Warming up the Casserole Club Blog

Welcome back Casserolers!

We’re back in action with our brand spanking new, totally rebooted Casserole Club Blog!

We will be providing you with information on upcoming events, news from our future and currently active boroughs (Barnet, Tower Hamlets, and Reigate & Banstead), interesting case studies from our community Cooks and Diners, and even some of our favourite recipes.  You’re welcome!

A huge help to the success of Casserole Club is word of mouth. We need you to help us help you help the elderly people in your area. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lot of help to us!  We’re not asking for too much though, honestly.

You’ll be hearing from us more through this blog, so follow us on Twitter (@Casserole_Club) and like us on Facebook to keep updated.

Oh, and sign up to Casserole Club, too, if you want to get involved in the community!

Love Food Surrey

Did you know that this summer, Surrey residents are set to throw away an Olympic sized swimming pool worth of salad? Or that every day, the same residents could fill a double decker bus with binned bread?

Surrey County Council’s Love Food Surrey Campaign is on the mission to raise awareness about just how much food we waste in our daily lives, and help provide people with helpful tips, tools and tricks to reduce the amount you throw out, and save you money in the process. The programme is run by Surrey Waste Partnership, which includes the County Council, and the 11 district boroughs within the council, working together to help better manage the area’s waste.

The Love Food Surrey site features plenty of useful information and features to help you plan and manage your food better. There are recipes for optimising your leftovers or slightly tired ingredients, a meal planner to help you shop smarter (which could potentially save you up to £50 a month!), and facts and figures on just how much food we waste and what effect that has on the environment, waste services, and our own purses.

There are plenty of simple, easy things we can do to help reduce the amount of food we throw away (including sharing those extra portions on Casserole!), so have a look at  Love Food Surrey to see what you can do in your own home to fill a few fewer double decker buses next month!

Creating a Meal to Share

A site and service like Casserole depends on the energy and activity of its members to make it thrive. It’s so exciting to see new names cropping up on the site, but now, why not take things one step further?

Once you are signed up, and after such a jubilant weekend, there is no better time to cook up a meal to share with someone in your community!

Sharing a meal is simple:

 

Click Cook a Meal (found on your Dashboard and at the top of each page when you are logged in).

If you have already created a dish, select it from the drop down menu, or click Create a New Dish to add to your cooking repertoire and fill in some details about what you are cooking. Once you have finished creating your dish, it will be added to your personal roster of dishes – whenever you want to cook it again, it’ll be right there in the drop-down menu!

When it comes to charging for your dish, it’s entirely up to you. You can choose to be reimbursed for the cost of your meal by setting the price at what it cost you to make the dish, or you can choose to serve it up for free, whichever you prefer. We want to make sure that cooking for Casserole isn’t a burden – so if getting a bit back on the cost of your meal means that you are more willing and able to share our extra portions, go for it! You will also notice that we add 20% to what you decide to charge – this 20% goes straight back into keeping Casserole running and helps with things like tech development, campaign and welcome packs and running local events.

 

Once a dish is created and selected, just set the date, time, and how many portions you will have available.

When you are happy with all your details, click Finish – Your meal will appear on your neighbours’ local menus, letting them know you are cooking!

There you have it! Now there is no excuse – if you are planning to cook up something tasty, and have some to spare, put it up on the site and see who in your area wants a bite!

Casserole is back in action in Redhill!

After our initial two-week pilot before Christmas, we took a long look at what we started to learn from the experience, and have been working on developing the next stage of our pilot process ever since! Well today is the day we start that next stage, as we relaunch the active pilot in the Redhill area. But unlike last time, where we used a very controlled group (3 Diners and 7 Cooks), we now want to see Casserole grow and develop with its users, engaging you guys every step of the way for feedback and we continually iterate and refine the service. So from here on out, we are not only looking for people to sign up as Cooks and Diners, but to start using Casserole as a real, working service.

To kick off the relaunch, we’ve given the website a bit of a revamp, added an About Us page and put together some swanky new registration forms with added questions and safeguarding features (like our new referencing process), and we even have a Casserole phone number (020 3286 8911) so that we can learn about and access the growing Casserole community that little bit better. Throughout the pilot we will be organising feedback sessions with users, stage more events like Lunch and Learn and testing out some incentives and rewards (cooking classes anyone?!) and start getting our online community up and active.

Our main goal from now on is to work our way up to 40 Diners and 90 Cooks cooking, eating, and sharing through Casserole by early May. This may seem a little daunting, but we are confident that with the help of the organisations and people who have already been so supportive of the project and putting some serious elbow grease into our connections with the community, we will be able to get there (and who knows, maybe we’ll even pass it!). So please, if you are interested in taking part in Casserole, high-tail it over to the website and get yourself registered, and please help us spread the word!

Reporting back from – Lunch and Learn

Last Saturday was Casserole’s first ever Lunch and Learn event in Redhill! It was a chance for the community to come together and share some delicious dishes, hear about the latest Casserole news, and give everyone an opportunity to feedback with opinions and suggestions for the project.

To start off the day, we premiered our brand new Casserole film, which was put together just before Christmas with the help of markthreemedia. The film follows Pam and Betty, two of the first members of the Casserole community, through the Casserole process, from cooking to eating, seasoned throughout with some truly lovely words about their experience.

After the film, we shared a presentation on what we learned from the first stage of the project, followed by a great and lively discussion where people shared their opinions on Casserole and what we should do next. From this insight, we will be looking at key things that stood out in the conversation, starting with how we can develop the Casserole community further with stuff like regular events and get togethers just like Lunch and Learn.

"Heaven and Earth Pie"

From our trial in December, we discovered that a big part of Casserole is the cooking community it creates – from sharing and learning new recipes, to tips and tricks for mastering the mid-week meal. So, one of our ‘stations’ at Lunch and Learn was all about sharing a recipe by writing it on a plate and sticking it on the wall. We had some interesting suggestions including an amazing recipe called “Heaven and Earth Pie” (can’t wait to try it!). We’re now testing how we can keep the momentum of recipe exchanges going, beginning by putting them up on our facebook page (so make sure you join up and add in a recipe of your own!).

Thanks to those who attended, we also managed to get some great new contacts at Ravens Housing Trustlocal Redhill Councillors and East Surrey College who we’re looking forward to visiting over the next two weeks to talk more about Casserole and how we can get even more people involved.

There were plenty of things on the menu for the day, but we must admit, the most exciting of all was our big crowd-sourced lunch, which went down an absolute treat. We had everything from a goats cheese, tomato and basil tart to broad bean salad and homemade bread – it was quite a feast!

Look at the flaky pastry on that goats cheese, tomato and basil tart

Lovely homemade dishes at Lunch and Learn

We learnt a great deal from our first Lunch and Learn event and we’re going to make sure we make them a regular occurrence in Redhill over the next few months, so keep your eyes and ears open for the latest news on what we are planning.

We’re also working on some new sign up forms based on what we’ve learned so far, making it even easier to get involved in Casserole, so watch this space!

Lessons Learnt – Casserole texting and sharing

With a first small step into foodie matchmaking under our belts, bringing together three satisfied Diners and six stellar Cooks delivering top-notch meals, it’s time for a bit of reflection. With that in mind and as promised in the post ‘A New Year‘, the next few blogs will start to delve a bit into what we’ve learnt so far, and how this is helping shape Casserole as a service.

After a couple of visits to local community groups and a market stall in Redhill town (don’t miss us or our cakes at the next stall this Saturday 21 January!), we managed to drum up a lot of interest and signed up 22 Cooks and 4 Diners. With this user group in hand, we started to test how Casserole could work in a few different settings. A big thank you to everyone involved for your feedback – it’s exciting to see this project happening for real and to learn about all your experiences!

We’re beginning to get an idea of exactly what is most important for both our Diners and Cooks. For instance, the importance of a text service in communicating with all involved. In a really quick test we found that out of 5 texts sent out by Casserole 4 replied within 2 mins giving an answer (we later found out the the 5th persons phone had run out of battery!).

An example of the texts used in the Casserole pilot

It makes perfect sense that text services are becoming incredibly useful as more and more people use their mobile phones for important things. For instance, last month when I moved into my new flat, I didn’t have an internet connection set up yet but needed to register my meter readings to get my electricity set up. After registering with Southern Electric they sent me a text and all I had to do was text my meter reading to them. Now the more I text readings, the more accurate my bill will be. Plus if you’re anything like me, your phone is always close by making it easy to fire off a text quickly.

Of course, Casserole will need to use a range of different communications channels to reach a diverse range of participants, but there’s little doubt that using text messaging has already proved one really good way to get people interested and active in the service. This ties in with how banks, postal couriers and supermarkets are all using text services to complement their online and phone services.

Using the Southern Electric text service to save some money + time!

While text messaging has turned out to be a great way to get information and responses out quickly, the Casserole facebook page is proving to be brilliant in building the community around Casserole. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had a number of people ‘like’ the page and what’s event better, people have started posting what they’ve been cooking for their Diners. This gives Cooks the chance to comment and share culinary tips, not to mention wets the appetite of others to get involved in the service as well!

Some of the lovely food being discussed on the facebook page

We now know something we didn’t a few weeks ago; text services could be really useful and sharing recipes would be mighty popular.

The range of other interesting info that’s emerged just from this initial small scale prototype alone are making it easier for us to understand and plan how the Casserole service should operate in the long run – from how people sign up and communicate to the cooking and sharing of meals.

To find out even more about Casserole and what we’ve discovered from this initial trial, come join us at the Casserole Lunch and Learn event at Warwick School, Saturday 28 January from 10am-1pm.  Want to stay up to date with Casserole? Then join our mailing list or drop Murtz a line at murtz [at] wearefuturegov [dot] com.

Casserole Lunch and Learn, come and join us

We mentioned it last week, but here is the full flyer for our upcoming Casserole Lunch and Learn event in Redhill – doesn’t it looks nice? Check out the details below, and click on the flyer to sign up to attend.

We hope to see you there (and don’t forget a dish to share)!

A Day at the Redhill Markets

Bag full of homemade treats….check, plenty of warm clothes…check, 6am start…check this could only mean one thing…. Casserole was hitting the markets in Redhill. 

After a long drive through South London we were finally up and about in Redhill to chat to local residents about the Casserole project and the trial we are starting next week. We thought what better way then to cook up some tasty treats and set up a stall in the Redhill Market (thanks to the lovely folks at Hughmark International who helped us get the stall and also to Rachel and Kirsty for cooking up some delicious treats). Check out the great little video Joe’s put together of the day.

Mmmmm... FOOD!

With a big bag full of banana bread cake, rocky road, marshmallow lollipops and choco cinnamon muffins we got loads of interesting people across to our stall to talk about Casserole. Using our simple COOK and EAT cards we signed up 16 new Casserole COOK’s as well as one new DINER and by the sounds of it they can cook some delicious dishes.

Some of the complete Cook and Eat cards, yum!

The cards asked cooks to jot down what they’re great at cooking and how far they wouldn’t mind travelling to share a meal and for diners they asked what they loved to eat and what they hated to eat as well as a bit of info on their dietary requirements. Loads of people shared their thoughts on the project and for those who wanted to sign up online as promised here are the links to the online forms.

To sign up as a Casserole Diner click through to this link and to sign up up as Casserole Cook it’s this link. We really quickly realised that loads of people mentioned that they would love to refer Casserole to someone that they knew and so we’ve made some little adjustments on the forms so that you can do that.

Signing up at the Casserole stall

We were overwhelmed by the amount of support from passersby and were thrilled to catch up with Sarah Finch Green Councillor for Redhill East who came to visit the stall and show support. The stall helped us to chat to people about what Casserole is and ways they can be involved but also helped us to get more of an insight into how the Casserole service could be developed and run in the future.

Cllr Sarah Finch visiting the Casserole stall

We are really excited to move forward into the trial period which should start next week (Monday 5th December), we already have three Diners signed up and by the looks of things they each have a couple of people interested in cooking quite close to them. Amazingly we even found that when flicking through the cards we had a “Diner” and a “Cook” who are essentially next door neighbours living on the same road. We had to double check we hadn’t made a mistake but true enough two people living next door to each (and don’t yet know each other) have signed up!

The trial is all about observing and learning as much as possible around how people found cooking, sharing, eating and organising around the service and rest assured we’ll be sharing our insights through the blog to let you know how it’s going so stay tuned!