Carrie has four daughters and runs Write On! Workshops--a summer writing camp for children.

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Quick dinners made ahead and stocked in your freezer

Dinner Divas are a clever group of mothers who efficiently and economically answer “What’s for dinner?” by working together to stock their freezers with homemade, ready to serve quick dinners.

I’ve been asked to “sub” for this dinner making co-op group a few times and I’m hooked. Here are the basics in how this team works.

 

Each member of the 12 person dinner team chooses a meal to prepare for the group. They choose family friendly quick dinners that will freeze well. There are lots of great freezer recipe books and websites to help.

Each member posts this recipe to a group blog. The recipe includes instructions on how to prepare this meal from the freezer. Chicken recipes go fast! If you are too slow, you’ll have to think of something besides chicken so there are a variety of meals.

 

Members prepare or almost prepare 12 (or 24) of their meals in time for Dinner Diva night.  Let me explain this section through my own examples. I have made meals twice for this group. The first time, I made sloppy joes. I thought it would be easy to just prepare the meals at home and bring them to the group. While it did make it nice when I arrived, making sloppy joes for 12 families took my entire day. I later realized I would have been smarter to prepare the meat and bring the rest of the ingredients to dinner night. Then, I would have 12 women there to help me assemble the sloppy joes. Much easier.

The second time, I made chicken pot pies. I had noticed from attending the group before that sometimes women doubled their recipes. Thus, instead of receiving, say, ONE pan of lasagna, I received two pans. I wanted to do the same with the chicken pot pies. So instead of purchasing enough for 12 families, I purchased enough for 24. Before Dinner Diva night, I cooked and chopped all the chicken and left the rest of the supplies in my car. On Dinner Diva night, the other women helped me assemble the 24 pot pies in no time—and each member received 2 pies. I liked contributing to this doubling it up option because it means more nights of quick dinners.

Bring a cooler and your receipts. Each member brings a big cooler to take home their meals. The host makes a name label for each cooler and directs arranging them in a room close to the kitchen.

Each member also saves their receipts and turns them in to the host. The host adds up the receipts and divides the total amount by 12. You either owe a check to another group member or receive a check back. For example, I spent $120 buying ingredients for the chicken pot pies. The cost breakdown for the meals that night was about $90 per person. I received a $30 check from another woman who had only spent $60 buying her meal’s ingredients.

Thus, that night I went home with 18 meals for $90. That’s about $5 per meal to feed my whole family.

Be prepared to work. All the Divas wear aprons and are set to cook. We put together the meals, working in groups on about two recipes at a time. The final step is to place the instruction label on the freezer meal. The host makes all the labels using the recipes on the Diva blog as a guide.

Use the supply bin. The Dinner Divas have a supply bin of restaurant tins, plastic wrap, aluminum foil and zip lock bags that they purchased together when they started their group about six years ago. The host is responsible to check the supply status and compare it with what group members indicate from their recipes they will need. Any expense to re-stock is added into the final price of the meals and divided between members.

If a member purchases a dry ingredient in bulk for their meal, they add this to the supply bin and keep record of it on their blog. That way you can check the blog and not buy something that the group already has ready to use.

Sound complicated? It kind of is. But these women have the system down pat. They find that cooking together is the way they can manage busy family life and still put healthy, quick dinners on the table. The saddest night of the month for me is becoming the night we eat our last freezer meal. I’m campaigning to get in to the group permanently.

 

More on Today’s Mama:

What do to with zucchini…

Easy Caramel Apples

What to do with vegetables

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Comments (2)

  1. Michelle Powell 03/21/2012 at 5:56 am

    LOVE this way of cooking! It makes it SO much easier!

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