Freezer Meal Exchange

When NavyGuy leaves work each day, he texts me two things:

“Omw” (meaning, on my way) and “What’s the plan for dinner?”

Sometimes I have a nice plan – a healthy protein, vegetables, maybe even dessert.  Sometimes the plan is for NavyGuy to go pick-up whatever take-out we order.  After a gathering earlier in the week, now I have a better answer.

My friend Daryl invited me to join she and a few other ladies in a freezer meal exchange.  The rules were:
– make 8 versions of a complete meal that can be frozen, which includes one for yourself
– try to use healthy ingredients, whole grains, vegetables, etc.
– include a recipe card, with cooking instructions for the meal (from frozen)
– share what you’re bringing with the Facebook group ahead of time to avoid duplicates

Everyone got together Monday night to exchange meals.  I made Sara’s Cafe Latte Chicken Salsa Chili, so I provided a ziplock bag of frozen chili (with instructions to defrost and cook in the crockpot), as well as a bag of tortilla chips to go along with the meal.  All told, I probably spent $60-70 on the ingredients, but I ended up with 8 dinners, so it worked out to around $8 for each meal – totally economical, especially considering that most of the meals should feed NavyGuy and I for two nights.  Aside from my chili, I came home with Thai peanut chicken (with rice); a chard tart; chicken pot pie; stuffed peppers; roasted vegetable enchiladas; lasagna; chicken divan.  I love that many of the entrees are things that I don’t usually make – it’s nice to have some variety after a while, when we start to get sick of the same old options.

Cooking and assembling 8 full batches of your own meal is not a small feat.  To make all the chili took about three hours of my time, and required most of the bowls in my kitchen.  However, I kept reminding myself that I was working for one three hour period, and that was replacing the planning, shopping, cooking, and (mostly) cleaning for seven more dinners!

I’m crossing my fingers that each meal actually tastes good.  So far, we’ve had the stuffed peppers, which provided two nights of deliciousness.  And here I always thought I hated red peppers!  Now the only trick is thinking ahead and taking a meal out of the freezer ahead of time!

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