Monday, September 22, 2008

Our First Attempt

This will be our first attempt to try a Freezer Meal Swap with friends. We will meet together monthly and decide which recipes each are making and what we liked and didn't like from the previous month, etc.

Here's some benefits of Co-op Cooking:

1. Bulk cooking saves you money. Co-op cooking allows even further savings!
2. You will eat out less because you have food in your freezer. (Again saving money)
3. Your food is healthier and better for you. You know what is in each dish.
4. Save you time and energy trying to figure out what is for dinner and if you have everything you need to make it.

--As many meals as possible should be frozen in freezer bags as opposed to foil pans in order to save space.
--If a meal (like lasagna) must be in a pan, it can be frozen in a greased pan until solid and then turned out into a bag. In this case, though, it is important to use standard sized pans, so the receiver of the meal can thaw it and serve it in a proper sized pan.
--You must write the name of a participant on each bag. This will save many headaches on swap day, when we are trying to figure out who is missing a meal.
--Try and be frugal when shopping. One of the reasons we all want to do this is to save money!
--Prepare your freezer now, make sure you have room to put the meals. If not, then make room, or "rent" space from a friend or neighbor. :-)
--Check out the sales ads to find the deals.

Shopping Day Tips:

-Write out a shopping list! Do not try and do the math at the store!
-Don't forget to add freezer bags (or foil pans) to your shopping list. Make sure you get freezer bags and not storage bags.
-Take your cell phone when you go shopping. Call Tina if you have any questions while shopping.
-If you buy personal groceries at the same time, please ring them up separately.
-It is easier to shop one day and cook the next.

Cooking Phase:

-Clean off all counters
-Spend the day/evening of your shopping day also prepping your ingredients. (Clean, chop, dice, etc) Do anything you can the night before to help you save time.
-Borrow big pots, food processor, extra muffin pans, crockpots, etc. if you need them to make your work easier.
-Sanitize your working area and use safe handling procedures for all raw meats.
-Start early.It's much better emotionally to be halfway done by noon than to be up till midnight cooking!
-Work with all of one ingredient at a time. For example, chop all the onions at once and do all chicken dishes together.
-Choose the best preparation method. If you have 10 of a recipe to cook, put 10 bags out and put each ingredient in each bag, like an assembly line (this saves lots of time and energy).
-Write each person's name and the MONTH on one bag. Use a Sharpie to write on it so it doesn't come off.
-Write recipe name at top of bag and cooking instructions on front. (This way our kids and husbands can cook if they have to).
-Cool food before putting it in the bag.
-Remove all air before sealing bag.
-Freeze all food before bringing on Swap Day.
-Bring a cooler or clothes basket to Swap Day to exchange food.