This method of group cooking is popular with many freezer meal groups. I have learned a lot about this method from the 30 Day Gourmet website and from my own experience as a participant in this type of meal group. To get started, make a list of a few friends who you think you might like cooking with. Next, invite them to a meeting by sending them the following letter:
I spoke with you recently about a meal group that I would like to start. We will meet at my home this Thursday, Jan 14th at 10 a.m. Please bring any recipes that your family enjoys that you think might freeze well. At a later date we will meet to assemble the meals. We will split the preparation and the cost equally. If you have any questions, please email me or call me. Hope to see you!
After sending out this email I would follow up in a few days with a reminder. Just before the meeting I would print out some of my favorite recipes from this site, cookbooks, etc. At the meeting we would:
- Discuss what foods freeze really well and which ones don’t. Crash course in freezer meal prep.
- Get a one month commitment from each participant.
- Decide upon a menu of 8 meals (so as not to overwhelm anyone) making sure that there is a good mix of chicken, beef, pork, and meatless dishes…. most groups prefer chicken… so 3 chicken, 2 beef, 1 pork and 2 meatless (many groups avoid fish all together) is a good start!
- One person will make the shopping list of ingredients and quantity of how much to buy (taking a recipe and multiplying each ingredient by the number of meals being made)
- If there are 6 committed ladies for this first month: 1 does the ingredient list, 2 do the shopping, and 3 do the prepping of the meats and vegetables.
- End the meeting with a set day two weeks in the future to have the 4-5 hour cooking spree. Decide whose home will be the cooking location and what each participant needs to bring. Tell ladies to bring their checkbooks to pay their share of the bill.
This method of meal assembly can give 2 ladies a break from shopping or prepping each month. This can be rotated. The ladies can be paired up and each month you rotate the pair that shops, preps, and gets a break.
Having a partner for shopping makes it easier verify ingredients and load and unload cart.
If you have a good group of ladies and a large enough kitchen the meal assembly day can be FUN!
You rotate jobs often which makes it less likely to get burned out.
It can sometimes be a challenge to find a morning when all group members are availabe to cook.
Some ladies really shop the sales and others shop name brands only. This will make a big difference in final price per meal. Decide ahead of time the average price per meal maximum.
As the organizer I would take the job of figuring out the quantities for shopping. I would be a tag along shopper as this could feel overwhelming for someone who isn’t accostumed to big grocery shopping trips. After returning from your shopping trips (a couple days before Meal Cooking Day) have the prep ladies come to your home and pick up the ingredients that they must get ready for that Saturday… ground turkey to brown, chicken breast to crockpot and shred, carrots to chop, onions and peppers to slice.
(photo above is group member Mariana chopping scallions for one of our dishes)
On that Saturday, have everyone bring the prepped food and extra pots and pans, mixers. I have found really good prices on foil pans at the dollar store (sometimes 3- 9×13 pans for $1.00). I buy the aluminum foil, saran wrap, and Ziploc bags at Costco. I highly recommend buying Ziploc freezer bags as they tend to leak MUCH LESS than the generic brands.
On cooking day make sure that ladies don’t bring along children that require much care. Nursing moms may have to bring their babes… but other children should be left home. Plan on potlucking snacks or lunch so that you don’t waste any extra time making lunch or going to pick up food for the hungry cooks.
Add up all the receipts, divide by the number of cooks and have everyone pay their share. Leftover ingredients can be left with the organizer for the next meal prep day.