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Mom Life Hack — Slow Cooker Meal Swap

One of the biggest challenges I face as a mom (and the primary cook in our family) is figuring out what we’re going to eat for supper. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard. It’s not like I don’t know it’s coming. It happens every day… around the same time. So why can’t I get a decent plan together?

Because it takes a lot of work. Planning, shopping, prepping, thawing, chopping, and—in my case—ensuring things aren’t burning while simultaneously engaging little people (with me or preferably elsewhere—as long as they’re not screaming at each other).

All parents face this issue—whether you’re at home or away during the day. The best solution I’ve found? A Freezer to Slow Cooker Meal Swap. You make a meal—one for yourself and one for everyone swapping with you. In return, you get several meals prepped and ready to go for those times when you just don’t have another ounce of energy at the end of the day.

life-hack-slow-cooker-swap-NashvilleMomsBlog

I’ve been to two successful swaps—one detailed here and the other recently organized by a friend. The recent swap went beautifully.** The parameters this time were gluten-free and vegetarian. I’m the gluten person, and I knew that could be a pain. My friends dutifully sent me their recipes ahead of time, and the only sneaky culprit was veggie stock. So I just asked them to leave it out of mine, and I’d add my own when I cook the meals. I was little hesitant about the vegetarian requirement…but the more I thought about it, I think it’s the way to go. Meat is expensive (especially if you’re trying to buy organic cuts for 4-6 families), but it’s relatively easy to add to a slow cooker meal if you want to do so. Moreover, I tend to fall into a squash or broccoli or sweet potato rut, so getting a freezer full of different vegetable combinations fixes that problem!

Our hostess set a time and date and gave us these instructions:

1. Bring 5 servings (one will be for you, four to give away)
2. Please double ziploc and freeze flat (if you have pre-frozen)
3. Put instructions in-between the two bags

Here are the recipes we tackled at this swap:

image (2)Chana Masala: Smitten Kitten

Vegetable soup

Vegetable Soup – ready to thaw and cook!

Vegetable Soup: Cooking Classy

Veggie Chili: mixed two recipes (Food Network and Taste of Home)**

Pumpkin Coconut Black Beans - served with rice and cornbread

Pumpkin Coconut Black Beans – served with rice and cornbread

Pumpkin Coconut Black Beans: Once a Month Meals

Black Bean Quinoa Taco Soup: Little Leopard Book

Chickpea, Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Steweat, live, run

Butternut Lentil Soup

Butternut Lentil Soup

Is the slow cooker one of your favorite kitchen appliances? Have you ever been apart of a swap? Have any great recipes to share?

**One friend slightly misinterpreted the idea of the swap. She prepared veggie chili for everyone that was ready to heat and eat (instead of prepping it to be frozen or cooked). It worked out well, as we all had an easy meal to dump in a pot and eat that week, but take care to make sure everyone knows that they are just preparing the meals for cooking and don’t have to cook all six meals at once!

5 Responses to Mom Life Hack — Slow Cooker Meal Swap

  1. Theresa Laurence
    Theresa Laurence February 26, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    So do you send raw ingredients prepped and frozen, you don’t actually cook the whole meal ahead of time?

    • Avatar
      Mandy February 26, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

      That’s right, Theresa! Raw! You don’t have to freeze it first either – some people choose to because all those meals can take up a lot of space in the fridge. You just get everything chopped and measured out, and then instead of dumping it in the crock pot, you dump it in a bag! I do all 4-8 bags at once (I put them in bowls to keep them upright while I’m filling them).

  2. Avatar
    Cinella January 20, 2016 at 11:17 pm #

    This is a great idea. I have talked about this with my friends and it has never happened cus we can’t ever get the same night “off!”
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Avatar
      Mandy January 22, 2016 at 9:02 am #

      Thanks, Cinella! Two thoughts you might consider: 1) the ‘swap’ part doesn’t have to last long – our last one was at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon and some people came a little early but everyone was on their way by 5. The other thing I’ve done is invite people to drop off their meals early in a cooler. Two of my friends dropped off their five meals (one the day before and one the morning of)… then the people at the swap took one and left one… so the two ladies picked up their coolers filled with five new meals later that evening.

      Hope you get a chance to try this with friends – having meals ready to go in the freezer has been a huge relief this week! I came home from a trip and just popped one in the dutch oven on Monday and then didn’t get around to going to the store until late Weds, so had another one that night also! Instead of getting home, unloading groceries, and then starting to cook (with three little ones at the witching hour)… we just opened the door to a lovely minestrone winter soup and heated up some rolls!

      Thanks for reading!

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