By Heather Bjork

It is inevitable that most families fall into a rut with the meals they eat. Lots of things contribute to this situation with the major reason being lack of time to plan out new menus, shop for the necessary ingredients and prepare the meal. As a result, whoever does the cooking for the family, often relies on his/her tried & true recipes that can be assembled with a minimal amount of time and effort. Yet many of us enjoy eating out because it provides the opportunity to try new and different dishes and/or eat meals that we do not enjoy making at home.

About 4 years ago, I decided that I was tired of making the same dishes and wanted some new recipes to prepare for my family. I created a recipe exchange club by inviting several friends that were tired of the lack of excitement in their menus as well and asked them to contribute one recipe to the group at least once every 2 months.

I ended up with close to 50 participants (several friends invited their friends who then invited some of their friends) so this worked out well in terms of there being usually 2-3 new recipes shared each week via email (some participants shared more than the minimum).

There were several parameters for the recipes shared which included:
1) the recipe could not consist of more than 6 ingredients & not be ingredients only available at a specialty store
2) the recipe had to be fairly easy (not requiring special cooking techniques or equipment)
3) the recipe needed to take 40 minutes or less for preparation (cooking time could be longer than 40 minutes)
4) you had to have made and eaten the recipe so you could accurately recommend it as one that was worth sharing.

An email list with everyone’s email address was created which was then used to share the recipes. Even though it was a large group, a small community was fostered among the participants. People would positively comment on a particularly good recipe while another person might share how he/she varied it to his/her family’s taste or reduce the prep time.

Several people thanked me for starting this club and everyone agreed that their families appreciated the variety in the meals. My family would vote on each one I “tried” (thumbs up – the recipe became a permanent part of our household or thumbs down – the recipe would be thrown away since there were better recipes out there).

There was fun in the novelty of recipes and I was tempted to try recipes that I might not have otherwise tried because a friend and/or acquaintance of a friend recommended it. We also were fortunate to have club members that shared recipes in all categories which was additional fun for upcoming get-togethers and parties where I was looking for new appetizer or drink or dessert ideas.

Other ways to get great recipes that I’ve been involved with:
1) Have everyone bring their favorite dish to a potluck meal & bring enough copies of the recipes for everyone that attends the event to take one home with them if he/she would like to
2) Participate in a cookie exchange or soup exchange. Everyone arrives at the house with a 1/2 dozen of cookies or a ½ gallon of soup in a container for each person involved and cookies or soup is also brought that is consumed at the event. This is a lot of fun and a great social as well.
3) Participate in an “Around the World” Event where each person is assigned a different region of the world to make a dish from. Each person brings a dish from that region along with enough copies of the recipe for all participants. This is a fun experience and you will be tempted to try new dishes that you may never have tasted before.

I hope I’ve shared some new ideas for adding to your recipe collection as well as adding to your family’s menus so don’t delay & get started today!