Do you ever get stuck in the same recipe rut? Are you tired after a long day and do not feel like preparing a complicated dinner for your family? Do you find yourself too often in the fast food line or at a restaurant because you are avoiding cooking? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be a good candidate for a freezer meal club.
What is a freezer meal club?
When a group of people get together (ideally 4-10 members), come up with rules and norms, set a date each month, make the same meal multiple times and then swap so that they leave with a wide variety of easy to prepare meals.
What type of people are best suited for this type of club?
People whose families tend to be pretty laid back and are not picky eaters. People who like variety and enjoy trying different types of meals. People who make one dinner one night that is “to die for” and maybe the next meal is “pretty good” and are not disappointed. They are not made and realize that all members try to find recipes that are yummy, healthy, and easy to prepare.
Who would not be a good fit?
People who are picky eaters. People who get mad if every meal is not perfect. People who have family members with food allergies.
Are the meals healthy?
We set rules that the meals vary. Some meals are more healthy than others. Just like our families, they vary. We don’t want 10 of the most fattening meals, but then again this is not a diet meal club. Common sense prevails.
Are these meals that people have to spend a lot of time preparing the night they decide to cook that particular meal?
No, ideally everything is made so that you can pop it into the oven in the evening or you can put it in the slow cooker on low for several hours.
Are people allowed to give input about meals? How do you make sure that you do not have 10 chicken meals?
Yes, people are allowed to give input. Our group has a private facebook page. Every month (about a week or two after the last exchange) we post what we are thinking about preparing the following month. This allows the group to know so that there is variety. I told people in my group that my husband is not a fan of pork, but my kids and I like it. Sometimes people will substitute chicken in lieu of fish if it will work. We are flexible and you can change your mind at the last minute.
Do I have to participate every month?
Our group posts an event on our fb page and people respond yes or no. This allows members to know how many meals to make. You want members to be able to sit out a month or two. However, if you have a member who has sat out a majority of the time, you probably want to remove that person from the group. I know that sounds harsh, but we currently have 13 members in our group and have several people on a waiting list who want to join. No more than 10 members is ideal, but our group has a few people sit out each month for different reasons and we tend to make about 8-10 meals each month.
Are there any perks to your club?
Yes! If you are having a baby, you get that month off and everyone else cooks meals for you. Also, many of us sometimes give away a meal or two to someone we know who is sick, has had a baby, or is falling on hard times.
Ok, so now you have read the many questions. You are ready to start a freezer meal club and wonder what you do to proceed.
You need someone who has “buy in” to get the group going. Recruit members who you feel would be a good fit for your club. Come up with an agreed upon list of rules. These are the rules of our freezer meal club:
1. Choose recipes that can feed around a family of four.
2. Choose a recipe that children would want to eat (nothing too exotic).
3. Spend about $15.00 per meal. If you don’t spend $15.00 on the main meal, add a few sides to make up for it (dinner rolls, bag of veggies, etc). You will not be penalized for finding your ingredients on sale. We don’t want a member to spend $5.00 on each meal and another to spend $20.00 on each meal.
4. Try to use fresh vegetable or fresh ingredients when possible.
5. Try to make healthy and good meals. We love fattening stuff but a 2000 calorie per serving will only make us fat. That being said, don’t make meals that are so healthy they don’t taste good. Lol.
6. People will propose meals they want to make. Members have the right to ask for a member to change a recipe (ex. flour tortillas instead of corn). Let’s try to be low maintenance but open to concerns about recipes that may not work.
7. Let’s review the recipes so we can make adjustments.
8. Be respectful of meal prep. Prepare meals in a safe and sanitary environment.
9. All meals have to have the cooking directions easily attached.
10. When preparing meals in a plastic freezer bag, make it flat so that it will be easy to freeze.
* here is a picture of what you should not do
Ok, I have my group, we have set rules and a facebook page. What next?
Set a time to exchange. We try and keep it on the same day per month (first Monday of every month). Our group meets during the day because most of us are stay at home moms. Some of the ladies who work make arrangements to drop their meals off with someone else in the group. If evening works out better, make it a girls night and have wine.
Try and find a recipe that is not too expensive or difficult to prepare (I have a list of some of our groups’ favorite recipes that I will share).
We have found the best packaging is a gallon size freezer bag or a smaller tin that we buy at The Dollar Tree. Most of our members have small children so we have found that for most meals we make two smaller portions in lieu of one large pan of lasagna. If a member has lots of family members, they cook both smaller meals on the same night.
Here are a few lessons that we have learned from trial and error.
· It might take a few times to get the labeling right. If you plan on using labels on freezer bags, attach the stick on labels to the bag before you freeze the meals.
· I just realized the smaller tin containers have one paper side to write on and the other to lay on the food. I learned this when I froze a meal with the paper side down and it stuck to my food!
· Don’t make a meal that is too complicated. The first couple won’t be bad, but by the 5th or 6th one you will be kicking yourself.
· You will have meals you make that are wonderful and others that are just ok. Every month you will learn something new.
· We use survey monkey at the end of the month for everyone to rate the meals. Everyone is respectful and only the lead member sees the results. She then posts the meals that made our All Star Favorite Meals (4 or 5 star meals that we want to see again).
· If you have 5 or less members, each member should make 2 different recipes each so that you leave with multiple meals. Once your group get larger (6+) everyone only makes 1 recipe.
· When you exchange, put the components into cheap plastic bags. This will prevent you from having random meal pieces floating around your freezer.
If you have any other questions about starting a freezer meal club, feel free to ask!!! Have fun and don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your meals!