Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ode to Food Co-Op and How it Changed My Life Forever

Food Co-Op. What a life-saving, wonderful thing. "What is it?" you may ask. Well, let me tell you. It is the best thing that ever happened for my meal planning. Imagine this - you cook one night, and on two other nights, meals magically appear at your door born in the arms of a smiling friend.


The smiling friends in this photo make up my first food co-op: Allison and Courtney (and me). I say "first," because one has moved and the other is moving. (moment of silence . . .) Moving on, though it is hard for me, I know that others will join me in this endeavor, in fact, someone else already has - thanks, Lindsay!

Here's the deal. There are three families in my food co-cop, and we all live within about 1 1/2 miles of one another. This proximity is essential. On Monday nights, Allison made dinners. She would make enough for her family, and then deliver meals to my family and Courtney's. On Wednesday, I would make dinner and deliver to Allison and Courtney, and on Thursday, it was Courtney's turn to make dinner and make the rounds. We just email each other at the beginning of the week to double check if all the days will work that week, and it can be as flexible as needed.

What a blessing this has been. On the days when food is coming, I can comfortably spend time with my children or pursue other projects knowing that food will be headed our way between 5:30 and 5:45. On the days when I cook, I get to try new things and make more of what I am making, which usually makes the food budget go farther. It is always cheaper and easier to make more of one thing than to make several smaller things.

Here is a picture journey of what I usually do on my food co-op night. I make a menu to include with the meals, so everything can be identified. (Note, I wanted to photograph the menu that I didn't screw up the spelling of "Peanut Butter Blossoms," however, I managed to misspell and have to correct it on both.)


I made dinner - a yummy Chicken Florentine Lasagna that I will include a recipe for in another post. Then I separated out family size portions for the other families into Gladware/Ziploc containers. I now have a massive collection, and we rotate it constantly between the houses. Here's the Caesar Salad.


And the bread, ready to be wrapped in foil.


The lasagna, ready to go.


And I always include a dessert. Tonight it was the Peanut Butter Blossoms.


As I have done this for over a year and a half, I have learned tricks to make this easier. I try to never go super-overboard on a meal. By this, I mean I would rarely make everything from scratch. If I make something like the lasagna that is a little more involved, I would balance that by buying the rolls, instead of making them. This helps it all come together a bit simpler. I set out my Gladware earlier in the afternoon, so I am not scrambling for it when it is time to go. Here's the food, all ready to go do its work and feed families.


Then, just bag it up. No diggity. No doubt. (Target paid me to use their bag.)


Basically, I have gotten very spoiled. Now that I have tasted the sweetness of the co-op, I don't think I can ever go back. Not only do you get excellent food delivered to you two nights a week, you get to develop deeper friendships and knit your life just a little closer with those around you. In delivering food, you get to deliver a little love and sanity to someone you care about. These girls made my life better every week with their homemade dinners. Thanks, Allison and Courtney - you will be missed more than you know.

Since Allison is only moving to Cabot, I have been inspired to continue trading freezer meals with her and others who don't live within a mile of me. (What a world it would be if all my friends lived within a mile of me.) Here's to sharing food in the future!