Meal Prep Rocks: Cooking for Friends.

20160625_105205Meal Prep for me falls into a number of wide categories including the box meal services I have reviewed, building your meals at the beginning of the week. and heating them up as the week goes on, and prepped crockpot meals and freezer meals.

Let’s make it easier to get food on the table. Making dinner should not be a chore, if it is, you need to simplify it! (Yet my boyfriend would happily eat grilled chicken and wedge salads every day, for months.)

I’m  puzzling out the problem people have with eating well regularly. Things I’ve done include buying cookbooks for friends, sharing meal prep links, offering inspiration, and in this case I made over 100 servings of dinner for friends to fill their fridges with.

Planning the Beta Test

I picked a handful of candidates and invited them to a “meal prep” brunch.  I pitched the idea:

There would be 6 meals to choose from, and for $10 per meal, they would get servings for 4 people. They would come for brunch on cook day. They’d enjoy brunch , then begin assembling their meals, hanging out, chatting and relaxing as the meal prep got done.

The meals were selected to be paleo/gluten free friendly, with a mixture of heat and eat , crock pot and meals that needed real cooking.

I sent out the invites and prepped for doing a ton of grocery shopping.

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Menu Selection

Barbecued Pork worthy of the 4th of July, with Sweet Corn Casserole.

Stuffed Burgers for the barbecue (Stovetop, Grill or Oven, Cook and Eat)

Baked Macaroni and Cheese (Heat and Eat)

Greek meatballs with grilled vegetables and tomato sauce (Heat and Eat)

Peanut butter chicken and sauce for noodles or zoodles

Pork Belly Rice (or Cauliflower Rice ) bowls. (Heat and Eat – In individual bowls)

Teriyaki chicken & Green veg (Crockpot, Cook and Eat)

 

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Selection and Strategy

The participants selected their meals and made payment arrangements. I began planning out  grocery shopping and preparation of the meals.  Complex lists of ingredients were bounced against my guests expectations and my knowledge of their likes and dislikes. (These were close friends I know them and their partners pretty well) In fact, that Mac and Cheese dish got swapped out for a cauliflower casserole because the only person who ordered it needs to be avoiding carbs.

It Goes Pear-Shaped, in a good way.

When it got down to strategy, I couldn’t see a clear division of “Stuff to have them chop and prepare” and “stuff for me to prepare for them”. So I prepared it. Or almost all of it. I left the crock pot meals a little loose  and let them add their own frozen veg to bulk them out, but 99% of everything was cooked/prepped and ready for them to package up and take home.

The day of the brunch my friends came over, bringing cooler bags with them. We had brunch together of bbq pork, corn casserole, coffee and pastries. They picked out the vegetables for their meals and built the rice bowls to order.  We used freezer bags from my freshly and sunbasket deliveries to keep everything cool, and they went about the rest

20160625_162457Feedback and Retrospective.

 

Feedback on the dishes has been kind, but honest. The crockpot dishes cook a little too fast. The rice bowls have amazing flavor, but a little more  sauce would have been nice. The burgers are amazing, the cauliflower casserole tasted like french onion soup, but in a good way. (That last  one is weird, but when I opened my casserole to cook it, I understood what Kim meant. )

Logistically, the price per meal was too low. I could have shopped more strategically. The numbers I ran showed I should have charged closer to $20 per meal, but part of my goal  was to show that eating at home isn’t expensive $20 a meal puts it in the range of SunBasket, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron.

It was a lot of work, and  if this was a business gig, I didn’t pay myself anything for labor. That’s ok, for a hobby, but it means it’s not really sustainable, but my goal is to bring in a little side income as I help you learn to cook. I think that the participants would have liked to do more of the work as well.

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