Start a Cooking Club: Cook Up Some Frugal Fun

It's becoming a big trend in households across the nation to stop dining out and start eating at the dinner table. However, as growing families continue to race from play practice and soccer practice, their tendency to pull into a drive-thru is still strong simply because it is convenient. Parents today have less time to do domestic activities but as frugality is becoming a lifestyle, people are looking to change their ways.

While people have every intention of cooking from scratch and preparing more homemade, healthier meals, it may take some motivation to stay on task. That's why starting a community or family cooking club can be just the right incentive to get going. A cooking club is something like a book club or a frugal club, but instead of reading, why not trying cooking? Families and friends can get together once or twice a month and have some fun in the kitchen. There are many ways to be creative with this idea but the end result is the same: more quality time with family and friends, plus some great time-saving meals for weeks to come!

Here are some ideas that you can use as a springboard to coming up with your own cooking club.

Start by asking friends, family, and neighbors to find out who enjoys time spent in the kitchen. When you have a good list of people who are interested, start planning to host your first "open kitchen" Discuss different ideas people have for hosting a cooking party.

Send out invitations (cards, emails, or word-of-mouth). Ask those planning to attend to send over their favorite recipes that are freezer-friendly and cost-effective to make in bulk. Get the invites out early, as you'd have some planning to do. Keep in mind that you can only invite as many people as will fit comfortably in your kitchen.

As you receive the replies and recipes, make a list of the ingredients that is needed. You will also need to include other supplies such as freezer paper and bags, cooking utensils, pots, pans, cooking sprays, spices, and the like. When you have your list complete, check off the items you already have in stock and then pass along the list to the other invitees asking them to do the same. Remember that you will need to have enough ingredients to make dishes for each member. If you have 4 attendees, you'll need to be able to make 4 of every recipe.

When the list has been returned, you can either divide up the list of what is still needed among attendees or, as the hostess, you can get the items. Provide the attendees with the lists of who is to bring what, along with the party details.

Prepare to host the cooking soiree. You might want to some wine and hors d'oeuvres for your guests. Be sure your cooking and preparation areas are cleared, clean, and ready to go.

During the first club meeting, there will likely be different kinks to be worked out, but over time the club meetings will likely run themselves. A bit of investment may be required in the beginning but in time each members pantry will likely become stocked with all of the essentials and cost will be less of an issue. Perhaps the club would be willing to invest in a membership to Sam's Club or Costco and buy ingredients in bulk to start.

When everyone is ready to get cooking, select one recipe and everyone can pitch in to complete it. Some people can be designated to slice and dice. Others can be relegated to the stove. The point is to have fun and create family-friendly meals each member can wrap for the freezer and pop in the oven during a busy week.

As the club grows, ideas and creativity will likely grow too. There are many ideas that can come out of starting a cooking club but the best outcome will be time together, low-cost meals, and an incredible smelling kitchen!

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Guest's picture

But what if you can't cook?
If I hooked up with a girl who cooked and she brought me to one of these parties. Would I be okay to eat? I figure I could save so much money on food. I assume you can take stuff home with you afterward. I would bring a bunch of those food storage container things they show on the infomercials at night. I figure I would have to average two or three parties a week to cover all my meals. I just have to track down a girl to get me in the door.
Thanks Tisha, good lookin' out! I'll keep you updated!

Guest's picture

This is a great idea! To cut down on the cost, so that it is truly frugal, I have heard of cooking clubs getting together to exchange the pre-made meals.

Each person commits to making one dish, those in the cooking club order X amount, and they pay the "Treasurer" for the cost of the meals ordered. Presto! You have a freezer full of homemade meals that were made in bulk for a fraction of the cost (and the time).

Guest's picture

Another great way to host the club is to make it potluck-style - the host chooses the theme and everyone brings a dish in that theme. I've been in a cooking club for almost 5 years now, that is how we do it and it works great.

Another reason we do this - we live in an urban area where some people have small kitchens. The potluck setup eliminates the possibility of 10-15 people trying to cook in that environment.

Tisha Tolar's picture

good luck getting the girl, David! I am sure it is appropriate to eat at the parties but you have to pitch in! Surely a dishwashing or clean up guy position is available in most clubs. I wouldn't plan on succesfful date dinners in this capacity tho!! But it may be a great way for you to learn how to cook for yourself!

The other ideas are great. I regret that my busy schedule and small child doesn't allow me to create such a club myself right now - but I surely am contemplating it for the future.

And as a last point of note - I have a friend that has canning parties. At the end of the summer - the clean out the garden and make salsas and other kinds of canned and preserved foods to last thru the winter!

Cook on, frugalites!

Tisha Tolar


Debbie Dragon's picture

 Love the idea for the cooking club Tisha, if anything it's a reason to add some socializing with friends.  

I've contemplated the potluck style version of this... where members of the "club" each make enough of one meal to share with the other members of the club.  It's cheaper to make one meal in bulk than it is to make 7 different meals; plus it saves you from having to cook every night of the week.

For people who don't have anyone interested in doing this as a "club" - you can still always make your own meals in bulk and freeze them for later.  I've been studying about this on wisebread too - I really liked the tips from Myscha about bulk buying and assembly cooking.