My family enjoys a home-cooked meal every weekday evening (and other times throughout the week, as well), but I don’t cook them all. Instead, I’ve stumbled on the best-ever entrepreneur life hack imaginable, sharing cooking with another family.
My friend Sarah and I started last winter, when we decided we’d swap cooking two nights each per week for a total of 4 home-cooked dinners for our families each week. At the time, I lived just across the street, so delivering the meals and sharing the work seemed far easier. With our family’s move in May, and the changed routines of summer, we took a break. But with the start of school, we decided to start again, on a reduced schedule, one time each per week.
The drive between our homes is only about 5 minutes so it’s definitely a time-saver. On nights Sarah cooks, I need only buzz over and back (10 minutes total) to put a nutritious and yummy meal on the table for my family. Confession: I like to allow more time, because our meal swap ensures we see each other several times a week to cultivate our friendship.
Mealtime is an important touchstone for our family, a routine we follow without fail. It’s a time to reconnect, to share about our days, to be together. It’s not something I’m willing to compromise, and gathering around home-cooking is far richer (for me) than eating carryout. Our family dinners are anticipated, savored. We cook. We eat. Together. Every night.
Our meal swap works because our families enjoy similar foods. We’ve introduced each other to new recipes and expanded our menu repertoires. The work of cooking a few extra servings seems negligible. I’m cooking anyway — I might as well share the work with someone else.
If you’re a working mom or entrepreneur who would like to find a similar meal swap arrangement, here are a few tips.
Proximity helps. Who do you know who lives near you who might appreciate the opportunity to share the load of cooking for their family? Walking distance is ideal, but short driving distance works too.
Consider schedules and habits. You’ll want to share cooking with a family who eats on a fairly consistent schedule, or be prepared to cook ahead for re-heats.
Explore food preferences and choices. We had a nearly seamless start with finding foods both families can enjoy. Not all the kids eat all the menu items, but we typically include variety of side dishes, lots of fruits and vegetables, and a menu for our shared meals that everyone can enjoy.
Planning is critical. The only way I am able to serve my family dinner every night while juggling my business and parenting responsibilities is by planning out menus a week at a time and shopping for ingredients on the weekend. If I miss the important planning/shopping cycle, the routine falls apart.
Involve the kids. My kids often help with meal prep. My oldest daughter is the chief dessert chef in our family, when we have dessert. Everyone has to pitch in. And the process of working together to prepare a meal is as important as the ritual of the shared meal.
Share mealtime as well as meal preparation. My favorite nights are the ones on which both families cook together and eat together. While we don’t do this every week, I prefer sharing the whole process, including clean-up.
Most often, my life as a mom and entrepreneur feels non-stop and overwhelming. This meal-swap life hack has helped considerably.
I get by with a little help from my friends. How about you?