I recently participated in a Twitter party (as part of the ConAgra campaign I participated in- see my sponsored post here) where we discussed myths and facts about frozen foods. At one point during the party I tweeted that I used to be part of a frozen meal swap, in our old town, and the tweet got a big response! A lot of people were interested, so I thought I would write a blog post about how to start your own freezer meal swap.
1. First you need people! Set up a time and place where you can have an informational meeting, and invite all of your friends, family members, work and church friends, etc. Be prepared to email those who are unable to attend with the information discussed at the meeting.
Want step 1 made even easier for you? How about this free printable I made, just for you?! Boom, you’re welcome.
2. Hold your informational meeting, and fully explain just what a freezer meal swap is!
So what is a freezer meal swap?
A freezer meal swap is when a group of people decide to make and exchange frozen meals. Each member of the group chooses a recipe and makes that recipe in bulk (if there are 10 members in the group, you would make up 10 meals). You keep one for yourself, and bring the other 9 to the swap to pass out to the other members. At the swap, you get 9 different meals to bring home with you, and then you would have 10 different meals in your freezer, ready to go when dinnertime comes around (some meals may need to be thawed ahead of time- each member of the swap group should include the recipe or at the very least, cooking instructions with their meal)!
3. Make some decisions about how the swap will be run. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
a. How often will we meet? The group I was in met every 3 weeks, but having a smaller family to feed, I chose to participate only once every few months.
b. What kind of meals are acceptable? Are there any allergies among your group members and their families? Does anyone have a strong aversion to any certain foods/meats?
c. How big should the meals be? We determined that our meals should comfortably feed a family of 6.
d. How much do we want to spend on our meals? Some groups add up receipts and then split the total cost, but we thought it was fairer to set a general amount and then people could spend more or less depending on if they wanted to make a more elaborate meal or if they were able to find food on sale. We said about $75 (about 10-11 people in our group), and my meals usually came out to right around that amount.
e. Where will we meet? If possible, meet at someone’s house who has extra freezer space. That way, if someone can’t make it to the swap, the hostess can keep that person’s meals frozen until she can come pick them up. But of course it’s better for everyone to attend, because if you miss the meeting, you would have to deliver the meals you made to everyone in the group!
f. How will we communicate regularly? It’s good to have an email list, for last minute changes in participation, affecting how many meals everyone needs to make, etc. You can also use this email list to let the rest of the group know what recipe you’ll be making, so there will hopefully be a variety of meals.
4. Then it’s time to choose a recipe, buy your food, and prepare the meal! Freezer recipes can be found all over the internet and Pinterest, and there are several books out there dedicated to freezer meals that you may want to purchase. Then buy the food you need, and find some time in your schedule where you have an hour or two to put your meals together. In many cases, you do not have to precook anything, so you are just assembling the ingredients into freezer bags and sticking them in the freezer!
Don’t forget to include instructions for preparation with each meal, and then you are ready for the swap!
You will probably want to get a large-enough cooler, so that you have an easy way to transport your meals to and from the swap, without the meals thawing in the process.
Then, you’ll have a nicely-stocked freezer of meals to use in your meal planning, or when you need to get dinner on the table in a hurry!
I enjoyed participating in the freezer meal swap, and I would love to do another sometime. The hardest part for me was budgeting for the ingredients, and trying to balance that with the regular grocery shopping I would need to do for the week. If it’s possible, I would strongly recommend just setting aside some extra money for your freezer meal purchases, so that the freezer meals you end up with can be bonus meals, on top of whatever you bought fresh for the week. That way you can use them as you like, since they will last a long time!
What do you think? Does this sound like something you would do with a group of friends? It does take a little bit of planning and time, but if you can get into a groove, it is a wonderful thing to have a freezer full of delicious, ready-to-go meals!