Food...It's one of those necessary evils...and for Mama's like me, the hour between 4:30-5:30 can be a bit daunting as I try to keep the kids out of the pantry and from eating any and everything in an effort to not spoil their dinner. I attempt to decide on AND fix dinner all while feeding the baby, breaking up a wrestling session that went bad, disciplining for whining, trying to make a doctor appointment for yet another one of my kids, checking the bank account and paying bills! Oh, but what if you had a freezer full of pre-made meals? That's where the blessing comes in!
Recently I was asked to be in a Freezer Meal Food Co-op. To be honest, I was not sure how it would go. The 3 families that I joined usually exchange 8x8 size meals, and if you know my husband and my 3 boys, you'll understand why I was a bit skeptical about it being enough food for our family. In spite of my concern, I decided to give it a try.
I have been in food co-ops before, the kind where you make the meal for 2 or 3 other families and you drive it to the different homes...that's nice because the meal is piping hot and ready to be served immediately when it arrives....but its also a challenge to a.) have to load all your kids and all the food then b.) drive around dropping it all off at peak traffic times and c.) it doesn't allow for much flexibility in your weekly eating schedule. But this Food Co-Op is different in that you all converge at one person's house with all your meals (that are previously frozen cause who wants White Chicken Chili or BBQ sauce slopped all over their car? NOT ME!)
The way it works is we each make and freeze 4 meals for the four different families, creating a total of 16 meals. I was responsible for making Cowboy Casserole, White Chicken Chili, Breakfast Casserole and Two Timing Pasta Bake. I must say, it was a bit overwhelming shopping for all the ingredients, it was a full cart for sure. But really, that was just the beginning...once I got it all paid for, loaded in the car, unloaded at home and laid out on the table in my kitchen, I was just getting started! I had a lot of gusto at the beginning, I laid all the ingredients out across my table so I could quickly put my hands on the different items...Peyton said, "Mom, this is WAY to much food!" And I must say, "Yes it was a lot of food!"
I quickly got a overwhelmed as I started the process of cooking the 4-5 pounds of meat and prepping all the other ingredients. I thought to myself many times, in the 5 hours it took, "is this really worth it?" "What if we don't like any of these meals?" And more importantly, "What if there's not even enough food for my family?" Ugggghhh....I had my doubts FOR SURE!!
But let me just say, for the record, I.AM.LOVING.IT!! Honestly, I wish there were more then 16 meals to pull out of this freezer.
It's been awesome to have the freedom to just pull something out of the freezer and pop it in the oven or the Crock Pot, its really so convenient and yet it also allows us to be spontaneous if we want to grab dinner with someone or want to make a random stop at the park. There's not a fixed night of the week to cook for another family like I did with my last Food Co-Op, I don't have to hurry home to get dinner prepped and ready, it's already fixed and that's given me great flexibility, which is super nice! And as for portion size (which is HUGE to my husband) as long as I do several sides and a bread of some kind, it's been plenty for our family so far.
The meals have all been tasty and delicious, none are duplicates (cause we discussed which meals we were gonna fix before hand) and another great part is we split the cost. Everyone turns in their receipts and we add up all the totals and divide by 4...so for these 16 meals-of everything from pork chops to chicken dishes, enchiladas to french dip sandwiches, it all cost $172...really? YES! How amazing!? Now, if I could just figure out what to serve for the other 15 nights of the week?!!
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