27 September 2010

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Last week I tweeted that I was making Coq Au Vin and Scalloped Potatoes with fennel and smoked gruyere for twenty people. But what I didn't mention was that the meal was not to be served at my table.

In fact, after preparing that meal all afternoon, I carefully packed eight pyrex dishes into our family van (keeping a serving of each at home for my own family, of course) and hit the road, delivering meals to the families of four of my closest friends.

I have done this every Tuesday for the past four weeks.

So, why go through all this trouble? And why on earth am I so pumped about it? It's not because I'm some kind of saint. Certainly I'm getting something in return, right?

RIGHT!!! :)

Tuesdays are my days to cook, yes. But on Monday, Danielle brings Beef Stroganoff, and Wednesday Rebecca makes a killer Stromboli, Thursday, Christy brings Harvest Pork Chops and Friday Christi delivers to my door a delicious bowl of Texas Caviar. Right at 5:00, hot and ready to eat.

And so goes our little supper swap.

We keep track of what each of us will be bringing every week in a shared Google Doc, even leaving a column for feedback and a star rating system.

Our vision is to bless one another by cooking for one another.

We all have families with 2-5 kids, so we've agreed to always serve each family enough to feed four adults. (This leaves enough leftovers for our family to cover lunches during the week too!)

Every weekend I only have to buy groceries for one big meal, which saves money because buying more of the same ingredients is much cheaper than buying lots of different ingredients.

We have also eliminated dining out from our weeknights almost entirely since there's never a 5 o'clock "what's for dinner" conversation. HUGE budget savings there.

We're eating healthy, well-rounded meals. We're greeting each other every night with news about our families and questions about each other's. (Or finding our meals in coolers on the front porch if we're not planning to be home at 5.) On occasion we're sitting down to our meals together. (Since the food is prepared, why not enjoy it together?) And best of all?

We're living in community.

We're finding joy in delighting each other with good food. We're spending more evenings each week on the floor with our children instead of in the kitchen feeling harried. We're learning each other's likes and dislikes - sparing mushrooms where they need to be spared and adding chicken where it's been enjoyed and requested.

And so this season of life goes. With small children at home and homes in ridiculously close proximity, this new system works swimmingly for us. We eagerly check the menu for the week and look forward to all the things our friends have in store for us.

And THAT is why on earth I'm making Coq Au Vin for twenty people! :)


(And if I may add - since this co-op has begun, I have been surprised to find that I've lost 3 pounds! Turn out eating in vs. eating out has more than just financial benefits!)


So, the question is now - have any of y'all done this before? I recently noticed that this month's Real Simple magazine actually has an article in it about supper swaps. I know it's not a new idea, but I wondered if it was newly becoming a thing again. I'd love to hear from you! Have you done it? What has worked well or worked poorly? I'll try to answer any questions in the comments section by commenting back if you feel like discussing.

In the meantime, I'm already setting my table for the Potato Soup and salad that's scheduled to arrive in just a few hours...

15 comments:

Sarah Robbins said...

I have done supper swaps a few times. The one that worked best was where you doubled two recipes a week that could be frozen and then you swapped. We always made sure we had 2 frozen or ready to be frozen meals and met on Monday to trade. So twice a week we have a meal already. And a lot of times, I freeze doubles of other meals too and save them. So I usually have 4-5 frozen meals at a time to pull out of the freezer as needed. Works great!

keight dukes said...

i have always thought that communism might work, but only in true christian community. jesse and i always say we want to start a commune where only one person owns a lawnmower or a $300 vacuum instead of everyone owning one of everything themselves. but doing it with food! i LOVE this idea. holy droolage i would even sign up for saturday night duty if i lived in your radius.

KirkKrew said...

I've done this before with a friend. Every other week (usually on Sunday) we would cook 4 casserole type dinners and trade with each other. That would give us 8 meals to either freeze and bake as we were ready for them. My mom did one more like your setup when we were growing up. It was fun and a great way to cut down on cooking and eating out. I've posted several recipes we did in our swap on my blog as well as my weekly meal plans from the last several weeks. Hopefully they will give you some ideas!

Erin said...

wow this sounds amazing. But your food looks amazing mine would look nothing like that!! Is everyone a great cook? I am not a great cook so I would almost feel bad ha ha!

Faith Hope and a whole lotta Love said...

I'm moving to the US & hopefully finding a house next door to you!! sounds amazing! :)

Brenda said...

This is an amazing idea!! So good! I'm going to talk to my friends about this!! :-)

Abby said...

What an awesome idea! I wish I had friends and family that lived closer so that we could do that. Oh, I can just imagine sitting with my family each evening for longer chats, more studying, more baby time....

Be thankful!

Raechel said...

Erin: regarding the fancy meals: we've all agreed that the point of this is to make our lives easier and maybe even save some money. So we've said that there's no need for anything fancy or expensive. Just good, nutritious meals.

I enjoy cooking so much (and since I'm only now cooking once a week) that I sometimes like to make more complicated meals for my own fun and to share with my friends. Not every meal is this glamorous. Tonight I'm making Swedish Meatballs. Simple. :)

Christine said...

THIS. Is great. Love it.

We have a commune system going on with our lawn/gardening implements. As well as maternity clothes and baby items. Does that count? :)

Melissa said...

I have always wanted to try this! I am not a good facilitator so maybe I can talk someone else into doing that part.. i dont know if I would do that many nights becuase I do LOVE to cook and i think I would miss it if I only cooked once a week!

Zoe said...

I love this idea! I wanted to start a supper swap group awhile ago, with everyone just making freezer meals and swapping once or twice a month. It never happened, but when I read this post - I'm re-inspired. Questions for you though: do all of the participating families have the same number of kids, so the meal sizes are equal, or how do you do that? And also, how close do you live to the other families? It seems like it would take a long time to drive around town delivering food. Maybe you are all in the same neighborhood? Does everyone have a big collection of pyrex dishes, so you don't have to waste a lot of money on throwaway foil pans? I am really intrigued by the whole idea. It really sounds great.

Zoe said...

whoops - just reread your post and see that you already answered my question about meal sizes for different families. Sounds like a good plan. :)

The Van Ordens said...

What a fabulous idea!

Raechel said...

Zoe: we all live in the same neighborhood or just outside of it, so delivery isn't a big deal. It probably takes 15 minutes tops to deliver them all if we stop to say hello. (long talks do occasionally slow things down, but usually on the last stop or something) :)

I've also heard of everyone meeting to swap all their meals on Monday and refrigerating/freezing things for the week. That would probably work too, but I like mine hot and ready!

Dishes: we use 8x8 glass pyrex dishes mostly or whatever anyone has on hand. We stocked up on a bunch at Goodwill before we started and just keep them in circulation. We've found that we love the ones with rubber or glass lids the best.

I hope this answers everything! I'd love to hear if you do end up doing it!!
Raechel

Kelleylouwho said...

Raechel-
Beautiful family! Love the dinner swap idea!!! I just stumbled upon your blog a few days ago (I actually just sent you an e-mail) but have enjoyed reading about your family! Take care!