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Neighborhood Meal Exchange

IMG_2661  You all have been there. You are a new mom standing in your kitchen with a brand new baby in your arms. And you are thinking to yourself, “How in the world am I supposed to get a decent dinner on the table?”

That was me two summers ago. The topic came up with some girlfriends and we all shared the same concerns about how hard it is to try to cook a meal and manage the age-old balance of a career and a family. With the wine flowing, we brainstormed how nice it would be to multiply the portions when we cooked and share our bounties with each other.

From this conversation stemmed a successful weekly neighborhood meal exchange.

Every week I team up with two other families and share my supper. I make a meal and triple the portion size to distribute with the group. In exchange, the other two families exchange their food with me on two other nights of the week.  Since that summer, we’ve doled out our meals almost every week for nearly two years and I really can’t imagine what life was like before.

I am a working mom and you other working moms know that it takes a village to raise your family. My village just happens to help in the kitchen.

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Here’s how our meal exchange works:

1. Partner with 1-2 other families. You’ll probably want these families to be pretty close in proximity for those times when you need to say, “Guys, I’m so sorry but I just burned the rice and you’re going to need to hold off another 15 minutes.” (Yes, that did happen two weeks ago.)

2. Set a schedule each week. Typically, one of us texts the others at the start of the week and say, “I’ll do dinner on Monday. I’m making pulled pork street tacos.” The other two families respond with what nights work best for them. We don’t stick to assigned nights because every week is different. The key to making this work is simplicity and flexibility.

3. Make it easy. People tell me all the time,“Oh, but I don’t think I could cook fancy ever week.” Trust me, I can’t either. Sometimes you get fancy. And sometimes you get sloppy joes. But, the reality is anything that someone else prepares for you tastes infinitely better. And people aren’t looking for a replica of that anniversary dinner you had at Fearing’s. They just want warm food on the table for their family.

4. Have labeled containers. When I prepare my meal, I put everything in plastic containers labeled with my name. Usually when I pick up meals from another family, I get fresh food and a bunch of my own empty and clean plastic containers ready to be filled again.

5. I cook, but I don’t deliver. We’ve found it works best if the people come over to pick up their meals instead of the host chef trying to distribute dinner (hence finding someone that lives close to you). When it’s my day to cook, I usually text everyone mid-afternoon with what time they can expect dinner to be ready. We all aim for between 6 and 7:30pm so that little ones can be fed and put to bed.

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Do you do something similar? I know some of you have other ideas for getting dinner on the table. We’ve talked about freezer meals before. And us Dallas moms love to drive thru Start for those nights when we are in a pinch but want clean food in our kids’ bellies.

Tell me. What works for you when feeding your family? Former contributor Sherry had a few good ideas. What are yours? I’m always interested in new ways to think outside of the box.

By the way, HI. I’m green around here and so excited to be a new contributor for the Dallas Moms Blog. I like to think about food and cook and scour thrift shops and flea markets for diamonds in the rough when decorating my home.

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7 Responses to Neighborhood Meal Exchange

  1. Persis February 19, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    Great article Bethany! We are going to start a Freezer Group with some friends now!

  2. Sally
    Sally February 19, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Bethany, this was wonderful! A group of us have talked about doing this in our neighborhood. After reading how much you like meal sharing, I’m going to forward this to the girls. THANKS!

  3. Laura Murray
    Laura Murray February 19, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    What a GREAT idea!! New goal: convince people in my neighborhood to join in. Thanks for the great idea!!

    • Bethany
      Bethany February 20, 2013 at 11:15 am #

      I’m so glad you guys are motivated to give it a try. If you can find the right people to partner with, it’s an absolute dream! Good luck in your ventures!

  4. Alessandra December 30, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi Bethany, are you still doing your meal exchanges? I too believe it is a great idea that can simplify so many people’s lives: I have created a US-wide online free service to handle all the logistics (including finding people to exchange meals with). Would love to tell you more and get your feedback.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] the family kitchen table.  We’ve brainstormed freezer meals, introduced the idea of sharing dinner with your neighbors, suggested new recipe ideas, and explored meal-kit delivery […]

  2. Kids Eat Free! : Dallas Dining Deals for Families - August 25, 2016

    […] the family kitchen table.  We’ve brainstormed freezer meals, introduced the idea of sharing dinner with your neighbors, suggested new recipe ideas, and explored meal-kit delivery […]

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