frugal Mom) Reply:

    @Jen, I would like to hear more on this as well.

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  9. Thanks for hosting! Getting together to cook and build community is a great idea. We just started doing something like this, and it was a blast. :)

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  10. This is such a great idea! I would love to be a part of something like this. So fun!

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  11. Sounds like such a fun idea! Something similar that several of my (grown) daughters and I do is to have Freezer Meal Days. We just had one this past Saturday – we each brought the ingredients for one or two main dishes (plus enough to make 5 of each recipe). We ended up with 30 dishes for the freezer – and we had a whole lot of fun spending the day together in my kitchen. Thanks to my sweet hubby who helped with the grandkids, which made it all possible. (My post on Monday shows a few photos of our fun and productive day together.)

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  12. I’ve been doing option 3 all year (the trading thing didn’t work out well; too much variability in quality and value of the offerings) and love it. I subscribed to the Frozen Chosen menu mailer from Saving Dinner for a year, then I pick out three beef, three chicken and three pork meals each month. By focusing on things that can be made fairly quickly and don’t have any spendy ingredients, we average about $105 for nine good-sized dinners (typically two meals worth of food for a family of 4). It’s a lot of prepping on my part…but hey, I was going to do it anyway! This way I have a deadline so it actually gets done, and get to spend a couple of hours with friends. Important tips: (1) call ahead and have the butcher chop up all your meat and measure it in advance, (2) get the pre-pressed garlic in a jar and (3) have a food processor or you could be chopping onions for an hour. Literally.

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