Does the idea of a stocked freezer full of ready-to-eat food for your family make your heart dance?
Do you have friends that would like freezers full of food for their families, too?
Have you ever thought about starting a freezer meal swap?
I’ve been part of a meal swap group and I love it! It is a fun and easy way to stock my freezer with meals for my family. Now that school is getting ready to start again, our family is settling back to a school routine. This means earlier bedtimes and less eating out. Freezer meals are a convenient way to have dinner ready for busy weeknights.
Benefits of a Meal Swap Group
If you are still not convinced, let me tell you some of the benefits of swapping.
- Save time. I don’t know about you, but with three kids and part-time work, I could definitely save some time. By making large amounts of the same meal, it is essentially like making several of your family’s meals AT THE SAME TIME!
- Save money. Buying in bulk saves you money. Its that simple.
- Stock your freezer with ready-to-eat food. Our family eats out more than we should. This makes our meals both expensive and not as healthy as they should be. Having food in the freezer helps us avoid eating out.
- Variety of food. I seem to make the same meals over and over for my family. With the swap, I’ve tried some other meals my friends love, too.
Setting Up Your Meal Swap Group
1. Find friends who would be interested in joining you.
2. Set up a secret Facebook group and invite the members.
This worked very well for our group. We were able to see who was part of the group and ask questions as we had them. Facebook has a feature that allows you to ask a question in a post. So someone would ask, would you rather have lasagna or beef soup? Members of our group voted and we could see everyone’s responses. Another benefit of the Facebook group was easy recipe sharing. We often liked each other’s meals and asked for recipes. All we had to do was snap a quick pic of the recipe and post it. Once posted, we could all see it. Then it was always in our group page to refer back to.
3.Figure out the specifics.
How many friends will be joining?
If you have six friends, everyone should make six meals. The number should be the same. That way, everyone gets all the meals and one of their own. Discuss how many are in each family so there is enough food for everyone.
How often will you exchange?
Our group met once a month, but every other month would work well, too. Decide works for everyone. You could always have someone skip out one month if they are too busy. Everyone would just make one less meal.
What meals will be made?
Some of us have allergies. That’s not a problem with a meal swap. If you share your concerns with the group, there is a good chance your need can be accommodated. Some of us are picky eaters. That’s okay, too. You can decide in advance what everyone will be making so you can have input for your favorite meals.
How should they be packaged and labeled?
Foil containers and large ziplock bags work really well. Label the meal, date made, and any cooking/baking instructions. If you are making a crockpot meal, make sure everyone in your group has one.
When and where will you meet to swap meals?
Choose a day that works for everyone. The actual exchange can be as short as five minutes. Sometimes we meet at a parking lot with our ice chests full of food and swap meals. Other times we’ve made a playdate out of our meeting and spend time together. Either way works. Pick whatever works for your group.
If picking a date to meet is a challenge, you can also post a question to your facebook group with a couple of choices to see which date works best for most people. When some people couldn’t make it, another one of us would bring their meals and it worked out just fine.
Set aside enough time to cook. I was usually able to make my meals in about an hour. It will take longer than usual to make your meal, but remember, you will benefit greatly! You will receive the same number of meals that you are cooking… but they will all be different! Label your ziplock bags or foil before putting your food in. Trust me, it is easier to label first. (Some of the girls got fancy and printed labels. Go ahead if this sounds good to you.)
Meals should be frozen when you exchange. Foil tins are easy to stack in your freezer. If you are using ziplock bags, try stacking them on top of each other neatly. It might look strange, but when the meals are frozen they will look great flattened out. They take up less space and your friends can stack them the same way in their own freezers.
Casseroles and soups freeze well. You can certainly find many wonderful ideas on Pinterest these days, but here are some of my favorites that have worked well in our group.
Chicken and Rice
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Cheesy Potatoes and Ham
Italian Sausage Stuffed Jumbo Shells
Pulled Pork ( I LOVED this one! One of my friends just threw the hunks of meat in a ziplock bags with all the seasonings. All we had to do was put it in the crockpot. It was delicious!)
Don’t forget to include the fixings with your meals. For example, if you make chili, also send the fritos and cheese. For sloppy joes, send buns. You know what I mean. Just include what is needed for the meal.
That’s it! Cook and exchange away! Enjoy your meals!
*A version of this post appeared on Alamo City Moms Blog.