During our childhood, many of us heard or read the story, "Stone Soup" which was about a village experiencing a famine. Along came some strangers who set up a huge pot of boiling water in the town square and threw in some large stones -- announcing that they were making "stone soup." Being curious, the villagers were soon convinced to add a carrot here, and a cabbage there, and each contributed to the pot of stone soup using whatever they had on-hand. The end of the story was that the villagers -- without realizing it -- were sharing their meager food supply. While a carrot wasn't enough to feed a family, combining it with someone else's potato and another person's onion, the villagers soon enjoyed a feast. As long as they had stones and a willingness to share, they would survive the famine on stone soup.
One way that senior citizens on a fixed income can apply the message of "Stone Soup," is to form a meal co-op or grocery co-op group of four to six members.
Because seniors often live alone, they must often purchase family-sized packages of meats and vegetables -- and most of it spoils before it can be used by one or two people. The other option is to eat the same meal several days in a row to prevent the food from being wasted -- but not have very much variety in the diet, as a result. Seniors pay extra for foods that are packaged in family-sized portions, and this adds more to their overall food costs -- buying more than what they need at one time.
One solution that a meal co-op group can provide is for members to prepare one family-sized meal each week and divide the meal into 4-6 individual servings. One night each week, the group members would meet and exchange meal servings. In this way, each group member would return home with 4-6 different dinner servings (including their own meal contribution) to be eaten over the next 4-6 nights.
One member might make lasagna; another might make turkey pot pie; a third group member might make a chicken casserole, etc. By each member sharing a serving, they would all go home with 1 plate of lasagna, 1 plate of turkey pot pie, 1 plate of chicken casserole, etc. -- to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer and eaten over the next few nights. Not only would each group member enjoy the variety with only having to prepare one meal -- they would also each spend less than $10-$15 to receive an additional 4-6 meals for the week.
If sharing meals is not an option, a grocery co-op could be formed where members would each contribute $10-$20 per week or per month to use for bulk purchases of meat, canned goods and staple items. Purchases made in bulk are cheaper, and the items can then be portioned and divided and shared accordingly. In this way, grocery co-op members combine their dollars to save money and buy only what they need.
Forming a meal co-op or grocery co-op group is easy and can usually be accomplished with a few phone calls to invite people to try this with you. Check with your church, local library, senior center or mention your idea to friends and neighbors -- then set a date for the first meeting and form a plan of action.