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Cut Dinner Efforts in Half with a Family Dinner Share!

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Wild Rice and Chili-Corn Casserole perfect for a family dinner shareIf there is one thing I am passionate about it is how food can bring people together. For me, sharing recipes and cooking tips is all in the interest of making cooking more accessible and manageable for busy people so that eating home-cooked meals can become a regular part of our daily lives and eating can become joyful again.

But the reality is that life is super busy, and often complicated. Even with all the cooking skills and meal planning, getting dinner on the table can be hard, which is why I loved the plan my friend Kathryn came up with: cut dinner efforts in half with a family dinner share.

This post is in two parts: First, Kathryn shares a little bit about how she and a friend came up with this idea and how they structured their family dinner share. Then, I have come up with a step-by-step guide to help you get there yourself. You can do this with one friend or even create a mini dinner co-op with a group of friends!

So read Kathryn’s story, get inspired, and then create your own family dinner share!

Canadian Maple ChickenHow Kathryn Created Her Family Dinner Share

It was always with a great chuckle that my friend Sarah and I bumped into each other in the grocery store, Sundays at 5 p.m.  “What’s on your menu?” we would muse before we both pushed on to get a good family dinner on the table at a reasonable hour.  The task seemed easy enough, but the endless reality still set in – family dinner needed to be created EVERY NIGHT!

So we devised a simple plan for a family dinner share: make dinners for half the nights of the week, doubling the recipe each time, and then share the second portion with one another. Cook half the time, but enjoy fresh, homemade meals every night. How easy is that?!

The plan is still in its infancy, but it has had a GREAT first week.

  • On Sunday evening, after a long day with my daughter, I strolled over to Sarah’s house to pick up family dinner– pulled chicken sandwiches, complete with buns and string beans on the side. Voila! Dinner was served!
  • On Tuesday and Wednesday, Sarah’s family got to enjoy Canadian Maple Chicken, a yummy salad, and red potatoes (straight from a Scramble dinner plan), and then sautéed shredded vegetables served on pasta alongside a bowl of fresh fruit and whipped cream.
  • And on Thursday, nothing felt more relaxing, than knowing that I did not need to scurry out after a meeting. Instead, a leisurely saunter to Sarah’s allowed our family to enjoy a delicious steak taco dinner.

We don’t reimburse each other for ingredients because we figure what goes around comes around.  In fact, I have realized that it is more economical to cook for two families at once, because ingredients are used up rather than lingering until they get wasted.

Another bonus is the renewed energy I have found in my meal planning. As much as I  enjoy the indulgence of my dinner pick-ups, I am also reenergized to think about and create delicious dinners that both families will enjoy…kicking me out of my daily doldrums of cooking yet another meal for my family night after night after night.

There are still a few kinks to work out, but overall I only wish I had moved to Sarah’s street years earlier.

Fiesta Casserole with Cheddar Cornbread CrustHow to Create Your Own Family Dinner Share

Here’s how to create a successful dinner share with friends and/or neighbors.

Find your families

Your goal here is to find a family (or families) that will prepare meals that will work well for your family, and vice versa. This means that you should discuss:

  • Dietary restrictions (allergies, vegetarian/vegan, kosher, etc.)
  • Food preferences (and aversions)
    • do you like spicy or mild?
    • which types of cuisine to you enjoy?
    • are there ingredients that you love or hate (cilantro, mushrooms, etc.)?

Some other things to consider as you are finding the right family or families to partner with include:

  • Physical proximity. You don’t want to end up driving 20 minutes to pick up the food, so make sure that you pick folks who live nearby.
  • Family size. I would recommend looking for a family that will need roughly the same amount of food as you each week. After all, if you’re a family of three but your friend has four kids, then the burden of cooking for even more people may come to create tension.
  • Commitment. You should make sure to find a family (or families) that is as committed to this concept as you are. After all, it would be really sad if a friendship was stressed or ruined by one family not living up to their end of the bargain.

Crazy Caprese Pasta a family dinner share winnerEstablish a schedule

The next step is to discuss a schedule. First, agree upon how many meals a week you will be swapping. Do you want to do one meal each a week, just to get a night’s respite? Or do you want a more comprehensive swap of two or three nights a week?

Then share your schedules and agree upon a weekly routine. Or, if life is really chaotic and things change week to week, you could agree to check in with each other each Saturday or Sunday to figure out the week ahead.

Divine Eggplant and Chickpeas with MintGet Cooking

The final step is when this gets fun! When you’re in charge of preparing the meal for the night, you’ll double the recipe so that there is enough to share. And when it’s your friend’s turn to cook, you’ll get a night off! Some tips to make the sharing of food successful:

  • Agree upon whether you want items such as casseroles to arrive already cooked or ready to go into the oven.
  • If any assembly of the dish is required, share that in an attached note.
  • If any reheating is required, share any tips you might have in an attached note.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars a fun dessert for your family dinner shareHave fun with it!

As Kathryn noted, starting this family dinner share actually inspired her to try new things and get more creative. This can be a chance to share some of your favorite recipes, make some awesome comfort foods, or try out new recipes you’ve always wanted to try.

And if you need inspiration, make sure to check out The Scramble’s recipe search tool where you can filter your choices by dietary needs, season, and more!

Have you ever done a family dinner share? How did it work out for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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