Some friends and I recently started a Casserole Club. The concept is simple: One night a week, you make two casseroles for dinner, and you take one of those casseroles to someone else. And one night a week, you don't have to make dinner, because a hot casserole will be arriving at your door, ready to eat.
This is such a great arrangement. It's not that much more work to make two identical casseroles, and one night a week, I don't have any cooking/prep dishes to wash! It's also great motivation on those days I don't feel like making dinner - I might be lazy and order pizza if I'm just cooking for my family, but when someone else is depending on me, I will roll up my sleeves and make a real meal. Casserole Club means that even when Mama is feeling lazy, the family gets two solid dinners every week (plus leftovers for lunch!)
I'm really enjoying my Casserole Club, and I thought I would share my "rules" with you, in case you wanted to start one of your own. Feel free to tweak and personalize these rules to fit your own needs. And let me know if you start one of your own, I'd love to hear your experiences!
Start with a small group of like-minded people who live fairly close together (no more than a 15-minute drive). We have three families in our Casserole Club, but I think anywhere from 2-6 would work well. Choose a coordinator.
Have everyone fill out a brief survey and send it to the coordinator. This is the survey I used: Name, number of family members, address (and any details people might need to find your house), phone number, dietary restrictions (including allergies and preferences), what time you normally eat dinner, what nights work best for you (list at least two, Monday-Thursday only).
The coordinator will then make up a weekly casserole assignment schedule. I made a little grid with the members and their availability, to visualize it, then I matched them up. It might take a while the first time, but once you've figured it out once, it's easier to make the schedules for subsequent weeks. Since we have three families, and I want everyone to get to cook for everyone else, I have two base schedules: Week One: A cooks for B on Tuesday, B cooks for C on Wednesday, and C cooks for A on Thursday; Week Two: B cooks for A on Tuesday, C cooks for B on Wednesday, and A cooks for C on Thursday.
I email out each week's assignments on Saturday for the following week. When I send out the assignments, I also include the relevant survey information (addresses, phone numbers, dietary restrictions) to the assignees. If anyone has to make any changes to their availability, they need to let me know by Friday night, so I can incorporate the changes into the assignments. Anyone can opt out of any given week (if they are going on vacation or something) as long as they email me by Friday to let me know.
Have everyone buy the same casserole dish. We chose a basic 13X9 Pyrex dish with a lid, but it doesn't really matter what it is as long as you all have the same one. That way, there is no concern over returning dishes - you just always make your Club meals in the Club dish.
On your assigned day, make and deliver a casserole to your assigned family. As a courtesy, you should contact them when you are on your way so they know you are coming.
Deliver it by 5:30, hot and ready to eat, unless other arrangements have been made (e.g. dropping off a cold casserole earlier, with baking instructions).
All casseroles should be a complete meal - with a protein, a starch, and a vegetable.
Meals don't have to actually be cooked in the casserole dish, you can prep them in the crock pot or any other way you'd like, but use the Club dish to deliver them (to keep things simple).
Each casserole should have at least six servings. For smaller families, this will mean dinner plus leftovers for lunch, for bigger
families, this will just mean dinner, but it's more fair to everyone if everyone always brings the same amount of food.
It's not required, but it's nice to let people know with a short email if you enjoyed their meal. It's good to get feedback!
If you don't have enough friends who live locally, maybe you could make more casseroles at once, then meet up at a midpoint and swap. If you had five friends do this together, you could have a week's worth of frozen meals in one go.
If you're cooking for one, maybe you could divide your casserole up into single servings, and meet up and swap with some other single friends.
If you know someone who just had a baby, (or surgery, or an injury) maybe you could make three casseroles at once - one for you, one for the Club, and one for the new mom.