Instead of the communal cooking and dining that we imagined, most dinner co-ops seem to be an arrangement between two or more households to share pre-made meals. The budget and menu are agreed upon ahead of time, and each family is responsible for shopping for and preparing particular recipes. The recipes are doubled or tripled so there's enough to go around, and then meals are exchanged once a week.
This kind of arrangement sounds ideal for families or individuals who would like to eat at home more and want to save money, but who have limited time to cook during the week. Essentially, in exchange for one day or afternoon of cooking, you get a whole week of home cooked meals.
We wonder how to make this kind of arrangement sustainable for the long term. We could see this starting off with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but then gradually losing steam or becoming derailed if one person isn't able to cook one weekend.
Here are a few resources for setting up a dinner co-op and keeping it running:
• How to Start a Dinner Co-op from iVillage
• The Secret Behind Successful Neighborhood Dinner Co-Ops: Three Tips from a Pro from Culinate
• Personal Chef Service, No Invoice from Culinate - about the economics of dinner co-ops
• Here Comes Dinner from the Washington Post - on the difficulties of maintaining a dinner co-op
• Dinner at Your Door by Alex Davis, Andy Remeis, and Diana Ellis, $14 from Amazon - an entire book about starting a neighborhood co-op!
Any tips or advice from those of you already doing dinner co-ops?
Related: Soup Swap: Have You Tried It?