The freezer meals are a life-saver for sure. (See five of my favorite recipes here.) But imagine this:
You have two or three friends over, open a bottle of wine, and spend a few hours chatting while you assemble the meals for the freezer. At the end of your evening, you’ve got anywhere from 8-12 meals ready for the freezer, and you had a fun evening with your girlfriends!
Shortly after discovering the freezer meal fad, I wanted to tell everyone how much easier it made my life. It has helped us eat healthier as a family since we’re a lot less likely to eat convenience foods or eat out. I have so much more time! Well, I told some friends and someone got the idea of assembling meals together.
Now that we’ve done it several times, I think I’ve got some good tips for starting your own club.
1. Make Your Meal Plan
Choose a few recipes that work for you and your group, taking allergies/intolerances into account. There are so many recipes out there that work for a gluten free diet. With more people I tend to do fewer recipes to keep the evening simpler. Say you’re doing 5 recipes, and you have 3 people cooking with you. That’s four people, 5 recipes, and I always do two batches of each recipe per person. As a group you’ll be making 40 meals, each person takes home 10. You’re making 8 batches of each recipe.
2. Make Your Shopping List
Keeping in mind how many batches of each recipe you’ll be making, construct a grocery list. Then share the shopping with everyone else by splitting up the list. In the past, I’ve tried to make sure each person gets some of the produce on their list so they can chop it up ahead of time. So make sure your list includes instructions. As the host, I usually get all the meat since you may need to cut or brown meat in advance. Also, it seems to work having one person invest more, just because any extra everyone owes can be paid to the one person. Don’t worry too much if everyone’s costs are the same. You’ll even that out later. (When chopping onions: chew gum, or refrigerate the onions ahead of time to minimize the tears shed.)
Money-saving tip: buy bone-in chicken thighs instead of boneless/skinless chicken breast where possible. Eating meat that’s been cooked bone-in is healthy for you! And, it tastes so good! If your recipe calls for the meat to be shredded after its cooked, this will not be any extra work. But thighs are a lot cheaper than breasts.
3. Supplies to have on hand
– large pitchers – these work great for holding up your bags while you fill them.
– kitchen shears – great for cutting up meat quickly, opening packages, etc.
– zipper freezer bags – don’t skimp too much on these. I bought cheap ones at Aldi’s my first times and with getting bumped around in the freezer there were little holes in the bag. This was a problem when chicken juice got all over my fridge during the thawing process.
– sharpie markers – for labeling your bags & writing instructions for cooking
– Lots of bowls – you really can just never have enough.
– Lots of measuring spoons – maybe even ask everyone to bring theirs.
– container/box to carry meals home in
– shopping receipts
4. Label your bags
I recommend labeling all your bags ahead, and write your name on them. Then when your cooking buddies arrive, they can get theirs written down by copying yours before getting started. If you’re really ambitious, you can send out the recipe names & bag instructions ahead of time so everyone comes with bags ready!
5. Start an assembly line…sort of
Set up your first batch of bags in the pitchers on a table. Work on just one recipe at a time. Each person take an ingredient & add it to each bag, then another, until all the ingredients are in the bags. Remove from the pitchers, seal, then put a new set of bags in the pitchers.
Tip: Squeeze out as much air as you can to avoid freezer burn.
Don’t forget to open your bottle of wine & have fun! At the end you’re going home with ten meals (or however many you did)! For our family (3 littles eating), most meals last us for two nights. The times we’ve done it, it averaged between $4.20 and $6.50 per batch (or $2.10-$3.25/night to feed the family!)
7. Working out the money
Before anyone goes home, we pull out all our receipts and add them up. Divide your total by the number of people. Then compare that to what each person actually spent. We just use cash or checks to pay each other if one paid more than another. So far we’ve had no problems!
8. Taking it to the Web
I started a Facebook Group for freezer cooking for local ladies. I added all of my friends/acquaintances who I thought would enjoy doing this. On FB groups, you can add documents. So we use this for sharing recipes, scheduling cooking days, tips, etc. Now that several people have been involved, I don’t always have to host. Whoever wants to host will post with when they want to do it and how many people they have room for. It’s fun to meet new people (as friends are sharing the group with friends now) and get new ideas. The host usually plans it all, but she also gets to pick the meals.
I hope these tips can help you have some productive fun time with your favorite ladies too!