1. Having each person make meals at home and then bring them to swap already assembled or
2. Having 1 person shop for everything needed to assemble a specific meal and everyone gets together to assemble.
I had issues with each of these for different reasons.
1. I didn't like the idea of sitting at home by myself making meals for everyone. It seemed so boring! Also, what if someone didn't like mushrooms and would prefer I didn't put them in? What if I had a friend who had a very small family and wanted to split the meals into 2 smaller meals?
2. This is just way too daunting. 1 person shopping for 25+ meals is just way too much work. Also, what if I like generic brands but the person shopping buys name brands? What if I already have half the ingredients at home so shopping for them is just spending unneeded money?
So, my friends and I brainstormed and came up with a better idea. This is how we do our swap.
We try to have 6 participants every month. Every month each person is asked to come up with 1 meal they would like to share. We then ask each person to bring ingredients to make 6 of their meal. They do any serious prep at home (anything that needs to be cooked ahead, etc) but most prep can be done at the swap. Then, we get together and each person stakes a piece of countertop. We each do any chopping or other prep. This is great because we can chat while we're working.
Each person brings their own pans or bags that suit the size of their family. When all the prep is done, we all go to one space and assemble that meal for our family. This way, people can tailor them to their family's tastes. Each meal has a copy of the recipe and cooking instructions for people to take home. In the end, each person leaves with 6 different meals. It usually takes us about 1 1/2 hours total.
I love this idea because each person has control over buying the ingredients for their meal but also over how their other meals are put together.
Many people suggested not letting kids be around during the swap because it's too crazy. We have found that the opposite is true. The kids love getting together and they stay out of our hair while we go about our business. The only suggestion I have is to bring snacks for the kids. With all the food around, they will decide they are hungry. We make sure to pick a house where the kids can have lots of room to play.
So far, we've loved doing the swap this way! We love having time together as friends and leaving with 6 new freezer meals. Please let me know if you have any questions about how to do this kind of group successfully. Here is our welcome sheet that I send to everyone who wants to join.
This is what I took home today!