Why Meal-Prep Parties Need to Be on Your Social Calendar
A productive Sunday with friends can set you up with drama-free dinners for the week.
Most moms have dreamed about having ready-to-cook, healthy meals in the fridge or freezer. Just pop one in the slow cooker or oven and avoid the dinnertime drama, right?
Unfortunately preparing meals ahead of time can be tedious, especially when weekends quickly fill up with social engagements. That's where meal-prep parties come in: You get together with friends and enjoy wine, music and conversation, all while making meals to share.
"It's a great social way to get together and make good use of that time to prep for our families," says Elizabeth Savens, a fitness coach and mom of two in St. Louis, Missouri, who organizes meal-prep parties regularly.
Meal prep parties aren't just fun—they can also save you time and money (hello, bulk buying).
"The parties themselves are super efficient," said Katie Altemus, a mom of three in Philadelphia.
While the logistics of the parties vary, guests usually leave with a few different meals to make busy nights easier.
"I am a bit of a disaster as far as meal planning and weeknight cooking goes, so I love having the meals on hand," says Jenn Mallia, a Canadian mom of two who wants to attend more meal-prep parties.
Here's what you need to know to host a cooking get-together of your own.
Types of Meal-Prep Parties
Freezer Meal Parties
- The Gist: Each guest brings the ingredients for a meal that can be easily frozen, then cooked in the oven or slow cookers. Meals are prepped and assembled at the party and everyone leaves with a few different meals for their families.
- The Benefits: No actual cooking is involved on site; meals can be saved for the most hectic nights; and it's a great option for baby showers or other times you want to support a friend with ready-made meals.
- Recipes to Try: Slow-Cooker Beef Fajitas, Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna, Chicken and Wild Rice
Make and Take Parties
- The Gist: The team fully cooks meals together. Everyone leaves with finished meals that only need to be reheated.
- The Benefits: Less work during the week since meals are super simple to reheat, plus the flexibility to prepare meals that might not freeze well.
- Recipes to Try: Picadillo Stuffed Peppers, Zucchini and Sausage Bake, Super Shepherd's Pie
- The Gist: Each guests brings batches of a favorite meal and a printout of the recipe. Everyone leaves with a few meals for their family and new recipes.
- The Benefits: No on-site cooking, prep or clean-up, so you can spend more time socializing, and host in smaller spaces.
- Recipes to Try: Anything you can make yourself in a large enough batch to feed 20 or so people (if you're sharing with 5 friends with families of 4). Consider Slow Cooker Honey Lime Pork, Vegetarian Meatballs, or Mild Chicken Curry.
Tips for Success
- Limit the guest list. "You can definitely have too many cooks in the kitchen," Savens says. She likes to keep most meal-prep parties to 4-5 guests, while recipe exchanges can be a bit bigger, capped at 10 people.
- Use online ordering. When you're cooking so much, planning is key. If you're doing a make-and-take or freezer meal party, consider appointing one head chef, pooling money and ordering all ingredients online. That way, nothing is forgotten and everyone can easily split the bill.
- Know your role. One of the parties Altemus attended required her to cook and cool a pound or two of spaghetti and bring it. "I found this out when I was supposed to be at the party in an hour," she recalls. Make sure all guests are clear about what they're bringing and what should be done ahead of time.
- Food safety. Make sure everyone is washing their hands frequently and disinfecting surfaces, especially if you're handling raw meat.
- Supplies. Cooking en mass requires a lot of equipment. Everyone should bring cutting boards, knives and other prep supplies, as well as freezer bags, foil pans and containers to take the meals home.
- Be flexible. Although it's great to talk about tastes ahead of time, you may end up with a dish you don't like. Mallia, whose husband is a vegetarian, went to a party where oven-roasted chicken was on the menu. "We ended up with stuff not everyone in my house is going to eat, but I'll keep it for when we have company," she says.
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