Tips for Setting up a Freezer Meal Exchange Group

Have you ever heard of a Freezer Meal Exchange Group? I had heard of them before, and once swapped a few meals with a friend, but until last month, I had never been part of one.

A freezer meal exchange group is exactly what it sounds like! A group of people agree to make a pre-determined number of freezer meals, and then the group gets together to swap the meals. The idea is that making a bunch of the same dish at the same time can save both money and time!

I’ve been part of a Freezer Meal Exchange for two months now. Last month, I made 10 dishes of Lemon Chicken Farfalle with Broccoli. In exchange for my dish, I got Black Bean Lasagna, Baked Spaghetti, Balsamic Chicken, Chicken Lasagna, Meat Balls, Chicken Divine and a few other meals I can’t remember… 😉 It took me about four hours to make all 10 pasta dishes last month. And we ate it for supper that night too.

This month, I made 10 dishes of Chicken Oreganato and today in exchange for my chicken, I brought home a meal of Sloppy Joes, two meals of Breakfast Burritos (one with homemade sausage!), Chicken Fajitas, Spasagna, Homemade Chicken Pot Pie, Mac & Cheese with Ham, and Teriyaki Chicken for the Crockpot. It took me only 2 hours to make the chicken for this month’s exchange because I didn’t have to cook anything! And my cost was minimal for both dishes because I made use of my extensive pantry and garden produce.

If you’d like to start your own Freezer Meal Exchange Group, here are some tips to get you thinking!

1. Find interested people! I found my group on Facebook. I’m part of a local Crunchy Moms Group and jumped at the chance when someone posted about it three months ago. Other places you might look: MOPS, a church group, La Leche League, co-workers, or any other organization you might belong to.

tips for freezer meal exchange groups

2. If you gather a group outside of Facebook, I highly recommend starting a FB group with all potential members. It’s a very easy way to share potential recipes, talk about food allergies, share good deals, ask questions, and coordinate a meeting spot.

3. Once you have a group, set a date and a swap interval. Our first swap happened about 3-4 weeks from initial contact. That was time to find recipes, share recipes, cook, and meet up. So far, we have swapped meals two times. We’ve had about the same number of participants each time, but not all of the same people. It’s great to be flexible. A couple of the moms from the first swap had babies and weren’t interested in cooking a huge amount of meals and the timing isn’t always convenient for everyone involved.

4. Discuss ingredients. Make sure you find a like-minded group of people. One downfall to a freezer meal group is you lose some control over ingredients. You’ll want to consider trade-offs and make sure you’ll get food you’ll eat. Can there be meatless meals? What about canned cream of soups? Local meat? Hashing out the details ahead of time can save frustration later on.

freezer meals

5. Carefully choose your recipe! Consider ingredients you already have on hand and any produce that may be growing in your garden. Think about how much time it’s going to take to make the recipe and how much all of the ingredients are going to cost. It might be a good idea to buy in bulk to save money on ingredients so think about what you can get in bulk. You might want to discuss cost with your group to make sure meals cost a similar amount of money. Or, you might not care about that!

6. Make room in your freezer! Space is important if you’re storing a bunch of pre-made meals. You’ll want to make sure there’s room for all of the meals you make, knowing they will be replaced with everyone else’s meals.

7. Carve out a block of time to make the recipe and get cooking! Although it does save time to cook 10 identical meals at the same time, it still takes longer than you might think. So make sure you have plenty of time to get your meals made before the swap.

8. Meet up and exchange! If you don’t know the group that well, it might be helpful to have phone numbers in case someone is delayed or gets lost. We had that happen today and one person missed out because we didn’t know how to get a hold of her.

It’s also beneficial to have some order to the exchange so that everyone gets what they’re supposed to have. It can be quite the chaos with 10 moms and kids running around trading meals! Two of my meals accidentally went home with the same person today and I couldn’t quite figure out where my last meal went until after the fact. I swore I could count to 10 and that I made and brought 10 meals. But until I got home and posted on FB, I wasn’t sure what happened to that last meal. So it’s a good idea to double check everything too, before driving off.

9. Enjoy meals you didn’t have to cook when you’re busy and need a quick meal! These meals have saved my family from take-out pizza a few times now. I really enjoy the freezer meal exchange and am convinced we’re eating better and saving money in the long run. Plus, my kids get exposure to new foods.

Pros to Freezer Meal Exchange Groups

  • Save money buying ingredients in bulk
  • Save time cooking a huge portion of the same meal
  • Try meals you might not otherwise try
  • Make new friends

Cons to Freezer Meal Exchange Groups

  • Less control over ingredients
  • Might not like the meal {but that’s the case anytime you try a new recipe}
  • There’s a significant amount of waste involved in all of the foil pans that I just don’t like. I’d love to figure out a way to reduce the waste!

Need recipe ideas? Here are some of my favs ~

 What do you think? Have you ever participated in a Freezer Meal Exchange? Do you have any tips I left off? I’d love to hear!!

Linking up: Frugal Tuesday; Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways; Frugal Friday; Monday Barn Hop;

Comments

  1. Glass pyrex pans with lids! If you swap meals with the same group every time, you could use those and then have them return them the next time…but that would cost a lot at once! :/ If you plan to keep doing it for a long time, you could buy one or two at a time until you have enough. Or even pans you already have on hand(or cheap ones from the thrift store) with foil on top. That would be *less* wasteful..

    • That’s a great idea! So far, I’ve bagged all of my meals in ziplocs, but that’s just not practical for all dishes. I’ll have to be on the lookout!

  2. Hey! My freezer looks like your freezer! LOL, I love the group, I’ve eaten 1 set of breakfast burritos & the Mac & Cheese with ham, both were delish!

    • We’ve had 3 meals so far – burritos, farfalle noodles, and sloppy joes. All have been great! Yours is thawing for my crockpot tomorrow… 😉 Gotta love it!!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! I have formed a freezer cooking group where we get together and prepare our meals but it’s really hard to coordinate with everyone’s schedules. I’m going to bring this up to them and see what they think, I think it could work so much better for our busy lives!

  4. What a fabulous idea! I love the tip about creating a Facebook group too!

    I’m adding a link to this post on my meal planning roundup post this Thursday on Frugal Local Kitchen (http://frugallocalkitchen.com/blog/) You’re welcome to link up other posts, too. I’ll be sharing the posted links via FB and Twitter. I did snacks last Thursday, and the last Thursday of the month I will be sharing lunch box ideas and recipes.

  5. What a GREAT idea! I have never heard of this. I think I’ll tell my mom and S-I-Ls. We are all pretty near each other, so this may work, just keeping it in the family!

  6. In regards to the waste, I have a foodsaver that can vacuum seal each meal and it’s less bulky, lasts longer in the freezer and is much less waste.

  7. I’m trying to get a group going. Does your group allow repeat meals? How do you all handle feedback regarding the meals? For example, my family did not prefer that.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Amanda! Yes, I think repeat meals are fine as long as they were well received. Feedback was hard for our group and might be something you might want to discuss ahead of time with your group. Our had problems that we tried to fix by making specific criteria – for example, each meal has to have at least one full pound of meat and it must be frozen ahead of time. Believe it or not, people showed up to this group with recipe ingredients in a grocery bag and handed that out! Of course, that defeats the entire purpose. So, I really recommend setting specific meal criteria for your own group!

      • Thanks for the response! I invited two friends so that we could start small and trouble shoot before inviting others. I agree, it will be important to set guidelines. A grocery bag of ingredients, yikes!

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