Freezer meals are a handy way to get dinner on the table in a hurry. They designed for those days when a meeting runs late or you need to deliver a last-minute dinner to a friend or you have zero desire to pull out a pot at 5 o’clock.
I’ve used several different methods for big batch freezer meal cooking. Some involved doubling and freezing one recipe at a time as I made dinner. Others required spending a whole day in the kitchen with 1-3 other people and divvying up the dinners at the end. Each one worked well for different reasons at different times. These days, I usually just stash a meal in the freezer when I have the time or the desire.
If you’re tired of the same ol’, same ol’ when it comes to making dinner, this might be a fresh idea for you: meal swaps.
Last July, my sisters and I were hanging out on my deck, talking and flipping through magazines. I stumbled across an article on meal swaps in an old issue of Real Simple. I immediately turned to my sister Gretchen and told her, “You should try this!”
Because that is what sisters are for, right? We discover something new and exciting and say to our sibling, “Here, you do it first. If it is successful, I will try next.” It could be jumping off the slide or dyeing one’s hair an unfortunate shade of red or… trading dinners with friends.
Gretchen, always up for a new cooking challenge, agreed. She went home, shared the idea with two of her girlfriends, and a new meal swap group was born.
- Gather a group of several other likeminded cooks to swap dinners once a week/month. You want people who have similar diets, budgets, food preferences, family sizes, etc. It’s also helpful to have a group who is comfortable together and not afraid to be honest with eachother.
- Make a plan & a schedule. You could meet together, use email or Facebook, or set up a Google calendar to arrange meals and schedule pick-up/drop-off times.
- Cook big-batch, freezer-friendly meals. Gretchen and her two friends swap meals every Monday afternoon. She spends Monday mornings, her day off, making one dinner for that night and a triple batch of one other meal (one to keep, two to trade). After one morning of work and one meal swap, she has four different dinners for Monday through Thursday. Most are freezer-friendly and can be saved for a later date.
- Invest in a shared set of dishes. Gretchen and her friends purchased inexpensive glass 9×13″ pans. It’s much easier to have a group set than trying to keep track of everyone’s individual dishes.
- Evaluate. Try it for several weeks, then get together for coffee to see how it’s going. You can use this time to tweak menus, times, or amounts. If you’re not comfortable saying, “My family wasn’t crazy about that rice casserole last week,” then use an anonymous survey instead.
- One day of cooking = one week’s worth of meals
- You get to try something new. Not only are you experimenting with different recipes, but you get to sample other food made by other people. Gretchen’s kids turn their noses up at her lasagna, but they devour her friend’s lasagna. Go figure.
- You save time, money, and sanity while getting to know your friends better.
- Once-A-Month Cooking, Revised and Expanded: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Every Day (Amazon) by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg There are many variations on this book. Check Amazon or your local library for more titles.
- Soup swaps help stock your freezer and foster friendships by Deena Prichep
- Twin Cities Freezer Supper Swappers — Check out this site for meal swap tips and freezer meal recipe links.
- How to Start a Neighborhood Meal Swap
Recipes & Ideas:
- Apricot Chicken and Sour Cherry Pork Loin Chops (two favorites from Once a Month Cooking)
- Enchiladas or Lasagnas or Rice & Chicken Casseroles
- Chili or Soup or Stew (What Foods Don’t Freeze well)
- Ham & Cheese Roll-Ups: Roll out bread dough (homemade or store bought) into a rectangle. Cover with chopped ham and shredded cheese. Roll up and freeze. Thaw and bake at 375.
- Freezer-Friendly Recipes
This idea might not have a long life-span, as families and schedules change, but it could be a fun way to mix things up for a few weeks or months.
If you came up with 101 reasons why this freezer meal method would not work, then it’s probably not a good fit for you. If it sounds interesting, tweak it to fit your needs, call some friends, and give it a shot. Give it a few weeks to take and then evaluate it. If it works, you could have a week’s worth of meals for very little effort. If it doesn’t, scratch it and go back to your old method.
Or you could always call your sister and tell her to try it first…
Leave a comment! Have you ever been involved in a meal swap? What is your favorite method for stocking up on freezer meals? What is your favorite freezer-friendly meal (besides ice cream)?