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.
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
- 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.
- Overall Less Work- With leftovers, I usually only have to cook 1 big meal during the 5 day work week (Monday through Friday).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.