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Shelley Thomas's Guide to a Freezer Meal Swap

A few months ago, Stephanie asked me what is saving my life right now. My answer was simple: freezer meals! Let’s be honest — dinner can be one of the most stressful times of the day. You want to have a healthy meal for your family, but the shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning that go into it can send you over the edge after a long day. Having meals ready to go in the freezer, however, can save the day. And one of the best and easiest ways to stock your freezer is to start a freezer meal club.

What is a freezer meal club, you ask? It’s a group of friends who commit to regularly cooking freezer-friendly meals for one another. Members prepare multiple servings of the same recipe on their own time, then come together to swap, giving each member different meals to take home.

A freezer meal club has many benefits: It can save you time, save you money, and save your sanity. It may seem like a daunting task to plan and organize, but we’ve done the leg work for you. Follow these simple steps and your freezer will be full in no time.

  1. Recruit a group of friends to join you. A group of four to six is an ideal size and makes it manageable to coordinate and cook. It’s helpful if your members share the same values when it comes to food. For instance, some may want the most kid-friendly meals while others may want to branch out and try “interesting” recipes. You also need to consider dietary restrictions or food allergies. Gathering like-minded cooks and eaters will make planning and execution easier. It’s also more conducive if members of the group have similar size families.

  2. Decide how often you will swap meals. The number of people in your group could determine how often you decide to swap. Swapping every four to six weeks is a good place to start. Set a day and time when everyone can gather in one place to swap meals, using coolers to transport the food.

  3. Determine how many meals you will make each round. We suggest each member cook one meal for each family to start with, and then you could choose to cook more going forward. If you have six members in your group, you would go home each month with six different meals. If you get ambitious and decide to make two meals a month, you could go home with 12 different meals. Depending on what you are cooking, it will likely take you one to three hours to prepare and clean up one meal for six families — but keep in mind how much you’ll be getting in return!

  4. Take into consideration family size and decide how many servings each meal should be. If the majority of your group has four to five family members, each meal will need to serve five people. Most recipes serve four to six people, so these recipes would simply need to be multiplied by the number of members in your group. Some recipes serve eight to 10, though, so pay attention because you may only need to double or triple these recipes and portion them out accordingly.

  5. Make a plan for the monthly menu. As a group, determine how much autonomy you want each person to have over the recipe choices. Everyone can pick their own recipe, one person could assign recipes, or you could have a shared digital document where people sign up for the meal they prefer to cook. Keep in mind that some foods freeze well and some do not. Check out this handy “Do Not Freeze” list to help guide your meal planning.

  6. Know the best and safest way to freeze foods. The best way to freeze a meal is determined by what you cook. The three most common ways to freeze meals are in a rigid container, freezer storage bags, or individually wrapped. If using rigid containers, group members may want to purchase the same number and kind of freezable glass dishes with lids. You can always use aluminum pans, but they must be wrapped well to avoid freezer burn. When it comes to recipes that can be portioned individually (burritos, wraps, quesadillas, etc.), wrap these in foil and then store them together in a freezer bag. Read up on tips for freezing foods to ensure optimum freshness and quality. All meals should be labeled with the recipe name, date, and cooking/reheating instructions.

  7. Evaluate recipes and keep it going. Be open to feedback. Some recipes are better than others and you don’t want to keep preparing something no one is enjoying. Decide as a group how you will evaluate the recipes – maybe through in-person feedback at the swap or perhaps an online form to vote on which recipes your family would like to have again. After a few months of swapping and evaluating, you should have a collection of recipes that you can rely on to be crowd pleasers. Once you have these recipes in your back pocket, it will be easy to keep the group going.

As an Inspiration Lab member, we are offering you the opportunity to participate in a freezer meal swap in the month of September. This is a no-hassle way to try out a freezer meal club and decide if it’s the right fit for you!


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