I've talked before about my freezer cooking group. It's continued to grow as I'm finding more people are interested in joining us when we prepare meals to stock our freezers. This past weekend 4 of us were able to take part in our fall session.
Due to scheduling conflicts we weren't able to use the church kitchen this time so we did our cooking on our own and then meet at my house to exchange our meals. We had a smaller group this time, it's hard to pick a day that can work with absolutely everyone's schedule, but I was happy to have 3 others join me this round. To make it worthwhile, we all agreed to prepare 2 main and 1 side, breakfast or dessert dish's. The above picture shows what all I was able to fill my freezer with, not bad for a few hours worth of work if you ask me!
Here's a list of what each person brought home:
Inside out burgers
Tator tot casserole
Lots of yummy meals and a very nice variety! I've had a few people ask how to get a group going in their own area, it's very easy and I'll try to give you some pointers.
Gather names of those interested
First, you'll want to start asking friends and family if they're interested in joining. Facebook is a great way of communicating with those that we might not see on a day to day basis. I let my friends know through facebook that I was interested in getting a group together to make up a bunch of meals to exchange with others.
Decide on a date
Our group communicates mainly through facebook, you can send emails or even a good ol' phone call works. But with everyone's busy schedules, facebook seems to work well for us. We then needed to decide on a date that would work for everyone. I find each time that I try to get our group together we do have a lot of scheduling conflicts but that's just typical. I aim to have at least 4 people, I realistically would love to have 10 of us participating but I know that's not always going to be possible.
Decide whether to cook together or on your own
Our first session we were able to use a church kitchen for a small donation. It had 2 stoves/ovens, 2 sinks, 2 refrigerator/freezers and tons of counter space. This will be our ideal location from now on if we decide to all cook together. We each brought ingredients for our chosen recipes along with the necessary utensils to cook with. The church had some but with being our first time, I wasn't sure what was going to be available. It was great to have an afternoon with friends, we talked while we worked and it was a much needed break from our families and busy lives. Now this doesn't always appeal to others and sometimes things just don't work out. We had a hard time finding a location to cook in this last time, we were unable to rent the church for that day. So we agreed on preparing our meals in the comfort of our own homes and then met at my house on Sunday to exchange our meals. I like both ways, it's great to get together with friends and for some it's easier when you don't have the kids underfoot. I also like to cook on my own schedule and not feel quite so rushed as when we're all together. If I need to stop and get the kids lunch or do something else then it's okay, I'll come back to my meals when I have a spare moment. You'll have to decide what works best for your group.
Choose your recipes
Depending on your group size, everyone will need to choose 1 or more recipes to prepare. Both times we've had a pretty small group and I want to make this worth everyone's time, so we've chosen either 2 or 3 recipes. You'll probably want to stick with mostly main dish recipes because that seems to be where we all need extra help. Again, we communicate through a group message on facebook; reporting back to everyone what we are planning to make. You'll want to take note of any food allergies and that sort of thing. It's good to have a list of what each person is bringing, not only so you know what to expect but just in case your family absolutely hates one item we can let each other know and maybe try to work around that. We haven't had any issues yet and always have a great variety. This past time we also brought copies of each of our recipes so we had those on file, just in case we would like to make it again for our own families.
Now for the fun part! Depending on what method your group decides, you'll either be meeting at your chosen location for some cooking fun or simply exchanging meals and recipes. This is where all of your hard work pays off. You each can go home with a nice variety of already prepared meals to stock your freezer with. These will come in handy over the next few months. Depending on how many meals you make, you can either choose to not do any cooking for a couple of weeks or spread them out over the course of 2-3 months.
One item I didn't discuss was cost. We've haven't compared costs too much in our group, but I'm fairly certain that everyone spends around the same amount each time. We each do a good job of choosing recipes that are in the same general price range to prepare. For last week's exchange, I figured I spent between $80-$90 for 12 meals. That's not too bad! I did try to stock up ahead of time on some items like tomato sauce and cheese when I seen it on sale a couple weeks ago, so that always helps.
For those of you that are interested in starting your own meal exchange group, I hope this helps some! Please let me know if you have any further questions, I would love to help you out!