What is a Casserole Club? It’s a group of three friends who combine efforts to make a large batch of meals. Here is the math. Each member makes a triple batch of two recipes. An exchange takes place on a Sunday afternoon, and you come away with six meals: two that you made yourself, two from Friend A, and two from Friend B. I advise you to call for a pizza on Sundays, when you may be tired from cooking.

Why would you want to do this? There are three simple reasons.

Save money. When you buy in bulk, you save money. Plus, when you plan your menus, you are more likely to shop the sales and avoid buying unnecessary items at the store.

Eat better. How does that work? Simply put, you are going to try harder. I’d be embarrassed if I cooked something, and the recipient family didn’t like it! I might even garnish something. (Add “parsley” to that shopping list.)

Save time. Think about your evenings, after a day of work. By the time you get home, figure out what you are going to have for dinner, cook it and clean it up, a pretty good chunk of your evening is gone. My recommendation is that you shop on a Saturday and cook on a Sunday. Yes, that part of it takes time, especially the cooking. But, think about coming home after work and just heating something up, making a salad, and maybe slicing a baguette. That is when you are the most tired, and when having a meal ready to go is so great.

How do you find a compatible group? 

Look to your friends. I was able to find two other working moms who were also interested in freeing up more time in the evenings during the workweek. We met and talked about our families’ likes and dislikes. 

Further, we agreed to be totally honest. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t work. For instance, one family did not like fish. Another family ate mostly vegetarian food. We were all health-conscious so wanted to use brown rice and whole-wheat pasta. Also, we talked about what our kids just couldn’t stand (mine hates tomatoes) and what sorts of things everyone seemed to love (macaroni and cheese; chili). 

Finally, we made sure we weren’t dealing with any food allergies. We opted to use regular dishes, rather than aluminum pans, and to just keep exchanging them. Our last priority was to keep the recipes simple and inexpensive. 

Saturdays are a great day to shop, since Farmer’s markets are also often open. Sunday was our big cooking and assembly day. Then, we delivered the food. All of it needed to be wrapped and labeled. Serving suggestions and instructions were also helpful (i.e., “Enchiladas – great with a tossed green salad. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes”). 

You will need to add one more chore to make this work: clean out your refrigerator and freezer, since you’ll need places to store the meals. 

A caveat: I wouldn’t try to do the “club” all month. Combining forces once a month keeps it fun. The idea is to take some of the work off of you – and if you start dreading your day of big cooking, then it isn’t fun anymore.

Need ideas? Here are a few: Spaghetti, Macaroni and Cheese, Enchiladas, Fried chicken, Deli Meats/Cheeses, Chicken and Rice, Lasagna, Stew, Fried Rice . . . we tried to keep our selections kid-friendly and inexpensive. Let your imaginations run and have fun (and save time and money, in the process)!