Tag Archives: barter

Meal planning-with a twist

26 Sep

2013-01-04 17.04.59

Every one needs a cool glass of sunset once in a while, don’t you think?

But seriously, wouldn’t it be awesome to have dinner at that table every night?    My family only got to have that view for a few short days during Christmas break, but every night was just that beautiful.

When my extended family gets together for several days, we have devised a plan to make sure we are all fed and fed well for the duration of the visit.  Each family takes on a meal or two and brings a variety of snacks to share.  It makes the gatherings both enjoyable and affordable, as well as easier for which to plan and shop.  Interestingly, we also end up leaving with lots of leftovers!

Sadly, my life at home is not quite so easy.  I have done a variety of meal plans, and some have worked well for short periods of time.  The truth is though, just because you have a plan, doesn’t mean it will always work.  My biggest issue is just finding the time and energy at the end of a long and sometimes crazily busy day to make dinner.  I can’t tell you how many times I have come in to the kitchen at 4:30 or 5pm and realized that the meat that was supposed to be thawing in the fridge overnight never made it out of the freezer.

Sigh.  (That is not always my thought.)

So this year, we are trying something new. While our setup is unique to me and my particulars, I wanted to share some ideas to motivate meals and build community at the same time.  In the upcoming weeks, I hope to come up with some kind of cool name, like Menu Mondays or Sample Sunday, and share the ideas we have for that week.  There won’t always be a recipe, but that is what google is for, right?

Idea 1: Barter

Trading for Services

Do you know someone who cooks the way you want to eat?  Do they have kids?  Do they have time?  Do you have something of value to trade?

If you can trade services for meals this is a fantastic way to get some good food on the table.  I know some people who trade massage therapy, piano lessons, handyman work, gardening, sewing lessons, etc.  Any of those things make excellent currency when looking to trade for meals.

If you are looking for cost comparisons, real food meals *IN TRADE* should cost about $10 per person per meal.  This would include time to prepare.

Trading Meals

If you are the one with the meals to barter, try making a double portion when you are cooking for someone else.  Freeze or refrigerate the second portion for your own family.  This way, your time is being utilized very well, and not only are you getting a service for your hard work, but also feeding your family at the same time.

Idea 2: Prepping with a Friend (or 3 or 5)

Find three to five friends who have similar family structure and food choices.  For example, if you have 3 or 4 young kids, you could partner with people who have 3 or 4 or 5 young kids OR with someone who has 1 or 2 teenagers.  The idea is to need about the same amount of food in each family, with or without leftovers.

Plan one day a week to either cook independently or, for a really fun day, together.  Each person contributes one meal but makes it in bulk with portions for each family.  So you leave your fun cooking session with 3 meals ready to go for the week.

There are so many things that can go along with this!  You can have family meal ratings, anonymous, of course.  This way, everyone gets feedback on the meals without getting feelings hurt.  You can have weekly or monthly themes, kid prepped weeks, added dessert weeks…

And if you are getting together to make the meals, you can have wine.

I’m just sayin…wine.  Win, win.

Idea 3: Payment plan

Similar to barter except…well, with money.

Pay for it

If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford it, find a friend who is a great cook and pay her/him to make you three or four meals per week.  This works really well if you are the payer, because time is money and crazy schedules can work if you have ready made meals to throw together.  If you eat out a lot, this can also be a time AND money AND waist line saver.  Count the cost, see if this is an option for you.

Some advantages from the community perspective is that you are becoming intimately involved with whoever cooks for you.  It is a labor of love, even if there is money involved.

Get Paid For It

If you are the awesome cook, you can offer this as a solution for a friend who can afford it.  (Even as an option to help someone save money!)  Bonus for the chef is that while you are doing meals for someone else, you make double portions and have meals for your own family as well.  Again, time is used very efficiently and you make a little money to pay for art or music lessons (or wine) on the side.

The Point

The point is, we aren’t in this alone.  There are lots of other families who are struggling to get dinner on the table each night.  What a great opportunity to step into a real community spirit and share the burden and blessing of food with each other!

If you have more ideas or something that has worked for your community, please share in the comments!