Friday, July 18, 2014

A Few Simple Small Group Meal Ideas

This is a guest post from church member Jennifer Rodriguez who has been helping to make small groups happen for many years.  She is especially skilled at feeding large groups of people quickly, happily and simply.  By the way, her chocolate chip cookies are to die for.  

Our small group meets late Sunday afternoon 4 - 6 pm.  Right after the meeting we eat dinner together.  To get a hot meal we have adopted a basic two meal rotation.

Our two basic meals are Spaghetti with Sauce (meat optional) and Potato Bar.  The cost for these meals is easily under $ 40 - estimating 10 adult servings for each meal.  The estimated food cost is divided equally amongst all the families.

In our situation one family always prepares the meal.  This decision was made because we have a person who really likes to cook as well as having several families with small children who enjoy getting a night off from cooking.

Spaghetti Set-up
Before the meeting I cook a large pot of  spaghetti & drain it under tap water.  The spaghetti rests on the counter in a cover bowl during the meeting.  Meanwhile I heat sauce in a crock pot.  When we do not have vegetarians we add meat.  If you have extra sauce it can easily be frozen & used later.

I also prepare a basic salad.  Once again it rest covered on the counter until meal time.  Just as we are eating I toss the salad with dressing.

We also have sliced French bread with butter – not heated or made fancy with garlic.

Potato bar Set-up
One hour before the meeting I cook potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil.   Once kinship starts I turn off the oven – the potatoes tend to stay hot if left in a closed oven.  If you need to transport them or take them out of the oven you can wrap them in a large towel & keep them in a plastic “ice-chest.”

At meal time for toppings I set out sour cream, chopped green onions, grated cheese & butter
In the crock pot I heat canned vegetarian chili.  (For my crock pot I have to fill it 2/3 full to heat something which means I often have left overs & so I freeze it for future use.)

During the potato bake time I also steam a head of broccoli – after cooking it I drain it & let is rest covered on the counter until meal time.

I also prepare a basic salad.  Once again it rest covered on the counter until meal time.  Just as we are eating I toss the salad with dressing.

Kid-snack time
We have several toddlers in our group.  And so as a group we decided that feeding the kids snacks was OK even if that meant they did not eat as much dinner that night.  We set out string cheese, baby carrots and pretzels as well as juice boxes for kids to “graze on” whenever they want to.  The cost for these items is added to the nightly food bill.

As you can see our meal plan involves preparation before the meeting & then letting food rest at room temperate during the meeting.   If someone really wants their food hot they can always use the microwave – otherwise we enjoy room temperature spaghetti with hot sauce or a warm potato with hot chili.  

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