OREM — Somewhere between the seasonal products and produce aisles, in the front of most Macey's stores, is a community gathering place called the Little Theatre.

Nine of the 10 Macey's grocery stores along the Wasatch Front have them. A handful of folks come to the theater often, but largely, it goes unnoticed.

Yet each Tuesday through Thursday and on some Saturdays free classes on cooking, crafting, healthy eating, wedding planning or a number of other topics are being taught.

Lauri Stevenson is the coordinator for the Little Theatre in the Orem Macey's.

Stevenson said that many of these classes are designed to help women and men who feel they are "cooking impaired" learn basic skills.

"Lots of women don't cook any more. We are trying to teach these skills while having fun with family," Stevenson said.

The classes can be a great date night activity, and many people meet new friends at the classes, she said.

The idea of having cooking classes in a grocery store spun off from the need for space to hand out samples of food.

John Allen, the new store manager at Orem Macey's, said he and Ken Macey Jr., the former owner of Macey's, wanted a place to do demonstrations — a central point in each store.

Over time the idea and number and size of the demonstrations grew and the Little Theatres blossomed from that. (The Clearfield Macey's is the only store not equipped with a Little Theatre.)

During every class there are samples and handouts for class members.

A few years ago a cookbook was put together with all the year's recipes.

"I've learned so much from so many people just doing this," Stevenson said. "You can have good and healthy meals and involve your family and still have time for your busy life. (As a society) we've kind of forgotten table-time with the family."

Not all classes are centered on cooking.

In the coming weeks those attending will learn how to use food storage, about BYU Literacy programs for children, get information about square-foot gardening, wedding planning and tips on saving money in the grocery store.

For those interested in furthering their knowledge and skills around the house and in the kitchen, these classes are for you.

Call the Macey's grocery store nearest you for details, or call the Orem Macey's at 225-6002.

E-mail: pugmire@desnews.com