Has the hectic pace of life–especially around the holidays–got you too busy to cook a satisfying and healthy meal every night, but your commitment to healthy eating recoils at fast food and junk? Here’s a solution for the coming year: join (or form) a dinner co-op.

Springing up in communities all around the country, groups of men and women, who share a love of cooking and good food, have banded together to share the load by swapping prepared meals, a plan that means no one has to cook every night. There are even online dinner co-op websites to help you get started; some even include recipes that work well for the concept. Hop online; you might be surprised to learn that there’s one in your area. And if there’s not, all it takes is a bit of organization–and a few interested, like-minded buddies and perhaps a Seal-a-Meal–to get one started.

When you think about it, it really doesn’t take much more time or effort to prepare 2 large roasting pans of chicken thighs in butter, garlic, lemon, and thyme than it does 2 individual thighs or enough sauteed or roasted veggies or low-carb mini cheesecakes to feed 10 or 12 than it does to feed one or two. The oven’s hot; the ingredients are the same.

Cooking extra servings while you’re at it to cut down on the daily effort of feeding yourself or your family is a concept we’ve long advocated for the individual cook. Make two big pans of Cabbage Lasagna, for instance, and freeze the entire spare or portion it into individual servings to freeze for future lunches or dinners. That method certainly worked well for me, back in the day when I was trying to both run a full time medical practice and get a home-cooked meal to the dinner table every night for Mike and me and three hungry boys.

But the co-op concept is, in some ways,better, since you get to enjoy the unexpected delight and novelty of other people’s creative cookery as well as your own and you’re not confronted with the same meal several nights running.

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