Meal prepping parties are a great way to get together with friends when life is busy, especially now when many of us are craving time with friends more than ever.
This is one of the most practical ways you can get together with friends – visit while you work together to make meal prep a little easier. Today I’m sharing all my organizational tips on how to make a meal prepping party a success.
I actually love to meal prep….when I have time. But from talking with friends, I know I’m in the minority on that. And let’s face it. With kids, outside commitments, and work, there’s very little time to actually enjoy meal prepping. It’s more like “throw dinner together as quickly as possible.”
This is where meal prepping parties come in. First order of business, gather up some friends, make a plan using my guide below, and get to meal prepping the fun way.
Make Your Guest List
My suggestion is to do this with 3-4 guests the first time you host a meal prepping party. Keeping it small allows you to figure out how this best works for you. Plus, if you have limited space you aren’t tripping over each other.
Be sure you let guests know when they are invited that they need to confirm attendance by a specific date. Also, this isn’t a party where they can decide to duck out last-minute unless there’s an emergency. Everything is planned with a specific amount of people in mind.
You will need confirmations with enough time for you to either give them lists of ingredients to shop for and bring or you to be able to shop for them all and they bring cash to reimburse you.
I find it’s better to make a list then break it down by cost and how many servings each family will need then have each person bring ingredients that are fairly equivalent to that cost.
What kind of meal prep do you do?
Great question! The most popular kind of meal prepping party is when you make bulk meals of the same recipes for that week’s meals or freezer meals.
However, you can also have everyone bring their own ingredients and recipes and prep your own individual meals together or you can simply prep ingredients for the week such as chopping produce, pre-cooking chicken, etc.
Create a Meal List
This can get a bit tricky when you consider allergies, restrictions, and likes/dislikes. Here are my tips for making the menu plan easier.
- Gather likes/dislikes, allergies, and dietary restriction information from your guests when they accept the invitation.
- Choose meals that you can easily leave something out or substitute ingredients such as gluten-free pasta instead of regular in lasagna or hempseed instead of nuts in a pesto. (On this podcast episode of TMI with Christine, I use the example of chicken cacciatore and how it can be adapted depending on the family.)
- Choose meals that use some of the same ingredients but have different flavor profiles such as: chicken cacciatore, chicken burrito bowls, a “dump and go” soup, and lasagna.
- The best types of meals to prep for busy weeknights are casseroles, soups, Instant Pot, slow cooker, and meals that can go in the freezer. If you don’t have an Instant Pot already, it’s a real dinner saver! I have this one and this one.
- Plan meals that can be partially prepared and/or assembled but don’t need to be completely made or cooked right away.
Quick Tip: Make a list with each ingredient needed and double check that you’ve double/tripled/etc. everything for the correct amount of servings.
- Cilantro Lime Chicken (and Thai Peanut Chicken) here
- Easy Rice and Beans
- Can be reheated in the microwave or oven.
- Optional: Put in a 9×13 dish and top with shredded cheese and sliced smoked sausage for a full meal.
- Bake at 375F covered for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes to brown the top.
- Butternut Thyme Shepherd’s Pie
- Cook butternut squash topping.
- Sauté onions and garlic and brown meat then assemble meal.
- Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
- Cook per recipe instructions.
- Can be reheated in the microwave or put in a baking dish. Cover with foil and bake at 375F for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake additional 10-15 minutes.
- Ham and Bean Soup (Instant Pot or slow cooker)
- Sauté onions then add all ingredients to a bag. Cook per recipe instructions.
- Stuffed Peppers with Ground Beef and Spinach
- Prepare per recipe instructions but don’t bake them.
- Chicken, Bean, and Veggie Soup (Slow Cooker)
- Prepare all ingredients using alternate chicken options in notes then follow instructions for cooking in recipe.
- Southwest Chili
- Sauté veggies and brown the meat.
- Mix together all remaining ingredients except cheese and package.
- Cook per recipe instructions.
- Serve over rice, quinoa, or with tortilla chips.
- Chicken Marsala
Quick Tip: You can bulk cook rice and quinoa ahead of time if you’d like. Extra quinoa is especially great to have on hand for easy salads. Just search “black bean zucchini quinoa salad” on my site for my favorite quinoa salad.
What Guests Should Bring
- Ziploc bags, containers, and/or baking dishes to put meals in. I like 9×13 aluminum pans for casseroles. You can usually get these in bulk super cheap at club stores like BJ’s. I also like using my Foodsaver for any meals that will be frozen.
- Knives and peelers as needed
- Cutting boards
- Instant Pot – if you choose to make a recipe where you can cook chicken in bulk to shred, etc. This also can double as extra cooking space to Sauté onions, etc.
- Appetizer, dessert, or drink (whatever you decide to have people bring)
Additional Things You Will Need
- Index cards/paper (to write directions on)
- Printed copies of the recipes for each person or go paperless and send them links via email
- Plastic wrap and aluminum oil
- Large Frying pans/pots (depending on what you will be prepping)
- Additional large bowls
Quick Tip: Prepare the notecards for each station ahead of time so you aren’t trying to figure it out when guests are there and ready to start prepping!
How to Set Up Your Meal Prepping Party
Set up prep stations in an order that makes sense for the dishes you are making and for easy meal assembly.
You will want to have a station by the stove for meat if meat will need to be browned or cooked.
Keep any vegetables that need to be sauteed near the stove as well.
Each prep station should have:
- Notecard that has what ingredient will be prepped at this station on one side. Example: 5 red onions, sliced thin; 6 yellow onions, small diced. On the other side, you will put what recipe each goes in and how much is needed per serving.
- Cutting board
- Knife and any other utensils needed to prepare ingredient
- Bowl to put prepped ingredient in
Let’s Get Started!
When everyone arrives for the party have them find the station the ingredient(s) they brought belong on and have them set them there. Also have them put any of the equipment/gadgets they brought at the station it is needed at.
Assign everyone a station.
Have them read the notecard to be sure they understand exactly what they need to do.
Have everyone start prepping ingredients. If they will be prepping multiple ingredients prioritize the ingredients that need to be ready first such as browned meat, sautéed veggies, etc.
Quick Tip: measure out one of any ingredients that call for “1 onion/clove garlic/bell pepper/etc.” so you have an idea of how much should go into each recipe.
Once everything is prepped, flip the notecard over, have everyone gather their containers, bags, and pans, and then each person can go through the assembly line preparing their meals.
Once meals are assembled and wrapped, use the Sharpie to mark each package with what’s inside, how many servings it is, and date it was made.
Now sit down and relax together.
There’s no way to answer all the questions you may have within the post, but I’ll make a list of commonly asked Q & A as they come up. Leave a comment with your question or join us in My Practical Kitchen Facebook page and ask your question there.