I really enjoy cooking, and I value dinners at home with my family on weeknights. But I was having trouble making it happen on a regular basis and I was continually missing the mark on how much food to buy each week. I was tired of trying (and failing) to do it all on my own, so I convinced a couple of friends to trade dinners with me a few nights a week. This partnership allowed me to provide home-cooked meals and still have quality free time several nights a week.
The free time, the high-quality food, and the fun of cooking for a broader audience were as wonderful as I had hoped for. But there was a major change I hadn’t anticipated. I no longer had a refrigerator crammed with half-empty jars of condiments and miscellaneous perishables threatening to spoil. I had significantly changed the way I shopped for and prepared meals.
The way a supper swap works, you cook one large meal one night a week. You deliver that meal to a couple other families who return the favor on other nights that week. There are all sorts of ways to set this up and share the food, but the impact on the waste generated in your kitchen is the same. By shopping and preparing for one large meal rather than 3 or 4 smaller ones, I buy larger amounts of fewer ingredients and it’s much easier to use up everything I buy for my recipe. The result is fewer perishables languishing in the back of the refrigerator.
On my scheduled cooking day, I use at least half of the food I’ve purchased that week at the market (in my group I generally cook enough for 12 adults and kids). After cooking my neighbor’s meals my refrigerator is pretty empty, ready to receive the next night’s dinner delivered to me.
I have belonged to dinner co-ops for over 10 years and have been spoiled by the simplicity of cooking one big dinner during the week while someone else delivers a fresh, hot meal on the other weeknights. The experience of community and interdependence are what I signed up for. But the reduction in wasted food at my house and at my neighbors’ houses has been the benefit I appreciate the most. Between us, we are making a significant impact in reducing the amount of food we waste.
For more information on organizing a Supper Swap or Dinner Co-op that fits your lifestyle, the following links may be helpful:
Bio: Diana has launched and participated in supper swaps and dinner co-ops since 1999. She is a co-author of Dinner at Your Door: Tips and Recipes for Starting a Neighborhood Cooking Co-op.