January 22, 2009

in Everyday Redeemed,Generosity,Neighbors

This is the first post in a series that will probably last as long as the blog does.  The purpose in this series is to take everyday things-cooking, cleaning, traditions, holidays, driving, whatever-and think about the ways that God could use those things in redemptive ways.  The commands to be living sacrifices, faithful in prayer, and sharing with others make me think I’ve got a thing or two to learn about day to day living.  We’ll try to post on this series every Thursday.  Each post will have a specific focus but will certainly not be exhaustive.  Of course, multiple entries can (and hopefully will) be provided for nearly every area of focus.  DISCLAIMER: If you don’t do the certain thing in the particular way noted, that doesn’t mean your way isn’t redemptive. Of course not!  The point is for us to join together, use our holy imaginations, and find ways to redeem each minute of every day.  Sound impossible?  Here we go!


Today’s topic is cooking.  Now, let’s be honest. We all eat.  A lot.  Everyday.  And so, there’s just a ton of posts possible for ways to redeem cooking.  So, here’s  a toss into that very deep and good smelling bucket.

Cooking Co-operatively

Disclaimer #2-this particular suggestion is more like a good idea that Jesus can use for Kingdom purposes rather than a practice specific to Christian faith.  Make sense?

Yep, I said ‘co-operate.’  You’ve heard the term before.  (And some of you are pros at this).  Here’s a wiki for you and here’s the scoop.  Here in my little town, two friends and I joined together to form a ‘supper co-op.’ That’s three families.  We each agreed to cook for all three families one night per week and deliver the meals on our specified day.  Friend 1 took Monday, I took Tuesday, and Friend 3 took Thursday.

So, to be clear.

  • On Monday, Friend 2 and I both receive a meal from Friend 1.
  • On Tuesday, I cook a meal for myself and both friends and they deliver meals to them.
  • On Thursday, Friend 2 delivers meals to Friend 1 and me!

We’ve been doing it since September (with a little break around the holidays) and I think we’re all still loving it.

Here’s why I think co-op cooking is fabulous

  1. Community-To me, hands down, this is the biggest benefit.  Whether I’m dropping off food or my friends are delivering, I get face to face time with a friend at least three times a week.  Sometimes we stop in and visit for a while and let our kids chase one another.  Sometimes we just say a quick ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’  Whatever the case, I’ve grown closer to these two friends than I ever would’ve if we had not co-oped together.
  2. Overall Less Work- With leftovers, I usually only have to cook 1 big meal during the 5 day work week (Monday through Friday).
  3. T-I-M-E-On the days I don’t cook, I can take on other projects that I normally wouldn’t get to because of that day’s cooking.  I can do special things for my husband, my children, or my neighbors.  Or, I can just sit and enjoy playing with my kiddos during the time I’d normally be up and stirring the pot.
  4. Food Variety-Sometimes I get stuck in the same old baked chicken rut (more to come on that in the future).  Through co-op, I’ve discovered some dishes that my husband loves and a few that my kiddos enjoy too.  I asked for the recipe and “Tada!”-a new one for my culinary repertoire.
  5. Possible Savings-This isn’t always the case, but sometimes there’s great opportunity for savings by cooking in bulk.  If you find a particular meat or veggie on sale-you can just buy up that product for your co-op meal.  By cooking in bulk the product that was on clearance, you make the most of the sale and avoid the higher cost products that you might otherwise need to buy to finish off the week’s supply.
  6. Serving Possibilities-When you’re already cooking in bulk, you can think outside the boundaries of just yourself or your family.  One of the ladies in the co-op kicked it up a notch.  Last fall, she often made 4 meals instead of 3 and delivered the 4th to a friend in need.  As you learn the bulk cooking approach, this broadens your horizon for what’s possible in terms of delivering food as a service to others.
  7. Excellence-This is not a pressure exerted upon me from co-op buddies, but when I’m cooking for 11 instead of for 4, I give a little more and usually come out with something nicer than the last minute chicken fajitas and yesterday’s rice.  (though there’s some merit to that meal as well.)

Okay, I know…you can’t wait, can you?  Not so fast.  Here’s just a few pointers to get you going in the right direction.

  1. Who are your neighbors? Before you start dreaming, think of some people that live close to you. When it’s time to deliver meals, the closer the better.  In fact, this is a great way to get to know your next door neighbors, if you can find some that will join you in the madness.
  2. Not for the faint of heart. Are you a picky eater?  How long is your list of dietary ‘no’s’?  If you do have lots of requirements, co-oping may not be for you.  We’re talking more of the Luke 10 mindset here.  Further, it’s a good question to ask those who you recruit for your co-op team.  A few ‘no’s’ are okay, but when the list is long, the cooks get a bit flabbergasted.
  3. Keep it simple. One night, I said to myself, ‘Self, you should make chef salads, that’s a great idea.’  Bad idea.  The chopping nearly drove me nuts (so I didn’t chop those…just put them in the baggy).  Go for easy dishes that travel well (if you’ve got to drive to deliver your meals).  My favorite meals are some combo of baked meat, veggie, starch, (possibly bread and dessert, too).  Nothing too complicated.
  4. Set the ground rules. As you start out, figure out what you want to do.  You may just want to provide the main dish for one another.  Another group may REQUIRE dessert, no exceptions.  What time do you need dinner to arrive?  Should you put your name on your dishes before you get started?  These are just a few.  If the households are different sizes, settle on the amount of food needed.  (Your working single friend may not mind the leftovers and may have friends over regularly…don’t assume it will only work with households the same size as yours).
  5. Remember the benefits and stay flexible. The night I did the chef salad, I was so overwhelmed with the chopping that I forgot to deliver the meat with the salad.  I was embarrassed.  Friend 2 said, ‘There is much GRACE for all in the Supper co-op.’ I was relieved.  Some nights, the dinner is a 10.  Some nights, it’s more average.  But the point is not necessarily the quality.  The point is Redemptive Cooking-making an everyday chore more of an EVENT that blesses others and teaches me about loving my neighbor.

So, what do you think?  Sound crazy?  Dying to try it?  If you are totally hating this idea (or even if you like it), please share some ideas you have for redeeming cooking.


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1 Michele Ball January 22, 2009 at 11:52 am

I have always thought this was a great idea. But…since we have had dietary challenges in the past and still do today, it is not really a possibility for us. Sometimes that can be frustrating(!)….What has been revealed to me is that while it may be frustrating to have so many limitations, it has required me to be still* and look for the hidden gift in preparing food for my family. It is not a simple thing to go out to eat, eat on the run, etc. I have realized not to take the food provided by the Lord for granted, to appreciate the goodness inherent in its life-giving qualities, and most especially, embrace the gift of cooking. When I focus my intention on those things I am able to love my family and others through food rather than merely creating a means to an end. But, oh do I wish I could co-op cook sometimes!! That is for another topic: wishing for something other that what you have!

2 burningbushes January 22, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Love your thoughts about getting off the assembly line mindset. I could use some of that thinking as I run around the kitchen like a madwoman. Since you do have restrictions that you can’t get away from…I wonder if there are friends/neighbors who could be flexible enough to cook that way. I have a friend who was able to do a gluten free portion in all her cooking in order to take of a family with special restrictions . Don’t know. I guess you probably feel like too much of a bother to make the request, but it seems like a shame if you really would like to co-op.

3 Amy January 22, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I have a bit of a different take on this…I am single, I live by myself, I am either busy, sick, or tired MOST of the time. However, I like to cook, I like to serve others through food, and I have to eat too. So for me, there is another added benefit. Even though my house is quiet now, it might not always be. And I know that if I eat an apple and popcorn for dinner tonight no one will care. But if I have a husband and two little ones…this menu might not go over so well. Cooking co-op is great practice for little eaters, picky eaters, husbands, planning, and time management. Great idea! Thank you!

4 meghan January 23, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Love you, and honored to be part of your group. What a fun ride it’s been…and will continue to be! I maintain that your chef salad was STILL amazing, even sans chicken! :) Thanks for blessing our fam with all your good eats :)

5 Jenny January 26, 2009 at 9:08 am

I hadn’t thought about asking my neighbors! There are 2 other neighbors with young babies, that may be perfect for a co-op dinner plan. Thanks for the idea! And, thanks for blogging for us! :)

6 ChristyN January 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

Love the friend co-op idea! I’m sharing this blog with my daughter who has a hard time keeping up with everything, but has a lot of friends. She is like many young mothers – like me in years past.

I read an article several years ago about cooking in quantity one day a month freezing the food flat in double freezer bags with identification labels and cooking instructions. The flat packages stand up in the freezer, are easy to “flip through” like CD’s or photos in frames, and thaw quickly.

So, I began by spending a day making gumbo (I live in Louisiana), homemade spaghetti sauce with Italian sausage, and uncooked meatloaf (ready to thaw, put in a pan, and bake for 1 hour, then serve). My best friend is often my “sou chef” giving us quality time together.

Next, came inspiration (born of The Holy Spirit) to cook a large quantity whenever preparing a meal for the two of us still at home and freeze the rest. I did this at times, but my husband retired last year and took over much of the cooking because he learned to cook just a few years ago and loves the kitchen!

I love his cooking because it gives me more time to “play” at my work. In addition to my home-based business, I have time to do things for family and friends like fixing their computers, shopping for them online, taking my uncle to doctor’s appointments, playing with my grandchildren when they visit, and other things with which “retirees” fill in their time. There is also more free time to garage sale shop and resell on ebay.

The best thing about having packages of our favorite foods ready-to-thaw is that it has been so easy to share with a friend and to bring with us when we visit our children who live several hours away! That way, we can visit and never have to concern ourselves with what we will have for supper for seven ranging in age from 2 to 64. My mom calls these “Meals on Wheels”!

The best thing about my time preparing the packages is that I have learned that I am “lost” in my kitchen! My degree in Home Economics did not teach me what cooking at home to make life easier did! During this time, I sing, pray, and just find God’s presence and guidance in ways I would not have otherwise experienced!

This reminds me that it’s time to plan for a few days in my kitchen making those special packages! Thanks for getting me back on track!

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