The following is a guest post, courtesy of Heather with Spectacular Savings.

For a long time, I really disliked cooking.  Regardless of what my mood was before I started cooking, it was lousy by the time I was done.  I was convinced that I just wasn’t meant to be a cook.  Then, one night, I was up late making a meal for a friend on bedrest and, when I was finished, I was still in a good mood.  Well, it turns out that I, do in fact, enjoy cooking.  What I don’t enjoy is cooking while a two year old is begging for me to do another puzzle with her and a baby is crying to be held.  So, I knew that I needed to give freezer cooking a try.

I thought it would be fun to get my friends involved.  Maybe we could all get together and cook a few meals at someone’s house. I really wasn’t sure about the logistics but I wanted to try it with others.  So, I brought the idea up with my Mom’s group.  One of my friends had “subbed” in another meal swap so she grabbed the idea and got us organized!

What is a Meal Swap?
It’s exactly how it sounds!  We get together and swap meals!  There are six of us in a group and we each pick a meal and make 6.  Then, we get together, swap meals, and go home with 6 different meals.

What do you make?
Since we didn’t want to come home from the meal swap with 6 different versions of lasagna, we decided to create 6 different categories that we rotate.

*American/European
*Breakfast for Dinner
*Chili/Soup/Stew
*Italian/Mediterranean
*Indian/Asian/Eastern
*Southwest/Mexican

When we first started the meal swap, I was a little apprehensive.  My original thought was that we would all get together and cook.  I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to do all the cooking by myself.  How boring!  But, because we make just one meal x6, it didn’t take long at all.  I was able to do a lot of prep work all together.  We’ve only had two meal swaps so far but it has only taken, at most, 3 hours of cooking and preparation.  3 hours, 6 meals, no screaming children…..wonderful!

Get a meal swap started with your own friends!  Its a great excuse to get together and a wondeful help to have six meals sitting in the freezer waiting to be tossed in the oven or warmed up on the stove!

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The meal swap is organized, now what?  Pick a recipe and buy the ingredients, right? 
Well, not exactly.  You still need to stay within your budget.  This is something that I’m still working on.  Here are some tips to stay within your budget:

*Look through your cupboards and then decide what you’re making.  Use your stockpile.  If you pick a recipe before you check out your stockpile, you may end up needing to buy everything.  That is what I did last month….eek!!

*Plan ahead.  Because we have a rotation, I know which category I have for each month.  I went through and decided on the meal that I would make within each category.  I wrote down the ingredients I will need for each and I pick them up as they go on sale.

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