By Heather Compton and Dennis Blas
For many families and older adults especially, the weekly grocery bill is one place we try to cut costs, in some cases to the detriment of our healthy eating. One way to save on groceries is to clip coupons. One of the best new sources of coupons is online sites like Flyerland.ca and Save.ca. Flyerland features retailer coupons in a printable format and Save.ca lets you order coupons from your favorite manufacturers and sends them by mail within a few days.
We think there is an even better way to save, eat healthy well-balanced meals, try new recipes and meet new people – all at the same time! The concept of a community kitchen is certainly not new. The practise takes some Canadian seniors back to their rural roots where male members of the community would come together to raise a barn while the “women folk” prepared hot and hearty food to keep the workers going. We aren’t raising too many barns these days and today’s community kitchen concept has expanded to include cooks of sexes and all age groups, income levels and nationalities.
Community kitchens are a creative front line answer to filling tummies with affordably priced and nutritionally sound meals plus for many older adults they solve the challenge of cooking balanced meals for just one and provide much needed community connection and engagement.
My home town currently has 31 “Calgary’s Cooking” kitchens run under the direction of “The Community Kitchen Program of Calgary”. Each kitchen is run once a month in a hall, community centre or church and operations are overseen by an on-site volunteer coordinator. Many of those volunteer coordinators are older adults looking for ways to give back to their community and share their knowledge of cooking well on a budget.
Participants must attend a planning meeting where a 14 meal menu plan is co-created after discussion and a vigorous perusal of grocery sales flyers. Plans are made, costs per person are calculated, funds collected and a master grocery list is sent on to the main office for bulk ordering for all the kitchens.
Key to the program is cost control, good nutrition and “helping others to help themselves”. Costs aren’t to exceed $30 per person for the 14 meals or participants are sent back to the drawing board.
The Community Kitchen Program does the bulk purchasing and delivers the grocery order to the kitchen and participants gather on their specified day for the cook-in. The average cost per meal, per person is $1.85 – a budget saver for those with limited means but the time and energy savings and the community spirit represent tremendous value too!
Individual family orders are packaged and sent home for freezing in containers participants bring from home. Typically the 14 main courses will include 4 meals that include red meat, 4 that are meat-less, 4 with chicken, 2 with fish plus homemade soup for lunches.
Of course, not every community has such a program, perhaps that’s YOUR heart’s calling – to contribute your capabilities to your community and establish one.
About the Authors: Heather Compton has presented seminars on financial and retirement lifestyle issues for over 30 years. She retired as Vice President and Senior Investment Advisor with a major financial services company. Heather and husband Dennis Blas co-present retirement seminars for a variety of corporate clients and are the co-authors of Retirement Rocks! Canadian Boomers Invest in Life. You can find their book, online or in independent bookstores. See more of their advice at Retirement Rocks.