I've been down with the idea of freezer meals for a while now. The ease of having a prepped meal all ready to go in your ice box is super appealing, especially to a busy mom. Over the years, I've slowly learned what does freeze well and what does not freeze well (hello, dairy). I'm still learning, though, and constantly fascinated by just how many things you can pop into the freezer for later consumption (hello, muffins?!). I'm like, "Why have I never thought of this before?"
Recently, I've ventured onto blogs (via Pinterest) of people who do once-a-month cooking (OMAC). The idea is you spend a day prepping all the meals (well, dinners) you plan on eating for a month, then freeze them until you are ready to use them. The most effort you'd have to exude would be removing the meal from the freezer to thaw.
HOW GENIUS IS THIS?!
I'm not terribly organized, but I've been warming to the idea more and more. I know I'd need to get my act together to pick recipes, shop for the ingredients and then actually forfeit an entire day to prepping. But one day for an entire month of ease?
Yeah. That's worth it.
A few weeks ago, my lovely friend Kate approached me about the idea of starting a Freezer Meal Club. The idea would be a smaller version of OAMC, where a handful of friends would prep several of the same meal, then swap so every one in the group would come away with one of each. So while it may not be a month of meals, it would be at least a meal a week (possibly two with leftovers). I felt like this was a great way to dip my toe into the OAMC arena to see if it's something I could take on in the future. Plus, who says no to a chance to have a girls night with friends?
Not this chica.
Soon, Kate and I got to work ironing out the details. Lots of groups share various ideas on how to start a Freezer Meal Club. We really liked the community aspect, though, of actually getting together to do the prep work. So we kind of had to make the rules up ourselves and see how it would pan out. We've been happy with the results so far, and we have the next few months mapped out.
When I posted pictures from our first meet-up, many of you asked how to start your own Monthly Freezer Meal Club. So I am laying out the steps below, so you can know the fun and freedom of having prepped meals in your freezer!
Note: Everyone does Meal Clubs differently. Some prep meals alone then just meet quickly to swap. Others meet less frequently than once-a-month. The beauty of Freezer Meal Clubs is the versatility, flexibility and customizability. Yes. I think I made that word up.
Assemble Your GroupThe most important aspect of Meal Club is that you need people. Duh. After talking it over, we felt that a group of 4-6 people would be best. Remember, each person has to prep the same amount of meals as there are group members. Anything over 6 meals to prep ends up being timely and costly (since you are buying all the ingredients). 4-6 is doable. If you have a large group you'd like to create one with, consider breaking the group into 2 or 3 sub groups. You can still all meet up together at the same time and place, but keep the prepping groups small and manageable.
There are so many opportunities for community. So if you're not sure where to reach out for group members, consider: Mom groups, bible studies, preschool/school parents, running club. Anything you are a part of. If you don't know the people well, that's okay. That's the whole point of meet ups!
Set the GuidelinesNot that you want to be all Bossy Pants, but guidelines are important. Commitment is key. It's crucial to make sure the people who are going to be involved can commit to meeting once a month (or, in the case of not being able to come, can commit to prepping their allotted meals before the meet up), or else Meal Club kind of falls apart.
So having the guidelines set in advance takes any possibly confusion out of the picture. Our group has only 2 guidelines: 1) Committing to meeting each month AND 2) If you cannot meet, you commit to prepping your meals in advance of the meet up date, and getting the prepped meals to the host ahead of time.
Other groups may consider guidelines on what needs to be prepped before the meeting, dietary restrictions, etc.
Set Up a Means of CommunicationTo make it easy to communicate and plan, we set up a blog: Freezer Meal Club. Nothing fancy. Just a place for us to post the recipes we will be making each month so people can choose which recipe they will prep.
We decided that I would curate recipes in advance, so everyone wasn't searching for one in a panic the day of. I choose 4-6 meals each month, and then group members comment on which meal they'll be bringing the ingredients for. They can also note if they are unable to attend the meeting, and make arrangements with that month's host to get their prepped meals to in advance.
Other good means of communication: private facebook group, email, email newsletter, google doc, google+ hang out.
Find the RecipesThis is my favorite part. Pinterest is a wealth of content, so I usually start there. I have a growing Freezer Club Recipes Pinterest board chock-full of blogs and websites that share good recipes (or, at least, recipes that seem worth trying). When I scour the internet, I make sure to pin any worthwhile recipes/websites I find on the Pinterest board for future reference. I keep a running list on a google doc of recipes that we've used and recipes we plan on trying, about 15-20 at a time (although the Pinterest board has way more).
In future months, as we have a chance to try recipes, group members will send in their feedback and we'll "rate" them on the blog's Past Recipes tab.
Meet UpThis can look many different ways, depending on the familiarity of the group you are working with and time constraints. Currently, our group is very friendly (we've known each other for a while), so we are using our monthly meet-up as a sort of GNO. The host provides some snacks and beverages (read: WINE) so we can nosh as we chat and prep.
Some groups may have the time to eat dinner together first or enjoy dessert after prepping. Others may have less time, and may just meet to swap at the park. Do whatever works for you!
Also, our group has set a monthly meet-up day. We found it helped people understand the commitment and made it easier to plan. So your group may decide to meet the 3rd Sunday of every month or the 1st Tuesday. See what days and times work best.
To give you an idea of what a night might look like, here are pictures from our last Meet Up:
|Friends, Wine, Snacks and Freezer Meals: A Love Story.|
|All the ingredients, 4x.|
|I prepped 4 Pepper Steak recipe meals. |
It's one of my favorites, and I found london broil on sale BOGO.
|The 4 glorious meals I got to take home to my freezer. |
It's pretty simple, and a LOT of fun! Our current group has 4 members (although we hope to add a 5th or 6th - so if you're interested and local let me know!). It's so wonderful knowing that right now at this very moment there are 4 lovely meals in my freezer waiting to be enjoyed during a busy week. I can't wait to add more!
Do you belong to a Monthly Freezer Meal Club?
How does it work for you?
If you don't belong to a Club, do you plan to try to create one?
I'd love your feedback, so don't be shy - leave a comment!