Someone local had the brilliant idea to do a once a month cooking group. (See OAMC blog.) This is how we do it: the leader sets a date, everyone RSVPs, and then we cook enough of the same meal (just times it by the number of participants) for each family plus one for ourselves. We've agreed to make meals that serve 4 persons (1 lb. meat) times the number of participants. On trading night we bring the frozen meals, labeled with the name and cooking directions on it, perhaps copies of the recipe to hand out, our ice chests, and trade with everyone. Sometimes we'll play games too. If there are buns, pasta, rice, tortillas, red sauce, a cup of sour cream, etc., to go with the meal, we provide these, too, and trade them as a duo with our meal. Here's a picture of my freezer containing 17 meals, ice cream, butter, and meat. Once a month cooking is the latest fad in the cooking world, but is not a new idea. You can read all about it if you want to look it up.
The frozen meals can be packaged into zip lock freezer bags, sucked of all the air with a straw, and laid fat in freezer for freezing. With this method a considerable number of frozen meals can fit into a small freezer. Another method is to get aluminum pans, sold at our local grocery for about 60 cents each, and then tightly seal the top with plastic wrap and/or aluminum foil. For meals without sauces, where there could be air trapped such as meatballs, a vaccuum pack sealer can be used.
Not just anything can be frozen. There's a list of ingredients that do not freeze well. Its also important that no air is in the meal either, or it will get freezer burn. Disposable aluminum pans, commonly used for freezer meals or potlucks, may corrode in contact with acidic foods such as tomato sauces. So, use sparingly or for short durations with acidic foods.
We haven't exactly always followed the rules, but here's what we've exchanged lately:
Burritos and spanish rice
Beef pot pie
Chicken chow mein
Chicken pot pie
Chicken rice cream soup
Chicken Saté Sauté
Chili verde with homemade tortillas, cornbread mix
Garlic Chicken farfalle
Pulled pork sandwiches
Red turkey chili
Sweet and sour meatballs
White turkey chili
Anyone could start a group like this, or if you're local, you could join ours. I don't know why people aren't flocking to participate. I hear some say they don't want to cook that much, but its just making a big batch of one dinner. I do admit it takes me about 6-7 hours to do it, but when you consider I don't have to make dinner 7+ other nights, it saves a lot of brain work on meals and leaves me free to do other things, which I like. We just pray everyone else brings us something good! Its also possible to just double, triple, etc., your own meals at home and do once a month cooking independently.
We've all had those nights where we just haven't come up with a meal yet. The freezer meals are like gold to me, and I know others share the same sentiment, "when its my husband's turn to cook, he's not allowed to use the freezer meals. Only I can use them," says one friend.
My sister participates in another cooking solution in Provo, UT. She has a group of two other friends, and they each have one night a week that they cook for the entire group. Its the other two girls' responsibility to pick up their meal on the night someone is cooking, or it can be arranged to be dropped off. I'll ask her how its going, or went.