We are the kind of family that lets our grocery supply dwindle to crumbs before we hit the store. This can make meal time an exercise in both creativity and negotiation. “Hey kids! How about some PB & crystallized honey sandwiches on freezer-burned hot dog buns!” Despite my enthusiastic sales pitch, my kids are never impressed.
I also try to be someone who drops off a meal when a family is in need. But invariably a friend lands in the hospital at the same time my pantry is stocked only with a single can of artichoke hearts and a packet of taco seasoning. Prison fare hot dish is probably not classified as comfort food. Besides, I like to save artichoke hearts for the kids’ mid-morning snack.
Recently I heard about freezer meal parties. It’s where a bunch of ladies get together to make or swap meals. As soon as I heard of this concept I knew I wanted to try it. This freezer meal shindig seemed like a great way to fill the freezer for our family and have some spares in case another family needs a meal. I wasn’t sure how to go about planning one so I grabbed my friend Ali to help. She didn’t know how to do it either, but she’s fun and equally willing as I to ask our friends to give us money for something we aren’t sure how to plan.
I did a little online homework and found there are basically two ways to do these meal parties. One is when everyone makes multiple batches of their own recipe (one for each guest) and brings it to the party and you just swap meals. So I would make ten lasagnas, Ali would make ten taco soups, Susie would make ten enchiladas, etc. etc. Some drink wine and eat appetizers during the exchange. Some just swap and be done with it. Either way that plan sounds pretty easy.
The other way is a little more complicated but has the benefit of group effort. The organizers choose the recipes and shop in bulk then everyone comes together to do the cooking. Of course we picked the more complicated route. We decided it would be fun to chop and shred and make a huge mess together. And it was.
I have had several people inquire how we went about planning so I thought I would share. This would be fun to do with your small group, girlfriends, co-workers, neighbors . . . it is such a fun way to connect with other women. We had a great time and each walked away with ten meals. Yes!!! I highly recommend giving it a try.
We were blessed to have three professional photographers in our group. This is not required but it sure makes for beautiful photos. All the pics of our gathering on this post were taken by Christina Olson.
Decide how many guests and recipes you will make.
- We decided to keep the guest list manageable for our first run and invited 8 ladies who we knew would still love us if the whole thing was a train wreck.
- When you invite the guests be sure to ask for firm commitments since everyone is sharing the cost.
- Our invite is copied at the bottom of this post.
Select recipes that look tasty and freezable.
- We looked for relatively simple recipes that served 6-8
- Some ingredients do not freeze well so pay attention.
- We tried to avoid recipes with random/expensive ingredients but still looked for fun recipes that weren’t our standard fare.
Make a master ingredient list off the recipes
- Multiply each ingredient by the number of guests after the RSVP deadline.
Send guests a list of the meat they need to bring
- We decided to have the ladies bring their own meat to accommodate personal preferences in terms of cost, meat quality, etc.
SPECIAL FOOD NEEDS
- We wanted our gluten free/allergy families to be able to participate without a huge fuss on their part so I sent the recipes to my allergy guru friend as well as our gluten free guest for approval. She brought a few of her own ingredients and some recipes she just left as-is.
- We kept her cost the same for simplicity’s sake.
The designated shopper or shoppers estimate the cost of the ingredients off the master list as well as the cost of containers.
Everyone pays the shopper cash or a check ahead of time.
- We told the guests it might cost more and everyone was fine with that.
- In our case we had a grocery shopping ninja named Cyndi volunteer to make our master ingredient list and do all of our shopping. She was a huge blessing because she hit deals and specials at various stores and saved us a BUNDLE. As a side note, I really think she should go on the Price is Right because she estimated the cost PERFECTLY.
- Our total was $40 per person for the ingredients plus $50-60 for meat depending on how you shopped. So we each spent around $100 for ten meals or about $1.60 per serving.
Please, PLEASE do your group a favor and find someone(s) who is an amazing shopper like Cyndi do the cost estimate and supervise the shopping.
We worked in pairs with each pair tackling two recipes.
Each team had a copy of the recipes.
- Our gluten free guest highlighted in yellow any ingredients that needed substitutions on the master recipes ahead of time.
Each team “shopped” from the master grocery pile for what we needed. We then mixed, chopped, added spices, etc (everything but the meat) and filled eight containers.
We wrote each person’s name on the bag/container before we filled them as well as any special instructions. This was a handy way to keep track of the gluten free bags as well as accommodate personal preferences. For example, Melissa doesn’t like cumin. I tried not to judge her for this character flaw.
When every station had their eight bags ready we moved on to adding meat. For the most part each person added her own meat to her own bag.
Pearls and Hindsight:
We chose two recipes that required browning ground beef and/or sausage. It was a challenge to coordinate and keep track of not mixing everyone’s beef. Next time I think we would ask the guests to brown their own beef at home.
All but one of our meals could be frozen in a freezer bag. I highly recommend this route. This made our lives very easy and bags are a lot cheaper than disposable containers.
We used the church kitchen but asked everyone to bring a knife, a cutting board, apron, measuring spoons, peelers, and a can opener so we’d have extra.
Guests need to bring a cooler to transport the meals.
One participant did almost all of her meat at home. This might be a nice option for a larger gathering. It can get a little chaotic keeping track of all that meat.
It would also be fun to do a dessert swap. YUM!
Here is the email we sent out to our invitees:
We have talked with some of you about holding a freezer meal making party and finally have a date and the recipes planned. Wohoo! We are so excited to do this. We thought it would be a fun way to hang out with some fun ladies (each other) AND have meals on hand for our families AND have a spare meal in the freezer should you need something to grab for a friend in need.
How about that? A three for one punch! We have reserved Sunday April 6 at 2:00PM at the church to hold the party.
Here is how it will work:
- We have 10 meals planned. Each will serve 6-8 people. (see list below)
- You purchase and bring the meat for your own recipes (a list will be supplied to you).
- WE will purchase all the freezer bags, containers, fillers, spices, etc to keep the cost down because we can buy larger quantities – we will split the cost of this as a group.
- On Party day we will get together and assign stations to prep each recipe (chop veggies, mix spices, etc)- instructions will be provided. Each individual will go around to each station then and prep her own meal so everyone handles her own meat. We are planning to have ten meals at the end of the party.
I wish we had an exact cost for you but we don’t because we’ve never done this before. But we promise to work hard to keep it as inexpensive as possible and have shoppers who have volunteered to coupon for the group.
We will ask guests to bring a snack to share after we are done cooking and cleaning up. You will also need a large cooler or tub to transport the meals afterwards.
If you would like to participate we need a FIRM RSVP no later than Tuesday night. (Some shopping will happen double coupon Wed.)
If you’d like to participate it is essential you commit since we have to shop for the group and are splitting the cost.
Recipes we have planned:
- Crock pot chicken Parmesan
- Marinated pork chops
- Slow Cooker Pineapple Glazed Ham
- Slow Cooker BBQ spare ribs
- Black Bean Taco Soup
- Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans
- Szechuan Steak Stir Fry
- Baked Beef Ravioli Fake Out Lasagna
- Chicken Satay (no link – from a recipe book)
- Glazed Chicken and Sweet Potatoes (no link – from a recipe book)