Thursday, February 28, 2013

Creating a Freezer Meal Swap

My friend, Val, asked about my meal swap last week so I thought I'd post about how to get one started.

The first question you have to answer is why you want to participate in a swap.  Are you looking for new recipes?  Do you want to have quick dinners available?  Do you just want to cook less?  I was in a group once that was into gourmet cooking.  The food was fabulous, but it wasn't great for kids or for the budget.  It's important to know what you want if you're inviting people to a group.

Consider if your family has special dietary needs.  Gluten free?  Peanut allergies?  Dairy sensitive?  Vegetarian?  Organic? 

Next you look for other people who have the same interest as you.  Ideally you'll have 6 to 10 participants.  If you have strict dietary requirements it will be harder to find folks who want the same kind of meals you do.  I participated in a group that broke up when our food requirements got too strict.  One person couldn't have pork, another had a kid sensitive to any artificial colors, we could only use whole wheat pasta or brown rice, and chicken had to be organic or at least Foster Farms.  It was complicated and people dropped out and new people were hard to find.  I think it would be great to have a group for one unique need.  For example, GF only or Organic only.  In my experience there are lots of people who want to try a freezer meal swap so don't let the thought of finding people stop you.

Mostly the groups I've participated in have been for families.  One group had families and single members.  One group had a mom of 8!  She made two different meals each swap and took double portions of what the rest of us made.  My current group has older kids so the portions are larger.  Usually the swappers are moms, but once we had a dad.  He and his wife shared cooking duties and he participated in the swap so he'd have meals ready on his nights to cook. 

I'd put a call out on Facebook, at work, in your family, at church, or your mommy groups or other activities.  Even if people are spread out geographically, they may be willing to participate if it means driving to a central location only once a month or every six weeks.

Once you find a group of people you should establish what your needs are.  A meeting in person is usually best since not everyone necessarily knows each other, but it can all be discussed via email or in a Facebook private group if you don't want to meet until the first swap.
  • How many portions in each meal?
  • What size are those portions?
  • How often do you want to meet?
  • Where do you want to meet?  
  • How 'prepared' do the meals need to be?  Just reheat in the oven or some assembly required?
  • How will you swap?  Disposable tins?  Freezer Ziplocs?  Everyone buys six, or eight, or ten 8x8 glass pans to trade in?  
You may want to provide some guidance to members about where to find recipes and/or what freezes well.  There are a ton of recipes here.  I have found the best recipes are the ones that your family already loves to eat.  If your family loves them your friends will probably love them, too.  In general food freezes ok, but avoid sauces/gravies with milk because it's hard to reheat them without 'breaking' the sauce.  Click here for a good list of what to avoid.   

Everyone should chime in either at the first meeting or in the weeks leading up to the swap what they are making.  It helps to avoid duplicate meals.  You don't want 4 different lasagnas, right? 

I have really enjoyed my swaps through the years and could write a ton more, but I'd rather direct you to  Twin Cities Supper Swappers.  There is a wealth of excellent, well-organized information on this site and it will inform you far better than I could.  Just remember you can do whatever works for the folks in YOUR swap and no set of  'instructions' are concrete.

Good luck!


1 comment:

So, what do you think?