I’ve been organizing a meal swap with several other ladies for a few months now. Originally, the idea started after Selah was born and I had a very difficult time making dinner each night. I found that it is best for me to do a big chunk of cooking during naptime or after the girls have gone to bed. The meal swap is such an amazing way to save time and money, and to get a lot of variety and fun out of dinner preparation.

The swap usually includes four or five families, and we each pick two recipes every month. We make those recipes for every family, and then meet once a month to trade food and stock our freezers up again! The wonderful thing is that you only have to buy all the ingredients and think about two recipes. You make a ton of those two things, and then when you come away from the swap, you have an incredible variety of food.

When I started this group, I didn’t know anything about meal swaps and the various issues that could come up. One of the ladies had participated in another meal exchange, and used the book Cooking Among Friends, which is designed specifically for a group like this. That books gives some great ideas, and includes numerous recipes for meals that are meant to be multiplied and frozen. We don’t follow the exact instructions in this book, but often we use their recipes as guidelines.

We have learned so much about the organizational methods and “rules” that need to be made in order to keep this group working well. This is what we do:

  • Use disposable containers, such as aluminum tin pans and gallon ziplock bags (I do try to wash and re-use my tin pans, whenever possible)
  • Make a main dish that will provide about 4 servings of food
  • Write or print out a label with instructions for the food, and tape it to the container (instead of writing on the foil or plastic with a marker) – I just now figured this one out
  • Provide a main dish entree (such as lasagna, enchiladas, etc.) If the recipe is a sauce, stir-fry, or other dish that should be served over rice or pasta, provide that dry ingredient in a bag. (This is something we just now figured out. It really helps to keep everything consistent.)
  • Schedule the meal swap date at approximately the same time each month (for us, the last Thursday) Require that families commit to several months of swapping, and determine if anyone is not going to participate 3-4 weeks before the meals are due.
  • We take turns, so that one woman each month makes 2 beef dishes. All of the other meals can be chicken, pork, or vegetarian.

I know that meal swaps cannot work for everyone. We are very fortunate to have a group of amazing cooks who are not at all picky about eating other peoples’ food. Our husbands and children are also very flexible and are willing to eat different food. We do share feedback about specific ingredients, recipes, amount of servings, and spiciness of foods. If you can find several other women who are interested in this, it is amazing fun! Sometimes, we even get together and help each other cook.

Here is a look at our March menu:

  • Chicken and Rice Curry
  • Chicken Cacciatore Sauce (with a package of spaghetti)
  • Moroccan Beef (with a bag of brown rice)
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Red Beans and Rice
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Pork Tamales
  • Chicken and Spinach Frittata
  • Tater Tot Casserole
  • Chicken Tortellini Casserole

And…here are pictures from our swap today! We met at my house, let the kids run around, and talked about food. Then, we piled meals onto my table and divided them up into our ice chests. Now, we all have nice, full freezers! (By the way, a small chest freezer in the garage is very important!)

That’s Selah sitting there, in the middle of the ice chests!

So, that’s our meal swap! Does anyone out there do anything like this? If so, please share tips, ideas, and recipes!