A number of years ago, an acquaintance of mine belonged to a dinner co-op. The concept was simple: four friends (living on the same block) shared the burden of the evening meal. Each friend was assigned one day of the week (Monday through Friday) and on her assigned day, cooked dinner for all four families. The other three days, she sat back and waited for her family’s meal to be delivered.
At the time, I thought it sounded like a convenient idea–even an ingenious idea–but I didn’t consider it to be necessarily a ‘green’ idea. I realize now I was wrong: dinner co-ops are a great way to be environmentally responsible while enjoying the awesome benefit of cooking only once or twice a week.
Instead of four ovens preheating, four stove-tops operating, etc., per night, there’s only one. Of course, this is not only energy-efficient, but very convenient as more and more families are kept out late at sport practices and other weekday evening commitments.
It’s easier to eat locally and seasonally. I don’t know about any of you, but if I only have to plan and shop for one major meal per week, I’d be willing to put more planning, effort, time, and expense into it. Plus your co-op can share the wealth of your backyard gardens and bulk foods. When we invest more into our meal preparation, we end up eating more whole and seasonal foods. At least I do! And with a co-op, you receive back the efforts of your labor three-fold.
Eat fewer convenience foods. If you know you can expect four whole-food, homemade dinners per week, you’ll be buying fewer convenience foods at the grocery store to make up for those nights you just don’t get around to cooking. In our house, that would mean significantly fewer boxes of processed bean burritos and veggie dogs.
Eat out less. Save not only money, but reduce the number of fast food containers, take-out boxes, and bags end up in your trash.
I have no idea whether my acquaintance’s co-op is still going strong or not, but as my family’s weekday commitments build with each passing year, and as I make new commitments to a ‘greener’ and healthier lifestyle for my household, I find myself more and more intrigued with the idea of starting my own dinner co-op. If you are, too, Dinner at Your Door goes through the process of starting a co-op step-by-step (there’s a website and a book). The site Saving with Shellie also contains information on starting several kinds of neighborhood co-ops, including a babysitting one!
Are you already a member of a dinner co-op? I’d love to hear about your experience! What works, and what doesn’t? What’s your best tip for me as I start out? What’s your favorite benefit of being part of a co-op?
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Amy Whitley is excited to be writing bi-weekly for the 5 Minutes for Going Green team! You can read more about her attempts at eco-living at her blog The Never-True Tales and find great places to travel with children at her review site Pitstops for Kids!.