Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Monster Freezer Meal Swap

If you've been following this Blog for anytime now, or you know me personally, you will know that I'm kind of obsessed with Freezer Meals and anything having to do with making life more efficient.

I started a local Freezer Meals Swap group earlier in 2014, and after about 5 swaps decided there had to be a way to make it more better overall for those involved.  After a bit of brainstorming, it was decided to do a group swap with everyone in the same place at the same time and contributing the same efforts and dollar amount towards the meals.

I posted on the group that the first 6 people to send me $100 will be guaranteed their slot in the upcoming swap. A few friends offered to help with the shopping and the hamster wheel started turning.

I made the first list of the meals I wanted us to prepare and the amount of people that would be involved.  I decided that I would change the contribution amount to $150 so that we could make more meals with the budget.  Everyone agreed and so with 9 Families committed @ $150 each, I had a $1350.00 budget to work with.

I created an excel spreadsheet with each meal, ingredients and cost all listed out (yes, I love excel.... I'm a nerd).  Back and forth over 2 months time tweaking how everything would be prepared *down to the size baggie we would put each part into* and even a series of changing some of the meals completely to maximize the budget and time to prep involved.

Lots and lots and lots of planning!  The hardest part was the planning for exact portions to make sure each meal would always feed 6 and that our efforts were maximized during the 'BIG DAY.'

In Advance:

  • Plan your menu & ingredients down to the seasonings. (I ran out of PEPPER!)
  • Know your exact budget, and try to leave around $100 left over for 'incidentals'
  • Retrieve monetary contributions from every swap attendee *before* you plan to shop.
  • Nail down a time (make that a whole day) that works for everyone.
  • Have no more than 2 people shop for ingredients.  Find your most price saavy person and ask if they will be a shopper.  If you are the main planner, you should be the other shopper. Weeks in advance, start watching sales.
  • *If* your menu and ingredients are set in stone, shop for dry/canned items as early as possible..especially if you find them on sale! Keep swap receipts completely separate from other purchases.
  • Block at least 30 mins- 1 hour of time for every meal preparing- The more people you have helping prep, the faster this can go.
  • Plan an activity for your husband and children to do for the entire day.  The last thing you need is kids and men getting in the way of your creative freezer meal prepping genius.
The Day Before the BIG DAY:

(Just my garage fridge)..... you need lots of storage
  • Frozen items and fresh products should be purchased the day before the swap.  
  • Borrow as many crockpots (the day before) as you can possibly find.  I personally own 2 large Crocks but borrowing from the other swappers and cooking everything at my house was easiest. At one point in time, I had 6 large crockpots cooking 35 pounds of Pork, and another round, I had all 6 cooking 40 pounds of chicken..
  • The night before the swap (not day), cook all the meat.  Crock what you can (that's mostly everything) and assess what you can cook and store to be ready for assembly the next day.  One thing you don't want to do is have an entire person dedicated to cooking meat all day long.  Let the crockpot do it for you.  Also keep in mind what is frozen solid and can't be crock-potted.  For example.  We had 75 pounds of Ground Turkey that was FROZEN SOLID.  It had to be left out over night and cooked throughout the prep day.....THIS was lesson #1 :)
  • Ask the swappers to bring their BIG coolers to your house to store everything.  They will also likely use those coolers to bring home their meals.
  • If there is anything that can easily be prepped the night before- Do it.  We sliced ham, diced green peppers, and assembled the Broccoli Cheese Soup and the Potato Soup on Friday night.
It started out pretty clean........
  • Start early
  • Have a organized plan (I didn't)
  • Start with anything that needs 'prepped' before assembly and work forward.
  • Deal with the meat that was cooked overnight as soon as possible.
This was our schedule:

The sheer amount of groceries was UNREAL.
6am- As soon as I got up, I immediately pulled the Pork out of the crockpots, trimmed the fat and shredded it.  The BBQ Sauce was mixed in.  Then, I washed all the crocks and put the chicken in them (we figured we would deal with the 2 chicken meals later after the chicken was cooked).
7am- I picked up Moe so we could go pick up Bountiful Baskets and do the last minute shopping at Winco (Remember that $100 reserves in the budget?  That was a VERY good thing.)
Amanda and I getting things started.
9am- Met Mollie at the house and started cooking the ground turkey & rice.
Angela slicing Onions.
This will be the biggest Cinnamon Roll on Earth ;)
Group effort rolling this baby up!
10am- Angela arrives and starts slicing onions & peppers.  Moe works on slicing Carne Asada.
Mariah portioning BBQ Pulled Pork.  Mo cutting Carne Asada.

11:30am- Jamie, Mariah, & Amanda arrive. At this point SHIZ gets REAL.
Mariah mixing up casserole in what else but a 5 gallon bucket :)
12pm-11pm- Pure mind boggling chaos, fun, and extreme challenge.
Me & Moe rolling out some dough :)
Angela stuffing pizza bread.
Stuffing Jalapeno Bread.

Jamie labeling bags.
*Note- Make sure you have a 'Rain Man' in your group, cause when you are trying to divide 80 gallons by 45 times and put that into even cups and teaspoons....... things get crazy :)

11:15pm- We wrapped up the evening, took some pictures and patted ourselves on the back :)

Each of the 9 of us took home the following:
  • (2) Hawaiian Chicken
  • (2) Chicken Broccoli Quinoa Casserole
  • (2) Chicken Spinach Burrito Mix
  • (1) Philly Steak Sandwiches
  • (1) Beef Fajitas
  • (1) Bag with 15 single portions of BBQ Pulled Pork
  • (1) Bag with 13 single portions of Sloppy Joes
  • (1) Sweet & Sour Meatballs
  • (1) Plain Meatballs
  • (2) Potato Soup Base
  • (5) Marinara Sauce with Meat
  • (3) Broccoli Cheese Veggie Soup
  • (1) Tray of 22 individually wrapped mini Ham & Cheese Croissant Sandwiches
  • (4) Pre-Cooked/Pre-Seasoned Taco Meat
  • (2) Trays Brown Sugar Giant Cinnamon Rolls
  • (2) Pepperoni Pizza Garbage Bread
  • (1) Jalapeno Popper Garbage Bread
324 Meals of 6 servings or more each. Plus there was leftover shredded cheese, precooked chicken, and sliced ham that was evenly distributed between everyone.

Average cost of $3.74 per meal.

The total amount of food made was 2016 portions at an average cost of .60c each.

This was a MASSIVE undertaking.  I highly suggest doing something like this no more than once every couple months.  The process going forward for myself is to get together with just a few other people and do a mini swap/prep every weekend or every other weekend.  That way there is constant replenishment of the choices in the freezer.  Even though we literally just finished up this swap, we are already planning a mini prep for this coming weekend of 4 types of meals with just 4 people.  

To purchase the 'Plan' from this swap to include the shopping list and recipes, please e-mail me at kristinalupo@hotmail.com and in the subject line write: "Freezer Prep Plan."

I hope to hear your stories, lessons learned, and ideas from successful Freezer Meal Swap parties! 
Till next time,
∞ Kristina
Our 11:30 PM Photoshoot!

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