A few weeks back, three ladies and I hosted a Lunch & Learn at the office about meal planning. Our hope was to share with others how planning ahead can save time, money, and help provide healthier meals at home. During the presentation we introduced a new idea…group cooking. Here’s the premise of how it works:

  • Find 4-5 people that cook like you and have a similar family situation
    • i.e. if you are single don’t get into a group with someone that has lots of kids
    • If using healthy ingredients is important to you, find other that desire the same thing
  • Get together and decide on 5 meals (or 4 depending on the number of people in your group)
    • Each person cooks one meal, 5 times
    • Meet and swap your meals
  • You then have 4-5 meals for the week!
  • Keep receipts and ensure the person that paid more for their meal is reimbursed

Our group added a few more guidelines after we had swapped meals a couple of times. Here are some things we added:

  • Plan our meals on Wednesdays and make final decisions on recipes Friday
    • Only provide main dish (protein based) – each family can then decide on sides and pick up at the store that weekend
  • Rotate proteins
    • No one really wants chicken every night so we allow 2 meals that are chicken based, 1 beef, and 1 turkey, pork, or seafood option
    • We rotate the proteins to add variety and help keep the cost even since beef and seafood are more expensive
  • Make “clean” meals using whole ingredients
  • Provide 4 servings per meal
  • Swap recipes so if we want to make the meal again, we have the recipe on hand

Meal swap has been such a fun experience for me. It adds variety, which I love, because we have tried things I would never think to cook! It’s so easy to get in a cooking rut and eat the same meals. I also love only having to prepare for ONE meal. All I have to do once I find my recipe and multiply all the ingredients by 4 and pick out my sides for the other meals…SO SIMPLE! Pinterest has been my “go-to” on finding new recipes. You can find anything!

“I love meal swapping because it saves me a lot of time during the week! For instance, this week, I came home and put a swapped meal in the oven…then actually sat down to read! I almost didn’t know what to do with myself! On the evenings where I plan to cook without a swapped meal, it is very noticeable how much longer it takes. I especially love the crockpot meals because they are ready when I get home from work!” –Kelley B.

I encourage you to find a few people and give meal swapping a try! It takes the guess work out of dinner plans and allows more time with your family in the evenings.

“I love the fact that I can pop something in and it’s done when everyone gets home. It has allowed me to focus on my family more and really enjoy that time. With softball and going out of town every weekend, it’s nice to have one less thing to plan for. Of course I am making 4 of the same item, but that is super easy to figure out and plan. I really enjoy it a lot. And with like-minded people, I feel OK letting my family participate in it.” –Deonna M.

If you want to see a recording of the lunch and learn that we hosted, you can view it at