Wearing kerchiefs or hairnets on their heads and white chef’s aprons, the women sit at safely spaced tables chatting and chopping green beans, eggplant, carrots, olives, tofu and red peppers. On today’s menu: pork cutlets in a mushroom sauce, minestrone soup and a vegan sauce made with tofu and eggplant.

The women belong to what’s known as a “collective kitchen,” where participants get together once a month to plan nutritious and delicious — but frugal — meals. They cook together, clean up together, split the cost and take home ready-made soups, entrées and desserts for themselves and their families. It’s more fun than cooking alone, they say, and it saves on the monthly grocery bill.

“These days, everything is so expensive,” says José Levac, as she chops up some tofu. “I come here for the social aspect too, but it’s clear that things are getting so expensive. It’s incredible. Here, we make three recipes each time, and I usually take home three or four portions of each dish. The most expensive it’s been is about $16 or $17. For 12 meals, that’s pretty good.”

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