Inspired by an article I read in Real Simple Magazine a few years ago, some friends and I started a once-a-month meal swap and it’s been going strong since. It’s a great way to get extra meals in your freezer and try out meals you wouldn’t normally cook. I love having meals in the freezer for crazy days when I don’t have time to cook.
How We Organize Ours
Each month we make four meals that feed 4+ people and get together and trade. You keep one of the meals that you made and take home three different meals. Originally we all just brought whatever we wanted but over time we came up with more of a rotation. We do a sign-up sheet in four month increments. Each month we bring an item from one of these categories: Vegetarian Main, Non-Vegetarian Main, Soup and Fresh Meal. The Fresh Meal typically is something that can be eaten within a few days such as a salad, wraps, basically anything that wouldn’t be good frozen.
We only commit to four months at a time to allow people to drop out if they need to or for us to pick different days to meet, etc. When we plan it out, we choose a date that we will meet each month. We’ve tended to meet the first Friday of each month. This allows us to start a new grocery budget on the 1st and do our budget-control Costco run typically before we need to cook all the meals.
Sometimes one or two of us will be too busy to attend the actual swap, if this is the case we just arrange for somebody else to drop off and pick up our meals. In the summer we often meet at a park and let the kids play while we talk about what we made and catch up.
- Find friends with similar taste in meals. It gets complicated when people are picky or have specific requests.
- Watch your budget and calculate the meals you want to make before you commit.
- Use easily disposable containers. We typically use ziplocks or foil containers from the dollar store.
- Allow a few hours for cooking & clean-up. Even though it’s the same meal, it takes a lot of prep and dishes.
- Talk through how people are feeling & what they are liking regularly. It helps give ideas for meals and deals with people’s frustrations early on.
- Have a plan for when & where the swap will take place.
- Be flexible. Some people are vocal about what they like and don’t like and others don’t care. I’ve found that it’s best when you are willing to be flexible for what is best for the group.
Tested & Approved Meal Swap Recipes
- White Chicken Chili
- Asian Noodle Salad
- Thai Wraps
- Pumpkin Enchiladas
- Chicken and Barley Pilaf
- Black Bean Soup
- Spinach Orzo Salad
- Spaghetti Pie
- Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Sandwich
- Greek Chicken Pitas
- Tomato Basil Soup
- Sweet Potato Packets
- Corn Chowder
- Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork
If you take part in a meal swap, please leave your tips and suggestions in the comments below! Also let us know if you have any questions about getting your own swap started.
Make sure to check out our Recipe Box with links to all the recipes we have posted over the years.