I am struggling to find affordable, group cooking lessons where you're not going to learn to make ONE specific dinner dish. Seems that private lessons may be the only way.
Anyone else do this? I'm looking at cost comparisons for where I live.
Provision is highly variable. The major city nearest me has a comprehensive adult education programme which includes cookery courses over several sessions and single topic lessons. But where I live there's nothing provided by the local authority. When they do exist, these courses can be quite affordable.
I have also come across a restaurant that doubled as a cookery school, but it closed last year. They tended to run one-off sessions but overall covered quite a range of foods, and there were sessions most weeks for a while.
There's quite a range of cookery schools in the UK, but these are often aimed more at people who want to be chefs than at enthusiasts. Some however (often based around a restaurant or hotel) run weekend residential courses on particular topics (for example the River Cottage). For a price of course, and not a small one. You can even combine this with a holiday to a region famed for its food, such as Tuscany, and learn to cook the local specialities.
At perhaps the more accessible end of the market, I know of a major organic farm that currently runs single sessions but I'm sure has run courses in the past.
Depends on the level of interaction you are looking for, or if you just want to see the techniques, hear an explanation, and get the recipes.
Online or TV would be the way to go if you don't need the personal interaction.
An online subscription to America's Test Kitchen would give you access to their entire archive of recipe PDFs, and many season's of video archives for their shows, where you can watch them explain and demonstrate specific recipes, and they tend to follow a huge cross-section of types of dishes, desserts, appetizers and ethnic styles.
Otherwise, there are cable TV networks specifically tailored for this, along with companion web sites, and certainly there are YouTube channels that would fit the bill, as well.
In addition to the other excellent recommendations on this question, I wanted to suggest some additional affordable options for new cooks in the United States (the OP profile doesn't include a location). Particularly, these are options for training in an equipped kitchen.
tl;dr : find people who cook, learn from them.
In some countries, there is the tradition of 'cooking clubs'. Basically, a group of people (usually friends) get together and cook a meal. The less experienced people get a chance to learn from the more experienced, and you can pass along regional specialties.
They're often more social things than just educational, and from what I've read about them, they're often unisex (all females or all males). They take a few different forms -- getting together once a month at someone's house, or some larger kitchen space that someone has access to. If it's people's houses, it might rotate who hosts. There's usually some plan ahead of time on what to make, and shopping chores are either divvied up, or one person does the shopping and everyone chips in to cover the costs.
Note that this is different from 'dinner clubs' where a meal is planned, but people do the bulk of work at their own homes and then bring them to the host's house to finish cooking it.
Because they're social constructs, you typically either have to either get invited into one, or start one yourself.
But there's also family ... if you have get together for big meals (either at Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, whatever other religious holidays, birthdays, grandparent's anniversary, stuff like that, offer to help out. When I was a kid, the big holidays were at my great grandmother's house about two hours away, so my mom (the oldest of her generation) would go up a day or two before and help start preparing the food with some of her cousins who lived nearby.
As I got older (around 10 or 12, as we didn't move back to the area 'til just before I turned 11, and she died when I was 15), I got assigned tasks, too. (setting the table, wrapping prosciutto around chunks of melon or other assembly, stirring sauces, etc.)
As we didn't have any females in my generation 'til I was 13 or so, my great grandmother decided that she was going to teach my brothers and I to cook ... so when we'd get together at other times, we helped out. My mom's uncle had a vacation home near the ocean, so we'd go there for a week, and my great grandmother would have us help her.
These days, as my cousin's birthday and mine are both near Labor Day, my mom and step father (about 30 mins from me) go and visit my aunt, uncle and cousins (about 5 hrs away) for the long weekend. We drive down on Friday, hit a huge farmer's market (another hour plus away) on Saturday, then spend the weekend cooking, eating, hanging out, etc. until late Monday morning.
So, how does this help you?
Well, you can ask your friends if they're interested in starting a cooking club. If someone's already in one and it's not too crowded already, they might invite you to join.
If you still have relatives (who cook) within an hour or so of where you live, you might talk about getting together for dinner once a month or so ... you offer to bring food and to help cook it. Although, it's better if you can make a day of it, so you can go shopping together ... they can show you how to select produce, and deal with any substitutions if something can't be found.
If you don't have relatives that fit the bill, maybe one of your friend's relatives could work. (either ask your friends who might be interested in cooking, or maybe if you're close enough to their family, ask directly)
And if none of those work, look for volunteer opportunities .... church dinners (if it's cooked communally and not pot-luck), soup kitchens, stuff like that.
If you really strike out, you might even look to see if there's a Sikh temple nearby. They have a tradition of communal cooking and meals and from what (little) I know of the religion, I suspect that they would let you help.
It's possible that 4H, recreation centers, or local schools might have cooking classes for kids. If they do, and you find that you have enough friends who are interested in learning to cook, you might approach them (or the home ec. teacher at the school) about teaching a class for adults. Or approach any senior centers in your area about an activity for the seniors -- passing down their knowledge to others.