Tuesday, September 7, 2010


In last week's Tuesday post - Cheap Dates - I suggested arranging a childcare swap with another family so that mom and dad could get out for an inexpensive date night. This got my brain to whirring. What about setting up other types of "co-ops"?

Speaking of cheap dates - our friends Kevin and Jenny (who had no children at the time) offered to swap houses with Steve and me so that we could enjoy a holiday at the Casa Hinton Bed and Breakfast. They took over kid duty at our house for the evening, so we didn't even have to worry about meals, bathtime, bedtime routines, etc. This idea would work even if both couples have kids. We had friends in Knoxville with three children the same ages as ours. Jenny and Cecil hosted our brood for an evening, and Steve and I headed home for a romantic, child-free evening in our own space. (What is it about women named Jenny? Seems they are all such sweet, thoughtful people!)

A church we attended many years ago had an awesome holiday tradition. Each weekend leading up to Christmas, the young adult class hosted free baby-sitting for parents of small children at the church. They provided dinner and a couple of hours of childcare, then got all the littles into their pajamas in time to be picked up before bedtime. What an incredible ministry to young parents!

Another idea I read about - A group of three women got together and worked out a meal co-op. These three ladies all work, and all were experiencing the frustration of trying to prepare heathly, home-cooked meals for their families at the end of an exhausting day of work. Now, they meet once a month to plan menus. Then, each woman takes one day of the week to prepare dinner for everyone in the co-op. On Mom A's night to cook, she makes dinner for her family (plus extras for left-overs later in the week), and delivers dinner to the other two families. Each mom only has to plan for and prepare one meal during the work week, assuming they eat out one night and have leftovers one night. The ladies say it has been a tremendous help, and has even reduced their grocery/food bill. When they meet each month, they share comments on which meals were "flops", which were "hits" with their families, so that unpopular recipes aren't repeated. I don't think this would work very well for very large families, but it sounds like a cool idea for smaller families!

What about a "gift" co-op? In the homeschool community, I know of several folks who get-together regularly to share/swap talents. One mom teaches drama/acting, another photography, another music lessons. What talent do you have that you could share with others? How could you trade lessons for something new that you or your children would like to learn?

Childcare, cooking, talents/gifts...what about a cleaning co-op? We'll all get together this month and wash my windows; next month, let's wash yours. I read recently of a neighborhood co-op where several families on one street meet each month to complete home-improvement and maintenance projects and enjoy a pot-luck dinner together. They rotate from house to house. One month, the group built a deck on the back of one family's house. One month, everyone helped with some major landscaping at another house. Knowing they'll have willing muscle and a definite date to tackle a project, these families say they've accomplished much more together than they ever could have or would have on their own, and they've kept their co-op going for several years now. Of course, you would need to really like your neighbors to undertake something like this!

What are your suggestions for a creative co-op, Readers? Do you share any kind of work with friends, family, or neighbors?

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