You may have noticed in my Monday Menu posts lately that I’ve been swapping meals with my friend, Jen E. (not to be confused with my friend Jen V., my personal gardening expert and all-around partner in crime). Jen E. introduced me to the idea of the dinner swap, and we’ve been talking about it for months, but finally made it happen. Three weeks in, I’m calling it an unqualified success. The Plan: We each cook a double batch of one of the week’s dinners, and then exchange the extra meal. One less meal to plan each week! One night of home cooked take out! More variety in our menu!
Since it’s just the two of us, we don’t have any complicated rules or monthly calendars. We both plan our week’s menu in advance, then email each other what we’ve planned to swap and decide which day to make the exchange. We’re not exactly neighbors, but Jen’s kids have skating lessons near my house, and I can make it to Jen’s porch and back in 30 minutes (assuming I don’t stop at the T.J. Maxx on the way).
Obviously, you can’t swap meals with just anyone. You’ve got to have similar tastes and expectations. Our families like a little bit of everything, with an emphasis on fresh, unprocessed ingredients. We all try to cook and eat healthily, but we’re not going to be militant about it. It might be difficult to swap with a family that requires a special diet because of allergies or other health concerns. Your families should probably be a similar size. The E.’s have two preschoolers to our 10, 7 and 5-yr-old, but I just double what I make for our table, and if they get more leftovers out of the deal, lucky them!
I’ve read about larger meal swap groups, and some of them exchange freezer meals instead of fresh (for example, five families each prepare five batches of two freezer meals, and then everyone goes home with 10 different meals to stock their freezers). I don’t know whether we will try a version of that in the future, but so far, things are going swimmingly.