when feeding lots of teenagers...

Jerry and I have been blessed to work with teens in our parish youth ministry for the last eight years. There has never been a dull moment. Not.a.one.

In the beginning, I was in the kitchen. After eating pizza for three weeks, I could not take it anymore and I laid out a plan to our youth minister and started cooking for the teens.What a difference a home cooked meal made in our ministry! 

Many of our teens have parents who both work, so sitting down to a family meal is a rare event. No judgement here, just stating the facts. Families are busy, so meal time is relegated to drive thru's and carry out orders much of the time. Totally get it. Now that I am working, I see how easily that can happen. 

Once I started cooking the teenagers would arrive early and help me. It became an impromptu cooking school for a time and I loved every minute of it. They were eager to learn and I was happy to help. 

Time went by and after four years running the kitchen, I stepped aside and joined the Core Teen working in a more direct roll with the kids, as a team leader. The home cooked meals continued with other parents stepping up and volunteering. I had laid out the plan and they picked it up and ran with it. 

This year, after taking the job as the liturgist at our parish, I found myself back in the kitchen. This way I could stay involved with the teens, all while juggling my new responsibilities. It has worked out well. Jerry and I cook one weekend every other month. Totally doable. 

Recently I posted a photo on the gram and on FB of one of the dinners we prepared. It was my chicken fajitas and all of a sudden every one was asking questions

What were my favorite recipes for Youth Ministry? 

How do you know how much to make?

What do you make when you can't reheat? 

And so on... 

So I thought I would share a few tips that I have learned over the years. 

#1 - Know your kitchen
 Do you have a kitchen available to you or do you need to work without one? If you do have one, are you allowed to cook on site or do you have to bring the food in to reheat? 

These are important questions. If you have a kitchen and can cook on site than go for it. Save yourself the trouble of transporting cooked food and make it there. 

If you don't have a kitchen available, then the crock pot becomes your best friend. If you can grill, then use that to your advantage as well. 

#2 - Know your kids
Are there food allergies to be aware of? Are there vegetarians in the group?  Teenagers these days are very assertive when it comes to what they eat and why. We have several vegetarians in our group so I always make sure they have options with whatever I serve. 

#3 - Know your numbers
I am of the school that leftovers are a good thing. I always air on the side of caution and add 10 to the number of kids excpected to attend. Why so cautious? Experience has taught me this lesson well. So always add 10. If you have leftover food, then yu can always give it to the local homeless shelter (as we do) or if your youth minister is single, they will be the happiest of happy to take it off your hands. 

#4 - Budget
We are blessed at our parish to have a thriving and well established youth ministry. Our budget runs between $130 to $150 to feed about 50 kids on average. That is not the norm. So be in touch with what your parish needs.   

#5 - Make what your kids at home like
When I started, I just made what my family loved. The kids loved it as well. Lasagna, hot dogs and hamburgers, meatball subs, fish and chips, and soup with bread. Just go with what you know. If you need a few more hints on what to make here are a few of our favorites:

Jonathan's Favorite: Macaroni and Cheese

Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

Chicken or Beef Fajita's

Bombay Sloppy Joe's

Super Duper Swedish Meatballs

Taco Soup
All these recipes multiply easily. I hope that helps get you started. If you have any questions just leave them in the comment section. 

Also, share your favorite dishes. I am always open to new ideas. 

Happy Eating my friends! May the odds be ever in your favor.

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