Frugal Meals: Save Money and Time Cooking in Bulk with Friends

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Ahh, the age-old question: What’s for dinner? Sometimes we know the answer and and other times we haven’t a clue; yet much to our chagrin, dinner time rolls around once a day. Without a plan, dinner can easily turn into:

a) a non-nutritious “emergency” meal
b) a “whatever’s in the refrigerator” disaster
c) a pricy, unsatisfying mass-produced frozen meal
d) an expensive fast food meal

None of those dinner solutions are ideal, yet a plate or bowl of something tasty, nutritious and satisfying can be elusive when busy and/or erratic schedules are the norm. Besides, no one is always up to the task of cooking a complete dinner every single day. What can be done to avoid the disappointments of the aforementioned “a through d” scenarios? Bulk cooking with friends is a good solution to assure that when dinner is served, it won’t be an unappealing, costly disappointment.

Instead of facing the task of cooking dinner every single day, consider stocking your freezer with dishes you’ve prepared ahead of time with a group of friends. This provides a homemade alternative for those times when cooking dinner is simply not on the agenda, due to lack of time, energy or inclination.

Bulk cooking with friends makes meal preparation fun, social, inexpensive and efficient. It will take planning and preparation to pull off but it’s worth it for the rewards it reaps. Here’s how it can work:

  • Coordinate with a group of friends – Get enough participants to do the work but not so many as to overcrowd the kitchen.
  • Choose a kitchen – If there’s an obvious kitchen that’s best suited for group meal preparation, cook there. If all kitchens are relatively equal, take turns hosting the bulk cooking activity.
  • Have enough freezer space – Each participant should have appropriate freezer space to store the dishes they take from the bulk cooking event.
  • Discuss food allergies, restrictions and preferences – You’ll want to take ingredients into consideration so as to accommodate needs and preferences of everyone who will eat the food.
  • Choose recipes – Ask each participant to provide a few basic recipes and as a group decide on one from each person to prepare. For maximum efficiency, choose recipes that have some ingredients in common (e.g. onions, garlic, chicken, ground beef, pasta, rice…) because you can save money by purchasing in bulk and time by chopping/processing/cooking like ingredients all at once. Now is the time to multiply recipes if necessary to ensure they’ll serve enough people.
  • Make a master shopping list – Compile a master list of ingredients and quantities necessary to prepare all the chosen recipes.
  • Shop – Buy in bulk and shop according to sales to get the best prices possible on your ingredients. Send the “super shopper” of the group to purchase all ingredients, then split the bill according to what each participant takes.
  • Make a master task list – Deconstruct the cooking process to come up with each task involved, which could include:
    • Sink duty – rinsing produce
    • Cutting board – chopping/slicing/grating
    • Stove/oven – sautéing, boiling, frying, baking
    • Assembly – putting together dishes according to recipe instructions
    • Packaging – getting meals ready for freezing
    • Cleanup – washing and putting away
      Divvy up these tasks so that everyone has a “station” at which to work and isn’t in anyone else’s way. If there are more tasks than participants, assign participants multiple tasks that won’t conflict with each other.

Whether you’re preparing meals to feed a family or single servings for yourself, bulk cooking with friends is an economical way to provide high-quality food that’s nutritious and quick to prepare.

What are your favorite meals to prepare ahead?

Bonus Tip:

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