My freezer club started with a jar of homemade tomato sauce left on my doorstep. A friend of mine had messaged the girls group chat and said she’d just made a huge vat of veggie-filled passata but had way too much – would anyone else like some? Four of us said yes please.
I added Italian sausage and olives and cooked mine up that night into a tasty (and easy) bolognaise for dinner, had a glass of red wine and felt very relaxed that evening. It meant I didn’t have to go to the shops that day, and with a frenetic work day, a COB copy deadline and Little Nerd to grab from daycare (with Mr Nerd away for work that night), I was grateful for one less thing to do. And I’m sure the other girls – each who had a kid and also juggled working or studying – felt the same. Sometimes just a little more time for yourself is really appreciated!
It made me think, wouldn’t it be convenient if that was a regular thing – friends cooking meals for each other, so that some nights, you didn’t have to cook at all, or just had to do some basic meal prep. It would definitely make some of those hectic days easier – especially now that a lot of my friends have a kid (or two) and also juggle a job out of the home, as well as other commitments. (Even without kids, who ISN’T time-poor these days when you factor in things like long traffic commutes, long working hours, exercise, study and social commitments?)
Could it work? I thought. How? Would the cook drop off the meal at each different family’s house on a different weekday of the week? That was my first thought before I immediately realised that would be WAY too hard to be sustainable.
What if everyone cooked a big bulk meal that could be frozen, divided it into portions, and then we all met in one place like a café or someone’s house and swapped meals, so each person left with a number of different, healthy meals? A freezer food club.
I don’t know about you guys, but almost every time I decide to cook something in bulk to save time – so we can eat leftovers over the next few days – by the time the meal is finished, I am SO bored and tired of eating same thing. We naturally crave variety. But say you could get six or seven people involved – generally speaking, it would be easier and cheaper to buy ingredients for one big batch meal and less time-consuming to cook it and divvy it up into seven portions, than it would be to buy ingredients for and cook seven smaller different meals.
Of course, once I jumped online to research ideas for big batch freezer cooking, I found out that freezer clubs were not an original idea in the slightest. I quickly discovered that the Americans (of course!) had been doing this dorky yet extremely practical idea for years and years. There were whole blogs dedicated to freezer clubs and freezer cooking written by super-efficient, slightly intimidating American mums who raved about how much time it saved them as they schlepped their 16 kids between soccer practice and ballet – and woah, had some of these mums gotten it down pat, with military-style organisation and precision. Some of the bloggers posted about how their freezer club members worked out the nutritional values of each meal, and at meetings they passed around score sheets so the club members could rate each other’s meals and give feedback on how they could improve and what they wanted to eat again (and what they definitely didn’t!)
That kind of freezer club sounded a little too intense for my liking and I knew the other girls in the group would feel the same! But it didn’t mean we couldn’t try a more casual version. So I pitched the idea to them and almost all were keen to give it a go. We decided to trial it for three months. And it turned out to be fun!
I loved trying the different meals – I like trying new foods but like a lot of people when I’m time-pressed I usually end up cooking the same-old meals rather than searching for new recipes. A few of us ended up expanding our recipe repertoire which was nice. Some of the more memorable meals our group cooked included an Italian lamb casserole, a pumpkin and lentil curry with parathas, spinach and ricotta cannelloni, an amazing ratatouille, apricot chicken, a tasty pumpkin risotto, meatballs with homemade tomato sugo, and chicken and vegetable pies (mine!)
But what I most loved was just how nice it was not having to cook some evenings! I actually really love cooking – I find I can just switch off and relax, especially when I can have a nice glass of chef juice (wine) in hand. But if I had a full-on day (or Little Nerd was being full-on!) I didn’t have time to run to the grocery store, Mr Nerd was away for work, I was just plain buggered, I had a deadline due, or the house was already a mess and so on – it was so pleasant knowing I didn’t have to cook, pouring a nice glass of red and heating up something homemade and delicious.
Admittedly, Mr Nerd and I have never been the biggest fans of eating frozen meals – we’ve always preferred to cook something fresh each night for dinner or having leftovers. But that’s time-consuming and difficult when you have a little kid and sometimes – especially with both of us juggling jobs and running around after Little Nerd – having a healthy, tasty meal ready to defrost in the freezer was great – and more cost-effective than relying on takeaway. And while of course you have to carve out a chunk of time to prep a big-batch cook for the group, it was nice having that bit of extra time for ourselves in the evenings.
It was also nice because all of us in the group had a baby or toddler, and the ‘swap meets’ were a fun way to meet up. Plus I am a big believer that you should try as many kinds of foods on a baby or toddler as you can (and get them involved in food prep as often as you can… don’t get me started on the topic of cooking and toddlers because I will talk your ear off and bore you to tears). There is this awesome book someone gave me when Little Nerd was born, French Children Don’t Throw Food (that I fully preach to everyone I meet!) that talks about the importance of trying all different things on your little one (and trying them again, and again…) But when you are busy it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying and serving the same things all the time. Freezer club was an easy way of mixing it up.
All this said, sadly, my own freezer club naturally disintegrated – a combination of different factors I think. A couple of the girls just downright have never enjoyed cooking, our long, hot summer began, and I got pregnant. Ah, hyperemesis! In the first five months I could not even stomach the thought of cooking or heating up or eating ANYTHING that smelled. Just cutting an onion or doing the Woolies shop would make me throw up. And as the bossy Kristy Thomas of the group, without my enthusiasm it all dwindled.
But like anything, there are always phases in life where something can work for you and then it doesn’t – and just because my own freezer club disbanded doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a good idea or that it wouldn’t work really well for some of you (hence why I really wanted to write this post!)
I didn’t join a mother’s group after having Little Nerd – but I do have a bunch of friends who all have kids now – and I have a lot of friends who love their mother’s groups and it’s the kind of thing that would work perfectly with one. It would also work well if you have a crew of friends who all work long hours but don’t want to subsist on takeaway too much. I honestly love the idea.
So, a few little takeaways from my own freezer club experience…
What if someone’s a terrible cook?
That is just a risk you have to take! And you know what, what you think is terrible someone else might love. Maybe they think your cooking is terrible… kidding! Kind of.
Have a trial period.
We gave it three months to see how it would work and to iron out any kinks.
Decide on any no-cook foods.
A girl in our group was allergic to shellfish, another not keen on seafood.
Work out how big your portion sizes should be.
For example, we decided that each person should cook a portion for each family that was roughly the size of a large Pyrex dish or enough to fill two small plastic takeaway containers – roughly about enough food for two adults and a bit extra for a baby/toddler.
Think about investing in good dishes as a group.
A couple of the girls in our group do plastic-free. If you’re serious about your freezer club and would like to minimise using plastic takeaway containers, you could each invest in a set of Pyrex or oven/microwave-safe glass baking dishes, and cook everyone’s meals in them each month. I love the Pyrex ones with the plastic lids and use them all the time. (Also – you can win a Pyrex casserole dish – and a Russell Hobbs slow cooker! – at the end of this post).
Discuss before whether you’ll do meat each meal.
We tried a vegetarian month as well. We also tried to include some kind of vegetables in each meal wherever possible (and fresh vegies wherever possible).
Figure out how you’ll communicate with each other.
You could do a private Facebook group or a Messenger or Whatsapp thread to keep track of whose house you’re meeting at, what you’re planning to cook etc.
Most importantly – it’s meant to be fun!
A freezer club is about trying to make your lives that little bit less stressful – but it should also be fun! What about meeting up for a (child-free) wine and cheese a night once a month at someone’s house to swap meals; or make it a monthly relaxing morning tea with coffee and biscuits. Making it a way to get out of the house and catch up is so nice when you are a new mum too.
WIN A FREEZER COOKING PACK: A RUSSELL HOBBS MATTE BLACK SLOW COOKER + PYREX CASSEROLE DISH
Feeling inspired to start your own freezer club – or just want to cozy up inside with a glass of wine and do a spot of wintry weather cooking for yourself? Thanks to the generosity of Russell Hobbs and Pyrex, I’m giving two lucky readers a chance to win a prize pack consisting of a Russell Hobbs 7L Matte Black Slow Cooker and a Pyrex Casserole Dish to store your freezer meal.
We use Pyrex dishes all the time and have for years – and we have this slow cooker and can I tell you with my love for matte black anything-in-the-kitchen, it is the best-looking slow cooker I have ever seen!
Open Australia-wide – entrants must be currently residing in Australia.
Entries close and drawn 5pm Friday 15th June and winners announced on the blog.
You can get the Russell Hobbs 7L Matte Black Slow Cooker from Good Guys, Harvey Norman, Betta Home Living and Bi-Rite, RRP $69.95. Pyrex dishes are available from Big W, Kitchen Warehouse and Target.
Good luck! Maya x