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Cooking clubs can save you time, money

July 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A cooking club can help you save money and time, and split the work of making dinner. It's a great idea, but to make it work you have to establish a few ground rules."In today's economic times, there couldn't be a better time for something like this," said Kim Effinger.

Effinger is one of a growing number of women who belongs to a cooking club.

"It's a great excuse to get together and cook good food, and be able to plan your week of menus and then not have to think about it again," said Effinger.

"You know, you sear the chicken, you cook the pasta, you throw the sauce together, and you're done. And then you get more time to drink wine and talk," said Rosie Romo, a cooking club member.

Romo makes it sound easy - and it can be, but in order for clubs to run smoothly there are decisions to make. Like how many members in the club, how often to cook, how many meals will be prepared and so on.

These women use the cooking club established by Sam's Club, created by professional chef Nicole Aloni.

"The way I've designed this, its seven main courses and seven side dishes, and then, you know, you're making a fresh salad or whatever to go with it," said Aloni. "Typically each of the people cooking is going to make four or five recipes to serve 12."

They Make meals like enchiladas, spaghetti Bolognaise, and chicken Parmesan.

"For under a hundred dollars you've got a week's worth of meals for a family of four," said Aloni.

While some gals go shopping together, splitting the list and the cost, Nicole says the best bet is to have each person take a turn to save time and energy because the real work is in the kitchen.

"Rose is going to get all the meat items prepped. I'm working on doing the mis en place for all the vegetables," said Aloni.

Mis en place is the French term for putting everything in its place while prepping food. This is a cooking club must.

Effinger suggests packing the finished recipes into airtight bags rather than plastic containers for better stacking and visibility.

"These food savers allow the food to last much longer. It extends the life, like three times," said Effinger.

After someone shops it typically takes about four hours for the members to assemble the meals in a fun yet efficient fashion.

"I think that's the point of it, is that, you know, you get together and you really help one another, and you have a good time doing it," said Romo.

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