Cook only one night a week. We'll show you how.
Crispy Chicken-and-Rice Casserole
Credit: Southern Living

Supper Swap Recipes

You want to prepare exciting, nutritious meals throughout the week, but busy schedules often mean the same ho-hum recipes. Wouldn't it be nice to have a fresh, home-cooked supper delivered a few nights a week? A cooking co-op could be the answer, and it's easier to set up than you might think.

"The idea is pretty simple," says nine-year co-op veteran Leigh Fran Jones of Indian Springs, Alabama. "You cook a big meal once a week to share with your co-op and, depending on the number of people in your group, you get two or three in return. That means you save trips to the grocery store and really only mess up the kitchen once," she says with a big smile. For the rest of the week, Leigh Fran and fellow co-op member Ruthann Betz-Essinger take advantage of leftovers or prepare simpler meals.

"The co-op meals usually consist of a main dish, vegetable, and starch. Sometimes we include dessert," explains Susan Franco of Atlanta, who, along with a couple of friends, formed the Supper Sisters two years ago. In addition to saving money, Susan believes the co-op has allowed her family to consistently eat a wider variety of foods.

"Learning to cook for 10 to 15 people took some getting used to," Susan remembers. "However, I picked recipes I could handle and that easily doubled (such as the ones featured here). In no time at all, my confidence grew, and my time spent in the kitchen dropped dramatically."

All of these recipes are from readers, many of whom use them in their own co-ops. We've also included handy tips on starting a co-op, as well as reheating instructions and serving suggestions.

Tips For Co-Op Success

Getting Started:

  • Keep the group small (a co-op of three to four families of similar size is ideal).
  • Meet to plan at least one month of menus, and establish planning calendars to maintain a variety of foods.
  • Create your own general guidelines (such as vegetarian, nothing too spicy, or no fish).
  • Make the group aware of allergies and nutritional needs.
  • Set up delivery times that are convenient for everyone, such as when picking kids up from school or soccer practice.
  • Be honest. If your family doesn't like something, tell the group so no one wastes time and effort.

Food Preparation:

  • Try to include at least one vegetable and one starch (other than bread) with every meal.
  • Deliver a meal that is ready to go except for reheating or that requires only minimal work to finish.
  • Package food in containers that are both freezable and reheatable.
  • Most recipes yield 6 to 8 servings, so you may need to double or make recipes twice to serve everyone in the co-op.

For more information check out The Web site is produced by Dee Sarton Bower and Mary Eileen Wells, co-authors of Homemade To Go: The Complete Guide to Co-op Cooking (Purrfect Publishing, $12.50 plus $2 shipping).