Meal Planning, Cook Sessions & Assembly

Questions about the meal planning process and information on this site.

Meal Planning

Where are the recipes on the website?

There is a link to the recipes on the home page - Or, you can CLICK HERE.

How many meals does each recipe make?

  1. Usually meals make 20 four person meals though sometimes due to recipe calculations the meal may make a few more or a few less.

  2. Some of our meals make 40 two person meals due to the packaging process. And some of our meals like our soup, chili and mac & cheese make only 10 or so four person meals.

  3. Be prepared for recipes at times to make more than the recipe states will make due to humans making and measuring the recipe. We use these extras for emergency meals creation or give them to helpers.

  4. Also we have found that at a cook session, a recipe may make more or less than it made when we tested it. This is unavoidable due to different people each time doing the shopping and measuring. We have learned to just go with the flow and make it work.

  5. Each recipe at the top states how many meals the recipes should make

How many meals are made at each cooking session?

  1. In our large cooking sessions, we began by generally making 2 complete meals with each making 20 four person meals for a total of 40 four person meals. Since our ministry has grown and the meals are being delivered more rapidly, we now will make 2 to 4 complete meals depending on need.

  2. In our smaller cooking sessions we may make 10 to 20 four person meals which add variety to our freezer and supplement between large cooking sessions.

What is the meal making decision process for each cook session?

  1. We try to vary the type of meat used in each meal being made at one cook session.

  2. We look over our cook session history so that we offer variety over the year since some of our recipients may be regular recipients due to long term or chronic conditions.

  3. We usually make 1 of the 2 recipes in a cook session that have Garlic Bread as part of the meal.

  4. We usually make soups & chili in the winter for a change of pace.

What are the sources for the recipes on the website?

  1. All meals have been made and tested by us.

  2. Some are from tried and true family recipes.

  3. Some are new ones we have tried and liked in an effort to offer variety.

  4. Some are from our church’s cookbook.

  5. Some are from other cookbooks specifically geared to freezing meals.

  6. Some we tried; found they didn’t work well and have not included.

What is the process used to determine if a meal freezes well?

  1. We run a test trial on each recipe.

What all goes into a packaged meal?

  1. A Main Dish

  2. A Vegetable or a Fruit

  3. A Starch side dish unless the Main Dish includes a starch like a casserole or a pasta dish.

  4. A type of Bread … usually our French Bread with Garlic Spread unless the Main Dish requires buns as with Sloppy Joe’s or BBQ Shredded Pork Sandwiches

  5. We do not include desserts in the packaged meals. We have a variety of desserts available on the freezer door for deliverers to add to a meal.

  6. A Prayer Card 

  7. A Reply Card so that recipients can send us feedback on our meals. 

In the recipes, why does it say “have more on hand” for labels and packaging containers?

  1. We have found no matter how many times we test a recipe and tell the volunteers how to measure carefully that we sometimes make more meals than the recipe states.

  2. It is just easier to have more items on hand so that we are not stressed if this happens.

Cook Sessions & Assembly

When are cooking sessions scheduled?

Whenever our freezers start to get low.

How is timing of cook session determined?

  1. This mostly depends on availability of team members to lead the cook session.

  2. Cooking sessions are offered at varying times so a variety of people can be involved in this ministry. Cooking sessions have been done after our last service on Sunday with lunch served, on Friday nights with appetizers for fellowship, on weekday nights with a small group in someone’s home, as part of our organization’s Service Sunday events, at a weekend service retreat for middle school youth and at council meetings with the council members. Our future plans include having cook sessions with our confirmation students, with a homeless shelter for their transitional housing program and with local businesses.

  3. Periodic small emergency cook sessions with just members of our team to add some variety to the freezer are utilized when time does not allow for a large cooking session.

What steps need to take place before a cook session happens?

Below is a basic list.  A more detailed list is HERE 

  • The availability of members of the planning team to be at a cook session date.

  • Schedule the space at our facility to prep and assemble the meals.

  • Communicate to organization date, time and place for volunteers to attend to assemble

      the meals.

  • Determine meals to be prepared.

  • Acquire the funding if funding doesn’t already exist for the cook session.

  • Create a consolidated shopping list from the individual recipe’s shopping lists.

  • Check supplies on hand against shopping list and edit shopping list as needed.

  • Order any items ahead of cook session.

  • Watch for sales of items if can be purchase a head of time.

  • Assign Leaders for Shopping, Kitchen Prep and Assembly for recipes.

  • Give shopping list to the shoppers.

  • Gather all needed cooking utensils.

  • Print recipes, labels, assembly layouts, enlarged assembly directions, prayer and reply cards.

We use our Pre-Cook Session Checklist broken out by timeframes to help us stay on track of the various items that need to be done prior to the cook session 

What process do you go through to organize the shopping lists and create a planning document prior to each cook session?

  1. One person on the team creates a consolidated shopping list by cutting and pasting all the food and packaging items needed for a cook session to a cook session planning document. That list is then compared to our inventory supply lists and edited as needed. Yellow highlights are items not needed. Notes are added as to what is needed. The inventory supply lists have previously been updated after each cook session to be used at this point.

  2. Price comparison shopping is done on line and paper adds to determine best places to purchase items, from Amazon to Sam’s to local grocery stores.

  3. Shopping can then be done from this list. Sometimes it helps to create a new list by store.

  4. Team members and others who have committed to the cook session are also noted in this planning document.

  5. Leaders are assigned: Session Leader, Kitchen Prep Leaders, Assembly Leaders, Clean-up Leader

  6. Sample planning document

What is the most effective way to hold a large cook sessions?

  1. It is best at the larger cook sessions to pre-assign leaders that come prepared for their jobs. These leaders include a Cook Session Leader, Kitchen Prep Leaders for each recipe, Assembly Leaders for each recipe, and a Garlic Bread Leader. If needed, one person can take on multiple leadership roles.

  2. Each of these leaders will then select helpers from the group of volunteers that show up for the cook session.

Who shops for the cooking session?

It helps to have dedicated shoppers who are familiar with the process but any willing volunteer,

both members and non-members of the team can do the shopping from the list provided by the

cook session organizer.

Who does the prep work for the meals?

The prep work for the meals can be done in a variety of ways:

  1. Prior to the cook session in members of the team’s homes.

  2. By a small group of volunteers 2 hours prior to the larger group of volunteers showing up for the assembly session.

  3. At a large cook session, some volunteers will be assigned to prep work in the kitchen while the others are working on set up and some small assembly jobs in the gym.

Where does the prep work for the cooking sessions take place?

Most of it is done in the large kitchen at our facility during the Cook Session. Some is done at team members' homes.

How do you determine what happens in the assembly lines for each meal?

  1. Assembly Layout documents have been created for each meal and Enlarged Assembly Directions have been created for each recipe and each meal. We use these Assembly Layouts to layout the tables. We cut and tape the Enlarged Assembly Directions to the table matching the Assembly Layout diagram. This way the volunteer can read on the table what measurement is required of that ingredient and how to put it in the container.

  2. The Assembly Layouts are to be used as a guide. Even some of our leaders don’t always set up the tables in exactly the way that the Assembly Layout is laid out. Certain circumstances require change of plans and flexibility!

Who does the assembly and packaging work for the meals?

The assembly and packaging work is done by a combination of members of the team, volunteers

from the congregation and anyone who shows up to help. This has turned into an awesome

time of fellowship at our church. It is also a wonderful tool to teach others to serve. We have

had youth, young families, couples, our church council, and seniors all be a part of assembly and

packaging. We have used this ministry as a training tool for how to serve.

Where does the packaging & assembly work for the cooking sessions take place?

  1. For the large cook sessions we do the assembly in our gymnasium. The gymnasium connects with our kitchen so it makes set-up and clean-up much easier.

  2. For some of our small sessions, we do the assembly in a team member’s home and use it as a small group activity.

What sanitary measures are followed during a cook session?

  1. We clean the cooking and prep surfaces in the kitchen with disinfectant wipes prior to cooking and during prep work.

  2. We have hairnets available as needed.

  3. All of our dishes get run through our industrial dishwasher.

  4. We clean the packaging and assembling tables with disinfectant wipes prior to assembling.

  5. Everyone involved in the cook session does a thorough job washing their hands and/or wears disposable gloves.

Are desserts made at each cooking session?

  1. No this has not been needed since we most of our desserts are donated from members.

  2. We do on occasion make desserts at a cook session when needed.

Are desserts made by members of your organization labeled?

  1. The only desserts that we label are the ones we make at a cook sessions.

  2. Sometimes the donors will label the freezer bags with what is inside and whether they have nuts by using a permanent marker rather than printed labels.

How are the packaging of the meals turned into fellowship opportunities for your organization?

  1. At the beginning of our cook session, we begin with a group prayer.  and Washing Hands Instructions

  2. Getting people to serve together allows fellowship to naturally occur.

  3. Sometimes we include the serving of lunch for our volunteers. We also have people bring appetizers & drinks to share for our Friday night cook sessions.

What if scheduling conflicts arise and a cook session cannot be scheduled?

On top of our freezer, we have instructions for individuals to use to package emergency meals

that they can add to the freezer and a container that contains directions, packaging containers,

freezer storage bags, labels, permanent markers, etc.

We have samples to show them how to package the items to work best in the freezer.

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