March 27, 2014

Creative Meal Planning – part two

Eating is a reality.

How one goes about accomplishing this is their choice.
Now, I am not just talking about shoving one’s face full of peanut M&M’s – unfortunately, that is one of my realities, I mean actual nourishment for our bodies.When I was single, I lived on Peanut Butter Captain Crunch – seriously, I did (but did you know that it’s fat free?) :)
Now, as a mom of many, I have the health of my children on my conscience.
It’s pressure, I know!
What I teach them about eating habits, and healthy living choices will stay with them…for years.

Sometimes, it seems overwhelming.
But, it’s really just about….that dread “P” word….yes, having a plan, and a tiny bit of food knowledge.
So, if the reality is that we have to feed them, and it can’t just be daily Mac and Cheese,
then why not make it memorable?

(New to my blog? Read Creative Meal Planning I –
intro to Kitchen Sister’s Club post first.

Am I the only one who gets caught in the 5pm – What’s for dinner rut?

When I don’t have a plan, I resort to the same old 3-4 meals, yes, over and over again, and the sad thing is that I TEACH meal planning classes.

That’s why I’m always looking for new inspiration and accountability.
Meal swapping offers both of those.
It’s a great way to try new recipes, eat healthier, fellowship, and save money at the same time.
I always go home encouraged in my role as Keeper of the Home.
I love to learn from other ladies, and hopefully, they are encouraged by me as well.

(In case you missed the first post :)

As I think back on all the Kitchen Sister Clubs/meal swaps that I have done over the years, I am getting re-energized with my prioritizes in this area.
I’m reminding myself….It’s always a blast, once we’re together.
It allows me to connect with friends, and it’s a blessing to have real, home made food ready at a moment’s notice.

Setting a goal to do make this happen once a month dramatically improves the
quality of my life…or should I say…my family dinner hour’s life.
So, if you’re a friend in real life, just let me know you want to do one, and I’ll get it on the calendar. :)

There are three different ways that I have done my Kitchen Sisters’ Club.

1. Make all the meals at home and drop them off at friends’ home.
They, in turn, do the same thing for you.
Example: I make 4 lasagnas, salad, and bread, and deliver them to 3 neighbors.
Then the next week, they do the same for me.
(We already know from my previous posts that cooking a main dish in bulk takes the same amount of time, so always multiply your recipes – always.) This option only works well if you’re in close proximity to each other, so I don’t do this anymore.
I know of ladies who have done this for years with the same 4 friends – now that is a blessing.

2. Host a meal making party in your home where everyone brings the ingredients for their main dish.
I typically did this with 8 ladies.
Each friend was “assigned” one main dish (her preference). She would bring all the ingredients for that entree, and we would them assemble the meal together in my kitchen.
Through much trial and error, I eventually set down some basic ground rules such as everyone has to provide 2 lbs of meat per meal, 8×10 pan etc.
For those with smaller families, they just divided the meal in half.
Lots of fun, and lots of laughter is always had by all.
Down side….my kitchen is a complete wreck when it’s done.

3. Host in home/church – one person organizes, sets the menu, and buys the ingredients.
This requires more work from one person, but there is the option of taking turns in organizing it every month.

I had “stations” with instructions for each meal. I provided all the ingredients (except for 2 of the meals…ladies brought their choice of raw chicken or beef in ziplock bags). The guests then covered the costs of the ingredients.

If starting a Kitchen Sisters Club peeks your interest, and you have questions, I would be more than willing to do a follow up post. Just let me know in the comments.

Just think, next month you could have a freezer full of new meals.
It’s as easy as picking a date, and asking 3-4 other friends to join you.

What do you have to lose?
Nothing…trust me…it’s a good thing.
Now send those friends to my blog, and tell them…
“Read this…we’re doing it.”

(edited to add…I have had the most productive snow day baking bulk batches of goodies for the freezer. It’s so stuffed, I have things in the ice maker… more to come)



  1. Valarie Lea says:

    I so need to do this!


  2. Our Complete Family says:

    Oh I would love to be your neighbor! It would be such good times to prep and make the food with you and yummy results I’m sure of it!
    Happy day wishes…Les


  3. I too would LOVE to be your neighbor and do something like this!


  4. I would love to have a freezer full of meals that didn’t come from Stouffers.
    You’re so good.


  5. Jen,

    I would love to do this and I really like the idea of doing it in someone’s home. Can you give more tips/advice and how-to’s. Thanks Jen:)

    Have you gotten my emails about the order I need to wrap up with you. This is weighing heavily on my conscience:)


  6. cityfarmer says:

    girl, you’re making me hungry

    thanks for such sweet comments…love ya


  7. This is such a fun idea!


  8. new every morning says:

    Well, I just sent you an email about this very thing! I should have read your blog before I sent the email, huh.

    Anyways, YES,YES,YES, please do a follow up post with lots of details on how to host one of these. I like the idea of each person bringing enough ingredients for the other ladies to make the recipe. Any other ‘ground rules’ you have discovered?

    You’re the best!


  9. Treasure Hunter says:

    I have got to get a freezer to add to my half priced living ideas. This is good stuff Jen!


  10. Meredith@MerchantShips says:

    Very inspiring!

    I love how your creative meal planning becomes hospitality, when you get together with friends.

    What’s holding me back from doing this? My kitchen has a great counter/workspace. I guess I’m afraid that the other moms won’t like what I make, and vice versa?


  11. Southerner says:

    I love seeing my food all lined up ready and frozen in neat little rows. I did this in Florida with two friends but haven’t done it in YEARS with other people. I need to organize this sometime.


  12. becomingamama says:

    I love how you explained this, and the other ways to meal swap that I hadn’t thought of… you may have inspired me to start swapping again!
    I’m glad the pictures were helpful. :)


  13. Sandy Toes says:

    Hello there..still hear my waves????Hee hee

    I use to do #1 and it was so nice..I didn’t have to think “what’s for dinner?” was done in the freezer..hooray!!!
    I need to start a group here..I do! I do!
    -sandy toe


  14. Jen, I would love to participate in one of these if you get one going again!!!


  15. Good job filling that freezer! Having food in the freezer is better than money in the bank! (Good thing, too, because there ain’t much of that! :)

    What a blessing to have friends to cook with!


  16. Hey Jen,
    Count me in next time you organize a cooking party. I would love to participate!


  17. You always have the best tips. My goal for 09 was to cook more and so far it is working….only if I plan ahead first. :)


  18. Melissa Lester says:

    This is a great idea! My sister-in-law and some of her neighbors took turns delivering meals to each other for a while, and I thought it was such a neat idea. Joe and I are care group leaders, and I have always thought it would be neat to get the ladies in our group together to put some meals together to freeze and have on hand when there is a need.


  19. Jane Anne says:

    OH, I wish I could do this. It looks like fun and like it would make dinner easy. My son has food allergies so I couldn’t trust the ingredients from someone else. Still, what a wonderful idea!
    It is amazing how much a meal plan helps out. Mine is really keeping me from getting stuck eating the same thing all the time. My WFMW post: Meal Planning


  20. Girl. I love it. Look at all that FOOD!


  21. Parisienne Farmgirl says:

    Ok, I am so inspired. You’ll probably appreciate my latest post. Would love to talk via phone if you are interested. Have been praying on how I could turn my passion of feeding the family into a little venture – would love to pick your brain. This was a GREAT post!!! Love, and perhaps will have to steal the “keeper of the home” line – love, love, love it!


  22. The Scooper says:


    Your most recent post makes me so very hungry. I want to eat a whole lasagna all by myself!

    Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog! I had no idea Nester was going to do that. That woman wields some serious influence!

    We also do Classical Conversations! How cool to find another bloggy girl like me who does CC.

    I look forward to visiting your blog more often.


  23. PamperingBeki says:

    Perfect timing!

    My goal for this week is actually to find a few new dishes to add to our menu because we’re all getting tired of the same 4 or 5 that I always resort to.


  24. Wow. What a great thing to teach.

    I want to be your neighbor too!


  25. Mrs. Trixi says:

    As you know, I love these posts. I just need to get to doing them!!


  26. I am so jealous of all the meals you have in your freezer! This is such a GREAT idea!!!


  27. All of these ideas are SOOOO GOOD! One of my friends does a meal swap and she ♥ it! I might have to try this one of these days. That is after I talk with a few friends.



  28. stephanie says:

    My friends and I have just started meal sharing. So, I loved to read about the different ways you have approached the idea. We are on our second round and it is saving me so many hours and so much money. If I didn’t have these meals in my freezer, my family would end up in a restaurant where we would spend $75-$100.


  29. The Nester says:

    I did the make 3 meals and deliver them for years with Monica and Heather! It was so fantastic! Monica out did us all–she’s a genius in the kitchen!

    Great photo of all of those kids–BIG kids!

    And I love the reminder to always cook in blulk–why don’t I do that?


  30. I have done this with friends, but it didn’t work out because one of them would always flake out, messing up the quantities. I like the idea of gathering to do it together!

    Our biggest issue when I have done this before was coming up with freezer-worthy meals. Post some tips on things that do and don’t freeze well (ie sour cream!).

    Thanks for your post!


  31. Songbirdtiff says:

    Hi there! I’m following Mr. Linky from the Inspired room.

    I’m interested in this, but it seems a little overwhelming. Perhaps more instructions would help!


  32. Melissa @ The Inspired Room says:

    You got me thinking, girl. I want to get some things like this started for our new church (well, once we have people coming that it! LOL). It seems like such a great way to build relationships and help other moms. I’m going to tune in to your wisdom on this and learn from you.

    thanks for sharing. blessings to you,


  33. That would be so much fun. However, my cooking skills are so poor plus no one else would want to eat the way we do — no butter, no salt etc. But it is a wonderful way to share when you have all the right people. More families should do this.


  34. paperglueetc says:

    what an awesome idea, has me thinking!

    I am having a blog party in Feb. and I would like to feature you, stop by my blog and let me know if you interested I can then email you more info


  35. Great ideas!! I love this.


  36. This is one of the best ideas I’ve come across in Blog Land.

    Now, if you do it at your house how do you coordinate oven time? I only have one oven.

    I’m going to email my friends right away and see if anybody is interested in doing a meal swap!


  37. Two questions,
    1) What do you use to freeze your meals in, glass, plastic? It looks like a heck of a lot of 9x 13 pans.2)Would you please post more on how you handle the meal swapping? I’d love to hear details.
    Love the blog and your ideas. Thanks for sharing!


  38. The Big Cook was written by three busy gals who worked together to ready a month’s worth of main-course meals in a day. It had recipes, quantities, suggestions for accompanying dishes…It is available through Costco now in Canada. You could also contact them at Wish it was available when my kids were little!!


  39. This same idea does work if you do it for just your own family.
    Work one day per week in the kitchen make some for now and freeze some ahead. I will make double lasagna one for tonight and one for next month this is a way to get your freezer stocked as well. I spend some of Sunday every week in the kitchen and I get the kids involved as well. Take large boxes of cereal, pkgs. of chips, crackers and pretzels give them a measure cup have them fill it and place in zip locks these are the snacks for the upcoming lunches and even breakfast on the run. I started the when my children were in first grade and it has continued on with Grand children now and my children did this thru college it is how they cut cost. Fill 5 water bottles or soda bottles as well. You have snacks for on the run and no convient store stop on the way.


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