Pull off a Freezer meal prep night with minimal effort. This is part 1 of a step by step outline to have a successful freezer meal party.
Freezer Meal Prep: Freezer Meal Night Part 1
About 2 years ago I was introduced to the idea of freezer meal nights by my friend and neighbor. She held these nights about every 6 weeks at her house. Every person helped do the shopping and prep work, came to her house for about 2 hours to assemble the meals, and walked away with 10 healthy meals for their family for $100 or less.
The process was so efficient, cost-effective, and fun. Instead of being exhausted when I got home, I felt energized from the fun girls night. The bonus was that I now had 10 healthy meals in my freezer for my family.
With my friend’s help, I decided to have a freezer meal night at my house a few months later and I’ve done them regularly since. I don’t make any money from these nights…BUT… I do get my meals for FREE when I plan one, which is a huge motivator to keep doing them. Each time I have one in my home I have fine-tuned a few things to make it more efficient, easy, and economical.
Freezer Meal Prep 3-4 weeks before
1. Set up a venue- where will your freezer meal night be held?
- You need to have enough table space for at least 2 assembly stations, although 3-4 is preferable. At my house, I do one station on the kitchen island, two on my massive kitchen table, and one more in the front room on folding tables.
2. Set a date- Pick a day with attendance in mind.
- I always schedule a Friday night about one month out in the fall, winter, or early spring. I don’t even attempt doing them in the summer as it is just too hot here to keep cold food cold and prevent spoilage (we use my back porch as a refrigerator/freezer as there is no way I could fit all of that food in my fridge). It is also difficult to work around summer vacations. Before scheduling, be sure to check the schools for big events that might prevent a lot of people from attending.
3. Make a list of 10 recipes you will make.
- If you have some tried and true freezer meal recipes, start with those, and then do some research to find some more. Of course, if you want to keep it REAL simple use the 10 recipes I gave you at the beginning of this series: kid-approved meals, fall-friendly meals, and budget-conscious meals.
- Choose a good variety and make sure you don’t make any exceptions for those attending. You CAN NOT take out peppers from the stirfry for those that don’t like them, or carrots from a particular soup. It is just too hard. Everyone goes home with the same 10 meals. That is part of the deal when they sign up.
4. Set up a Facebook event- Stay connected.
- Facebook is a crucial tool for these nights and is the main source of communication. When I set up an event, the description will explain how the whole process works, give deadlines, and list the meals. From this information, those I invite can decide if they will attend or not. Once they RSVP as “going” by the deadline they are “locked in” and must do their part of the shopping, prep, and attend that night (or send someone in their place.) If you want to see how I set up my Facebook events you can go here to see a sample.
- It may also be helpful to have a “partner in crime”. This gives you someone to split the work with and double check everything. I have always planned it as a duo with someone else and the best part is that BOTH of you will get your meals for FREE for heading it up (they are rolled into the cost of those who attend). It is just one of the many perks for being the mastermind behind it all.
- Invite as many people as you want to the event, but take into consideration that you want a group of at least 10 to make it worth it, but no more than 25 as it can get pretty overwhelming with more. Consider establishing a cap based on the space you have available for your event.
2 weeks before the Freezer Meal Prep
1. Establish how many sets of freezer meals you will be making.
- At this point you should know how many people will be attending your event as your “lock in” date should be 2 weeks before. From this number, you can figure out how many sets of meals you will be making. I often have people who buy two sets of meals (double the prep and shopping too), or we also offer sets for $150 for those that don’t want to do any shopping, prep, or attending. These sets are also noted in the count.
2. Multiply the ingredients.
- Once you know how many sets you are making, you can use a spreadsheet to multiply the ingredients by that number. To make this easy you can download my spreadsheet and input your own ingredients. It will multiply your ingredients by the number of sets you are making automatically by using the formulas I have entered into the spreadsheet. From this ingredient list, you can make a shopping and prep list to divide among those attending.
- When multiplying the ingredients I usually don’t convert everything for the shoppers. For example, if our recipes combined calls for 100 tsp of basil, then they need to look at the back of the packages at the store and determine how much they need to buy to cover that amount. This is what cell phone calculators are for, right?!
3. Make up an assignment list.
- After you have multiplied the ingredients, you are ready to make a shopping/prep list that will go out one week before the event. This should give everyone enough time to do their part to get ready.
- I start out by writing down everyone’s name on a word document and then I just copy and paste their assignments from the shopping spreadsheet. I try to give everyone equal shopping and prep and of course take into consideration their situation, like not assigning a pregnant lady 150 cans of tomatoes to bring! Some people will do more shopping, others may do more prep. The key is to assign everything out that you can ahead of time, including labeling bags, chopping veggies, dividing up meat evenly into bags, draining and rinsing cans of beans etc. We don’t use any knives when we are assembling, most of what we do is mixing, measuring, or dumping in ingredients.
Your shopping list will look something like this if you copy and paste it straight from your spreadsheet:
THIS truly is the key to keeping it at about 2 hours once you all get together! Double check your calculations and assign EVERYTHING you can out ahead of time.
- Don’t forget to also assign shopping for clean up supplies like trash bags, paper towels, disinfectant spray, latex gloves, disposable tablecloths, and hand soap…unless you are ok with these things coming directly out of your pocket. Also, make sure that you assign out the Ziploc freezer bags (must be Ziploc brand as other brands tend to leak) and/or disposable trays. It is a good idea to have all of the bags labeled ahead of time, so that is assigned out too.
1 week before the Freezer Meal Prep
1. Send out assignments
- Using your Facebook event page, post the assignment document you made up. I usually just share the google doc with everyone and they can find their name with their assignment. If you have people attending not on Facebook, send an email to them with the assignment list.
2. Note the receipt totals as they come in
- As each person does their shopping have them take a picture of their receipts and send them to you (or your partner) either on the Facebook event page, text, or email. These totals will be inserted into my “money spreadsheet” (also available for download) that will do all of the calculations for you with the formulas I put in. This will tell you what everyone owes or what I owe them based on what they bought. In the end, everyone pays the same amount, even if they spent more or less than someone else during their shopping trips. We call this our “magic number.”
3. Collect money from those purchasing meals
- We usually have a few people who don’t want to do any shopping or prep and just want to buy the meals. We charge them a flat $150 and arrange delivery. Their money is collected about a week before to give us some cash to pay those that went over our “magic number” during their shopping trips.
4. Print out recipes
- Type up and print out the recipes you are making so that everyone has a copy. If you are using the recipes from my freezer meal series you can download them on google doc here or PDF. You will also want to make an extra copy that you can cut up for assembly night for reference when compiling meals at each station.
5. Sit back and answer questions
- Make yourself available and expect that there will be questions. Emphasize that it is better to ask questions than to get it wrong and leave us in a bind on assembly night.
1 day before the Freezer Meal Prep Party
1. Send out a reminder
- The day before, I use my Facebook event page to send out a few reminders. They need to bring a basket, box, or cooler to take their meals home, pull their hair back, bring an apron, and turn in all receipts. Of course, I always like to encourage bringing treats to share while we assemble too. It is a girls night after all, so we always have a little chocolate.
2. Get cash from the bank
- Depending on how much cash you collect from selling full price meals, you may need to grab some additional cash from the bank to make sure everyone gets paid. I don’t always use it as some like to be paid with other means like check, paypal, or venmo, but I like to have the cash there just in case.
3. Arrange delivery
- If you have people buying sets at $150 and not attending, arrange delivery or pick up for the night of the assembly. It would be a shame to have those lovely meals go to waste as they didn’t get into the freezer right away.
4. Get your venue ready
- This doesn’t take a lot of work. I do NOT deep clean my kitchen or mop my floor before having one of these nights as I know that it will only get dirty again, but I do try and make sure that all of the clutter is out of the way and everything is sanitized. I also make sure that I have something arranged for my kids to do. Sometimes they leave the house with my husband or hang out in the basement with a movie. This is a NO KIDS event (except nursing babies). It just gets too crazy to have little ones running around.
It may sound complicated at first but hopefully, this step-by-step process made you feel like you could tackle a freezer meal night of your own. Stay tuned for part 2 that will walk you through how to carry out an assembly night. It will be a breeze since you put so much hard work into the preparation beforehand, I promise.
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