One Katyite mom has found a way to relieve dinner stress

I believe in the power of family meals every night.   I do not particularly care for processed foods, nor do I always have the time to make something fresh and fabulous each night.

So, if I am generally opposed to easy-to-prepare processed foods but I don’t have time to cook healthful meals, what do I do? 

I meal swap.

Meal swapping is an idea that a few friends and I came up with to better answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”  Each month, I prepare 2 home cooked meals to share.  I triple the recipe and feed one portion to my family that night.  The other two portions I package up in freezer safe containers, label the top of the container with the name of the meal and the last minute preparation instructions, and put it in my freezer. 

Once a month, my two girlfriends and I meet up with our ice chests and kids in tow and swap our meals.  They’ve each come with 2 portions of two separate meals, and we dole them out: each of us gives away our four meals and each of us receives four new meals.  It is a very good return for my time investment: I cook huge portions twice and in return I get 4 meals that are almost completely ready for me to serve. 

Most often, the meals need to be defrosted and baked, neither of which takes much effort.  And a major plus to this way of cooking is that I don’t have to come up with a creative menu item four times each month.  My girlfriends have already done that for me!

A few helpful hints if this seems like something you’d be interested in doing:

*Try to recruit people with roughly the same family size as you.  It would be unbalanced for a family of 2 to be cooking for a family of 6.

*I’ve found that 3 people in the group is ideal.  It can be done with fewer, but tripling a recipe takes a lot of work and cooking more than that may make the hard work in the kitchen too much to handle.

*If you’re unable to find a group to meal swap with, consider doing this on your own.  Double or triple your family’s favorite recipes and freeze them for your own use throughout the month.

*Some recipes freeze better than others.  Avoid using recipes with heavy cream or other ingredients that may curdle when reheated.

*It’s best not to triple a new recipe until you know how it will end up.  I always do a trial run of a new recipe on my family the month before I triple it to make sure it turns out.

*Experience is your best ally.  It took me a while to figure out which recipes were cost-effective, easily frozen and reheated, and worth the effort of tripling them.  Play with your favorite recipes and soon you’ll have a set of delicious, healthy meals at your disposal.

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