Shop, Prep, Freeze--Your Dinners Will Be a Breeze!

By , Elizabeth Lowry, Staff Writer
Unsure what to make for dinner tonight? Open the freezer. Have a sick friend who could use a meal to lift his or her spirits? Head to the freezer. Sick of eating the same 10 meals you have in heavy rotation? Check in your freezer. Is your freezer empty? It’s probably time to plan a freezer meal party. Parties such as these, in which you spend several hours with a group prepping and freezing many meals at once, are gaining popularity.
Hosting your own freezer meal party allows you the freedom to choose your meals, the versatility to stay within a specific budget and the opportunity to get together with friends and family in a fun, productive and engaging way.
If this sounds like something that you would enjoy, you have several options at your disposal: Attend an in-home or at-store party hosted by companies such as Wildtree, Dream Dinners or Tastefully Simple; plan and prep several meals on your own; or you can host your own freezer meal party with as many or as few people as your kitchen can inhabit.  
What Is a Freezer Party?
The party premise is simple: After spending several hours with friends prepping food for multiple recipes, each guest will leave the party with freezer meal swag in the form of four to six nights' worth of dinners (or more, depending on how adventurous your party is), individually packaged and labeled.
The number of people attending and the number of recipes your party creates is completely up to the host. Consider your kitchen prep space, plus the room you'll need in your refrigerator and surrounding areas to hold the supplies, as you make your decision.
There are many different ways you can split up responsibilities among four, six or even more people. For instance, one person can do the planning--which includes choosing meals and making a comprehensive list of ingredients--and dole out shopping lists to the other party attendees. Hosts could also ask each attendee to bring a favorite slow cooker recipe along with enough ingredients for everyone to take home at least one of each completed meal.
SparkPeople member MRSTABER has found success with a six-person party. When she gets together to meal prep with her friends, they each submit two recipes and one person (usually the hostess) purchases everything needed. The hostess also makes copies of the recipes for each person. They then calculate the cost by dividing the price of ingredients evenly. "We all have a great time and we save time by not having to cook a complex meal every night! Our get-togethers last about two-three hours. [We have] so much fun!" she says.
Add to the fun by cranking up the tunes and serving healthy appetizers and drinks to nosh and sip on while you work.
Planning Your Own Party
To ensure your freezer meal party doesn't come up stale, follow these steps:   
1)  Come up with a plan. Decide on how many people to invite, who will do the shopping, how you will divide up the costs and how to get all meals packaged and taken home safely.
2)  Pick recipes everyone can agree on. Be sure to take any dietary restrictions into consideration so everyone has meals his or her whole family can enjoy.
3)   If you are hosting, make sure you have your space prepped in advance. Clear off your workspace, make sure you have adequate amounts of storage space in both your freezer and fridge, have any appetizers and drinks out and ready to go, print out any recipes and place baggies and markers where they will be easily accessible for storage and labeling.

Chef Meg Galvin recommends labeling each meal with not only the recipe name, but also any ingredients that may present allergy issues, the date it was prepared and the cook time and temperature.
4)    Don't forget about sanitation. "All completed recipes need to be prepared with sanitation in mind. When you are cooking in mass quality like this you may [not only] make your own family sick but everyone else's too. Assign one area in the kitchen for protein prep and delegate one person to be in charge of the proteins," Chef Meg says. "If pre-cooking any proteins make sure all items have cooled to 41 degrees before packing into closed containers for freezing."

Pro tip: Make your own "chill sticks" for quick-cooling soups by freezing large water bottles. You can stir the soup with the frozen water bottles to help speed up the cooling process.

5)  Remember to have fun! Try not to worry about every little detail or whether or not Debbie is chopping rather than finely dicing the onions. After all, the best part about the prep party is spending time with your family and friends. The meals are just a bonus!

Let’s Get You Started
If at this point you've already started to mentally clean your house, invite your guests and plan your party food, the good news is you don’t have to worry about finding recipes. The curated list below features healthy recipes that are easy to prep and freeze, heat up nicely in your slow cooker and--most importantly--taste good!
1.  Salsa Chicken is the most popular recipe on SparkRecipes. When you're ready to serve this mouth-watering chicken dish, all you'll have to do is take the ingredients from your freezer to the slow cooker, add a half a cup of water, set on low and cook for six to eight hours.

2.  For a different take on chicken, try Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken. Add the cream cheese and soup mixture after the chicken has cooked through, then finish cooking on low.

3.  You'll love to come home to the smell of Easy Slow Cooker Beef and Mushrooms. No extra steps involved--everything can be combined ahead of time and kept in your freezer.

4.  Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Roast is easy to make, delicious and family-friendly. Freeze all of the ingredients together in this recipe prep, then, when you’re ready, cook for six to seven hours and enjoy!

5.  Who says you can't have breakfast for dinner? Try prepping, freezing and cooking Apple Slow Cooker Oatmeal for a delicious, versatile meal that can be enjoyed any time.

6.  Go meatless on Monday or any day of the week with our Slow Cooker Vegetarian Taco SoupAll you need to do is add your favorite toppings such as fresh cilantro, onions, radishes or a little grated cheese.