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Any weekday, at about 6:01 p.m., you can find me racing to my daughter’s day care to be the last parent picking up from class. By 6:15 p.m., I’m trying to find a snack and juice cup to pacify my daughter for our 30-minute commute home. After hitting the door, I’m heating up a kiddie dinner for her while trying to figure out a dinner plan for my husband and me. Needless to say, meal planning is often a labor and source of stress for me.

Thank God my friend recently invited me to host a meal-planning party next month! It couldn’t have happened at a better time because I’ve been struggling lately with how to be creative with meals at home. If you don’t know much about the growing meal-planning party trend, let me share a little of what I learned from my friend, Allyson Reid.

Reid is a new Wildtree representative, a fast-growing meal-planning company founded in 1996. She shared a little bit on how meal-planning parties work and why they are helpful for busy people who need a healthy way to feed their families.

The cost of a meal kit is around $75 and provides you with the basis for the 10 meals you will take home. Each meal feeds between four and six people. Before a party, the host talks with their meal-planning representative to pre-select meals from about 27 options, including slow-cooker and skillet meals.

“The party host usually pulls together a menu of three or four different meal types for their guests,” Reid said. “When the guests RSVP to attend, they select their meal preferences from the host’s list. People love the meals because we have peanut-free, GMO-free, dairy-free and gluten-free options to choose from.”

The meal kits include recipes, cooking oils, seasonings, sauces and breads. Meal titles include Mini Margarita Pizzettes, Loaded Buffalo Chicken Bread and Southwestern Bell Pepper Nachos. Based on these selections, your rep will bring everyone’s meal kit ingredients to the party and provide the party host with a shopping list of meats and veggies for the meals. These items could cost each guest around $65, depending on their protein selections. For items such as seafood, the cost could be more.

“I know it may seem expensive if you’re on a budget, but when you break it down, it costs less than $3 per serving, which is a lot less than unhealthy takeout food,” she explained. “Plus, you usually have enough leftovers to make more meals beyond the 10 meals you’ll be putting together.

“It’s best to invite a number of people based on the space in your kitchen. Each person will need the same amount of space they’d need to eat a meal,” Reid said. “Meal-planning parties can run about an hour and a half up to three hours, depending on the social time.”

Guests will need to bring 10 freezer bags and may also find it helpful to bring measuring cups and spoons for compiling all of the ingredients into their meal bags. By the end of the party, your meals will be sorted, labeled with detailed cooking instructions and ready to cook or freeze.

The beauty of these parties is that you, your spouse or even your kids can easily pull a dinner bag out of the freezer anytime to make a meal in as little as 10 minutes!

“The goal of these parties is to create quick, delicious and healthy meals,” said Reid. “Meal planning helps to fight obesity because it breaks you out of a fast-food mentality. I believe food should be more than just nourishment; it should taste good, too!”

Heidi Wilson, senior team leader, has worked for Wildtree for over two years. In addition to home-based parties, she facilitates informational corporate events around the Detroit area. She was attracted to meal-planning parties because of her desire to make healthier meals for her family of four.

“Some people think that these parties are only good for bigger families. But they work for anybody who is busy and loves to eat,” Wilson laughed. “I even get single guys who come to my workshops because they want convenient meal options.”

Meal-planning parties are an easy way to save money because even for smaller families, you can divide the bagged meals in half for later, she said.

“Since you freeze most of the meals, I’ve heard of some people saving meals up to four months,” Wilson said. “They also make great lunch leftovers.”

Other meal-planning party companies include Country Gourmet Home and Tastefully Simple. If you have no time for a meal-planning party, you can also try meal-to-home delivery services such as HelloFresh and Blue Apron. If you have other smart strategies on how to plan meals, share your suggestions.

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