Food exchange group saves time, money

February 14, 2011 4:19:59 PM PST
What's for dinner tonight? If that question has you scrambling for an idea, you might want to consider a "freezer meal exchange group."

It is basically meal sharing with your friends and neighbors. It can save you not only a lot of time, but also a lot of money.

A group of moms from Sugar Land brought their coolers with loads of food -- each mom has cooked one big meal -- enough to share with several moms.

All the meals are individually prepackaged, one per family in containers, zip-loc bags and cooking directions attached. They are ready to pop into the freezer.

The concept is simple, says Brenda Thompson. She set up a freezer exchange group with her friends and also blogs on her website called

"The benefit to doing this is that you can shop on sales and you can shop at wholesale clubs and save a lot of money that way," Thompson said.

Each entree feeds four people, and depending on the recipe, costs $5 to $10 per family meal.

"You look at your monthly spending for groceries, it helps," one participating mom said.

So how can you set up your own group?

Thompson says the maximum people per group should be no more than eight.

"Just gets to be a lot of cooking and a lot of food and a lot of math," she said.

The minimum? Two people.

"Of course you can decide if you want just want two meals with a smaller group," Thompson said.

Then you meet once a month to exchange your meals. All the cooking is done individually so the actual exchange just takes a few minutes. It's why new mom Stacy Moss didn't want to miss it.

"This month I was going to sit out, I have a three-week-old infant but with the meals having them available and I just didn't want to miss out. So we had an afternoon of cooking. Daddy helped out and we just made it happened," she said.

Some things to keep in mind: the group says you will want to take into consideration allergy concerns, dietary restrictions and of course taste in food.

"You know kind of try to figure out if there's just something people don't really like or if they want particularly healthy, like 90 percent beef versus 80 percent -- things like that," a participating mom said.

For some moms the best part is no messy kitchen.

"So you can actually spend time with your kids and your husband when he gets home," a participating mom said.

What works really well for the freezer group from Sugar Land is that most of their kids are in elementary school. Depending on your group's family size and ages, you may have to alter your recipe depending whether you are feeding toddlers or teenagers.