I like to cook. I really do. But sometimes, with a kiddo in school and soccer and one that’s not really good at communicating outside of screaming, it’s rough to get dinner on the table.
I’m lucky, because here at Chez Cupcake, we have 4 adults. Chef, me, Mille and Fille (my future in-laws). So Chef and I are responsible for feeding our brood breakfast and lunch, and then we only cook dinner for all 6 of us 4 nights a week.
I’m also lucky to have a pretty rad set of local mom friends who like to cook.
So I started a meal swap. We meet once a month, bring 6 meals (each needs to be able to feed at least 2 adults and 2 kids as a main course) and usually one extra meal for our “Family of the Month” (who has been picked by the momma hosting, and is usually one of our mom friends going through a rough time).
I talked about this on Twitter a few months ago and got a bunch of “YOU BETTER BLOG ABOUT THIS” responses, so here’s how we work our meal swaps:
1. We have about 20 moms in our group, but not all 20 attend every time. (see below for how we handle when more than 7 people attend) We use Facebook as our “group board” because we are all on there and it’s an easy format. Just make sure you aren’t using a fan page, then everyone and their mom can see it.
2. We meet once a month, at a different house every time. The host mom picks the date, the time and the “Family of the Month”. (The family of the month is usually one of our mom friends who’s going through a rough time and could use some extra meals. Donating is totally optional, but awesome for the recipient.)
3. Everyone makes the same dish 6 times (i.e. last month I made 6 trays of my FAMOUS homemade mac & cheese), plus the optional dish for the Family of the Month. Each of the six portions should be able to feed 2 adults and 2 kids as a main course. 6 is a totally doable number. We STARTED with 8, and that got a little overwhelming. We set it to feed 2 adults and 2 kids because some people have a bigger family (and can supplement with side dishes) and some people have a smaller family (and can have leftovers). You include reheating directions with your dishes, since they are ALL frozen.
4. We use aluminum pans or plastic bags (the ziploc kind) or something that doesn’t have to be returned to the creator of the dish. This way, things can be reused or recycled appropriately.
5. We hang out at the host mom’s house for about an hour, and then swap. There are always some stragglers that hang out later than that, but it’s USUALLY an hour.
6. After the swap, there’s a document posted on our facebook group where moms can post recipes and reheating instructions (in case the original directions got lost)…so if your family REALLY liked something, you can figure out how to remake it for them.
Oh, if you have more people than you have meals to swap (i.e. you swap 6 meals like us, and more than 7 people show up), here’s how we roll:
Say 12 people show up. You group the meals together by who brought them and number them, (Sally’s meals would all be #1, Autumn’s meals #2, etc etc) then start writing out slips. The first slip would have “1 2 3 4 5 6″ on it. The second “2 3 4 5 6 7″. The third “3 4 5 6 7 8″….keep going until you have “8 9 10 11 12″, then “9 10 11 12 1 2″, “10 11 12 1 2 3″….the last slip should say “12 1 2 3 4 5″.
Then everybody draws a slip….then you can bargain and swap with others after that if there’s a meal you don’t like or something you can’t eat.
Or you could write each number on six slips of paper and put them all in a hat and have everybody draw six, but then you end up with the opportunity to get the same meal twice.
Meal swaps are a great way to stock up your freezer and get to know some other moms and try some new foods! (Also, a pretty sweet fall-back when you don’t have time to make something yourself, and you don’t want to eat fast food