Planning A Cook-In: The 5 X 3 Way

picture of pork meal.

Pulled and diced chicken with rice and veggies are three key ingredients for many 5 X 3 meals. ‘K-Bobs and Stuffed pepper are pictured here.

by donR  October 14, 2016

Choosing meals for a Cook-In is made easier by creating a 5 X 3 chart. It is just a list of featured ingredients which you cook and package to use as a base for three future meals.  A well-stocked pantry provides additional ingredients to complement the featured items 

Previously, we described how pork loin roasts can be cooked  and packaged for use in many different ways. Chicken and turkey, are featured in this article. Read more about these and other versatile ingredients to  use when planning 5 X 3 Cook-Ins.

Tip; To keep your first Cook-In simple, we suggest you  choose ingredients from the example below. You can then go to “The Greater Boston Food Bank” or “All” and type in the ingredients and they list different recipes using those ingredients,




In the 5 x 3 system, you pick about 5 main ingredients to use for 3 meals. Hopefully the above list includes food from your pantry. Pantry items include spices, sauces, canned goods, flour & sugar that are used often and complement the meal. Save a trip to the store by using pantry items whenever possible.

Meal 1 Slow-Cooked chicken in white sauce over rice, with coleslaw, steamed veggies and baked apples

Meal 2 One-Skillet meal (chicken, rice, peppers, sauce, peas) with green salad, veggie soup and apples over cottage cheese

Meal 3, Cabbage rolls (using the chicken, rice and peppers), green/coleslaw salad w/ avocado, apple cobbler.

Event Plan   For this Cook-in the host will cook the chicken ahead of time so it has a chance to cool enough to handle safely. Remember to cool the chicken in a shallow tray immersed in ice water as per health department recommendations.

  • Adults and children  work in groups to: Pull the chicken, prepare the salad and dressing, decorate the room and set up their family’s table.
  • Adults will make a white sauce, cook rice, bake the apples and steam the veggies.
  • Play a game like “I Spy” or Trivia Challenges when there is free time while cooking.
  • Everyone shares responsibility for cleaning as you go, putting food back in the pantry, taking inventory and boxing the take-home food.
  • Before leaving, take time  to evaluate the evening and plan for the next Cook-In.

Tip 2: Earth-friendly containers ARE PRICEY @ 35 cents. We have each participant bring their own containers for taking food home. Plastic zip-lock bags are a second option as long as food is transferred before cooking.

Tip 3; To share costs and save leader’s time, ask participants to bring one item: Cabbage, green salad mix, bag of frozen veggies, granola, eggs, Panco).