I've been participating in a meal exchange group through our local homeschool group. Each Monday morning, five ladies meet together and exchange meals to provide dinner for their families for the week. We call our group "Meals and Moms" or "M&Ms", for short. You can start your own Meal Exchange Group.
Each lady chooses one meal (main dish and a side) and shops for the ingredients for each family as well as their own.
The meals are then prepped for each family and packaged in containers for transporting and storage until the meal will be cooked.
On the day of the exchange, you'll take four of the meals you prepped and exchange for four different meals prepped by the others. You receive ALL ingredients, pre-measured, and ready to be cooked in your own kitchen.
The benefits of the meal exchange are plentiful and can contribute to the education of your children.
With the meals lovingly chosen by moms who care, the meals are healthy, fresh and tasty. We've tried new recipes and some new foods we don't always eat. There are less prepackaged, processed foods in our meals and more wholesome, fresh ingredients. This is an opportunity to teach your kids about nutrition and the importance of eating your fruits and vegetables.
The meal exchange saves time in meal planning, shopping and preparing dinner each night. You only have to plan and shop for one meal, simplifying both the planning and shopping tasks. It's much easier to throw dinner together each night when all ingredients are prepped and measured ahead of time. Converting your recipes to serve five families is a perfect opportunity to work on fractions with your kids. You can have them do the figuring for you, but I'd double check their math to make sure you don't come up short on ingredients.
I've found that I've saved money by being able to buy in quantity and buy fewer ingredients. With the dinners handled for the week, we also eat out less. The five meals usually provide some leftovers for lunches or weekend meals.
Our group meets on Monday mornings for about an hour to exchange the meals. This gives the moms time to visit and the kids time to play together. With all the flack we get on socialization, here's another opportunity to "socialize."
Start your own Meal Exchange Group
It's easy to start your own group. Talk to your friends and find families that are interested. You don't have to start with five families, you can start with as little as two families at first, but four or five is ideal. We provide at least 4 servings in the meals. If your families are larger, you'll need to plan accordingly. It's best to keep similar size families so the amount of food is sufficient.
Some will have more leftovers than others.
You'll need to choose a day that works for everybody and someone's home or another place to meet. Discuss any food allergies and likes or dislikes.
The families will provide the food in containers and Ziploc bags. The containers will be passed back and forth each week. We bought containers from Ikea that were inexpensive and had many different sizes in the set.
That's pretty much it. You're good to go. Plan your first meal, shop for the ingredients for all the families and do the prep work. Then meet together at the designated time and place to exchange the meals, and voila, you have your meals for the week.
Meal Exchange Sample Meal #1
This meal was called Buffalo Joes with a zucchini salad for a side. Buffalo meat wasn't available, so ground beef was substituted.
The meal was easy to prepare. The ground beef was browned, then the spinach, carrots, beans and tomato mixture was added and cooked about 8 minutes. The buns were toasted in the toaster. The last step was assembling the Joes. See the picture of the finished "Beefalo Joes" on the next page.
Buffalo Joes Prepared
The Buffalo Joes were very easy to prepare and very healthy. I enjoyed every last bite. The zucchini was also good...light, crisp and a little tart. I guess these should be called Beefalo Joes.
Meal Exchange Sample Meal #2
This meal is Taco Pie and Cauliflower for a side. I made this Taco Pie for many years, but this version is a healthier recipe using a whole wheat pie crust and ground turkey. The refried beans didn't make it into the picture.
The ground turkey is browned, and seasoned. The pie is assembled by spreading beans, then ground beef, then salsa, then cheese and topping with black olives and green onions.
This meal is Bacon Wrapped Chicken with pasta and asparagus.
As you can see, the chicken wraps have already been prepped. We simply bake in the oven. The pasta is cooked and topped with a butter Parmesan sauce. The asparagus is steamed.
This meal is spaghetti and broccoli for a side.
This meal is prepared by browning the ground beef and onions and adding the spaghetti sauce. The pasta is cooked and drained and topped with the sauce. The broccoli is steamed.