A few years ago, an editor presented me with an assignment that seemed somewhat insurmountable. Somewhere in the suburbs, there were groups of moms who gathered together to plan and exchange meals. Could I find one and write an article about it?
I thought this meal-making concept was a smart idea. I scoured the web. I asked around. I posted queries on social media sites, asking if anyone knew of a group like this. At every turn, I came up with the same response: “I don’t know of anyone, but what a great idea.” Everyone had heard of this concept, but no one knew if a group like this really existed. Could this be an urban, or rather suburban, legend?
The assignment never turned into an article, but as my family entered school-age years, I thought back to this assignment. Why couldn’t I form a group like this? So, I gathered up my running partner, the mother of my son’s best friend, and a friend from church (who had a great reputation as a phenomenal cook), plus one of her neighbors. Together, the five of us would tackle family mealtime as the Meal Makin’ Mamas.
As it turns out, one of the mothers had been in a meal-making group like this previously. “One person would buy all of the ingredients for seven different meals and we would meet and spend five hours making meals,” says Amber Forslund, a mom who lives in Carver. “But you didn’t socialize because you were so busy.”
Because of the time commitment and changing dietary needs of the families involved, the group slowly fell apart.
Instead, our group decided that we would meet and make one meal collectively, but each bring a completed freezer meal to swap. For example, you might bring five pans of lasagna, but leave with one pan of lasagna, plus four other meals and whichever meal we were making together. “Being able to have an on-the-go meal in my freezer is a game changer,” says Amber Goodyear, who lives in Chaska. “My son comes home from football and he can grab something to eat when he comes home.”
Before the swap
We meet once a month and rotate our meetings between members’ homes. Before the meeting, we decide what we are making so we don’t all show up with a chicken dish. We try to have a beef or fish entrée, pork, chicken and a soup. “I personally have tried new and different recipes that I wouldn’t try otherwise,” says Jessica Pond, who lives in Victoria. “Like the fish. I usually don’t eat fish, but I have really liked the fish dishes we have made.”
One of the biggest challenges is finding recipes that freeze well. For example, we learned the hard way that potatoes turn black when frozen raw and then baked. Some vegetables, like bok choy, don’t freeze well. Making dishes with chicken breasts that are frozen solid take twice as long to thaw and bake. As a group, we prefer meals that are simple—thaw it and bake or grill. Finding those recipes has been challenging, but rewarding when you find a winner.
Thinking of starting your own group?
If you are planning on starting your own group, it doesn’t hurt to circle up your friends who know their way around the kitchen. If you don’t know a group of amateur chefs, find a group who shares the same food philosophies you do, whether all vegetarian, gluten-free, organic, or dedicated to healthy eating. “I think that’s what makes our group work,” says Kelly Brouwer, who lives in Chaska. “We are all easy-going and laid back.”
Besides the convenience of helping with the chore of mealtime, one of the unexpected benefits of Meal Makin’ Mamas has been the camaraderie. We work hard, but we laugh a lot. Our work sessions are a girls’ night in every sense of the word, where we gab about life, our kids, our jobs, or our husbands. Only we go home with the best party favor ever—meals for our families.
Looking for other ways to simplify mealtime?
Assemble meals in-store or grab ready-made meals to finish at home. Menu changes monthly.
The MN Table
Heat-and-eat meals with emphasis on organic and sustainable ingredients delivered to your door weekly.
Host a meal-making workshop with friends in your home featuring Wildtree products. Recipes and shopping lists included.
These breakfast burritos are simple and customizable. Just fill, freeze, reheat and eat!
- Scramble a dozen eggs.
- Brown hash browns.
- Add extra ingredients (like cheese, tomatoes, spinach, etc.)
- Wrap ingredients in tortillas; roll in foil and store in freezer.
- Unwrap foil and microwave on high 1-2 minutes (until warmed through).
Greek: Add feta cheese, mushrooms, browned sausage, fresh spinach.
Mexican: Add cheddar cheese, chopped & sautéed onions and bell peppers, Mexican corn and black beans, sausage or ham.
- 1 lb. Italian sausage
- 2 14oz. cans Italian diced tomatoes
- 1 bag fresh spinach
- 2 14 oz. cans chicken broth
- 1 19oz. bag cheese tortellini
- 1 8 oz. cream cheese
Mix all ingredients together and simmer.
Toasted Sesame Ginger Salmon
- 1 1/2 pounds raw salmon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
- 1-2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
- 4 green onions, sliced
Sesame ginger honey glaze: 1/4 cup honey, 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil, 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger, 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
Combine olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, brown sugar, and whisk until combined. Add salmon and place in a Ziploc bag. Refrigerate (or freeze) until ready to bake or grill. Top with sesame ginger honey glaze.
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1 sleeve buttery round crackers, crushed
- 1 tsp. poppy seeds
- 1 8 oz. container sour cream
- 1 10.5 can cream of chicken soup
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Place the chicken breasts into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until chicken breasts are no longer pink in the center, about 20 minutes. Drain water, shred chicken. In a separate bowl, blend sour cream and cream of chicken soup. Mix in shredded chicken. Pour into a 9x9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Mix butter, cracker and poppy seeds then pour on top of dish. Freezes well. When ready to bake, bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
Buffalo Chicken/Turkey Sloppy Joes
- 1 lb. lean ground chicken or turkey
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
- 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- Hamburger buns for serving
- Blue cheese sauce
Saute onion, carrots, and celery until they soften. Add minced garlic. Then, add the ground chicken and break it up into crumbles. When meat is no longer pink, season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth. Whisk together tomato sauce, wing sauce, Worcestershire, and apple cider vinegar. Stir mixture into chicken and vegetables. Simmer 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Freezes well. To serve, put on hamburger buns and top with blue cheese sauce.
- 1 lb. ground Italian sausage
- 32 oz. beef broth
- 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
- 1/2 small onion, diced
- 1 2.5 oz. sliced black olives, drained
- 1 Tbsp. dried basil
- 2 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ cup diced pepperoni slices
- 1 4 oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained
- 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
In a large skillet, cook and crumble Italian sausage over medium high heat. Remove and drain off fat. In a large crockpot, add all ingredients except the cheese. Cook on low for 6 hours. When ready to serve, top each bowl with shredded cheese.
- 2 loaves French bread
- 5 1/3 oz. cream cheese
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/3 tsp. paprika
- 1/3 tsp. oregano
- 1/3 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 lb. turkey
- 1/2 lb. ham
- 12 Swiss cheese slices
Cream together cream cheese, butter, parmesan cheese, paprika, oregano, and garlic powder. Slice French bread lengthwise and spread creamy mixture on one side. Layer with ham, turkey, and cheese. Wrap in foil. Bake in foil at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Can be frozen.