How To Save Money And Eat Better While Having Fun

If you arrange or participate in “cooking homeparties” to collectively prepare lunches for every day of the week you’ll discover many benefits in addition to the obvious ones. This networking idea, called Matlådegruppen in Swedish, got started as a side project awhile ago – and if you want to try doing the same thing I’ll lay out the step-by-step instructions in this post.

Even running a food business, my situation as an entrepreneur 18 months ago was hectic, stressful and my lifestyle really not sustainable in the long run. One of my many “shoulds” was eating nutritious and regular lunches. Rushing about, running between meetings and production crunches… the central daily meal was just something that fell out of the schedule a bit too often. And living on my own I didn’t do much of home-cooking either. So, to sum it up, what were the excuses I had to get rid of?

The standard Swedish lunch. The crackers on the left can be found in any US market. Very popular in Sweden with smor (butter) or margarin (margarine) This week was vegetarian week, but almost all lunches have this many vegetables. Swedish food is very wholesome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3 excuses NOT to have good regular lunch habits (in addition to “stressful lifestyle”)

  1. With a “bootstrap everything” budget I really couldn’t justify spending 80 SEK/day on lunch restaurants, so I had to eat cheaper.
  2. With no particular skills or inspiration in the kitchen, I COULD do large batches on Sundays of cooking one dish per week for plastic containers, but it would be deadly boring as a solo activity… PLUS really dull on a culinary level.
  3. Lack of motivation to gain the skills and inspiration needed to fix 1 & 2.

But hey – you can have excuses and you can have solutions- but you can’t have both at the same time! So what could I do to solve all of the above? I came up with the following initiative, and it worked like a charm – for me and many others:

Six Simple Steps To Save Money And Eat Better While Having Fun

  1. Invite four to five friends to your home on a Sunday a couple of weeks in advance. Plan for the event to take 3-4 hours.
  2. Decide five dishes that all of you will cook collaboratively on this occasion. If you’re the host but you lack imagination, just decide a theme (“anything goes”, “vegetarian”, etc) and ask your friends to come up with suggestions until you have five dishes.
  3. Create the shopping list for all the ingredients you need (count as many portions as participants PLUS 1), and you as the host go grocery shopping the day before or on the day of your event. (Don’t have time/money? Ask your friends to help – you’ll just divide the costs later and pay your part!)
  4. Have every guest bring five empty lunch boxes (plastic food containers) when they show up at your door at the appointed time. You should also have the same, of course!
  5. Get cooking! Here’s where the fun starts – cooking is awesome as a social activity! And anyone of any culinary skill level can participate. Every dish that’s to be cooked will need one person responsible, respectively. (Oh and… you should have planned the combination of dishes so that you can optimize the use of the stove and the oven. BUT longer time = more social activity = more fun!)
  6. When you’re done, you take one portion of each of the five dishes (hence the “PLUS 1″ under #3 above) and share with the guests as a “five mini-course dinner”. And then you pack the warm food in your respective plastic containers, one portion of each dish for each person. Now your guests can go back home, feeling as productive and fulfilled as I’m sure you will too! (So, all in all you will have cooked 30 lunch boxes + sample portions if you were 6 participants.)

 

It’s not hard to come up with week menus for these get-togethers that cost a mere fraction of what restaurant lunches do. Have fun with this now! There are many existing networks where they organize the meetups, exchange recipes and discuss everything from gourmet experiences to sustainable food,This should help you get started with your first co-cookoff!  :)

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