When Meredith Davies, a software developer living in Boston, decided to start a meal prep squad at her office with two other friends, she figured it would be a fun way to try new recipes and catch up with her work wives—IRL, not on Slack. And, okay, it didn’t hurt that when she prepped her meals for the week on Sunday night, there was at least one lunch she wouldn’t have to worry about. What she didn’t know was how much it would impact all their lives.
The plan: They would take turns prepping enough food to feed all three people, once a week. And on that day, they’d all replace their sad desk salads with a group meal they could enjoy together. Since one squad member was a vegetarian, all the meals would be plant-based. This wasn’t an issue, Davies says, since “we all ate pretty similarly anyway.”
The experiment was a success out of the gate: Not having to plan and make something for yourself every day of the week saved the women time and money, and sharing the meal was a great excuse to step away from the computer for an hour. But over time, the weekly lunches evolved into a meal that was part therapy sesh, part career counseling—and 100 percent meaningful.
Scroll down to find out how to form your own meal prep squad—and how it could help way more than your food budget.
How to feed your squad
After forming the group, Davies was excited to finally have an excuse to put her stack of healthy cookbooks to good use. “I had this one, Plenty, for a couple years, but the recipes were a bit more intense than something I would just make for myself,” she says.
For Carolyn McRae, another MPS member, what she made evolved over time. “I started with some of my personal favorite dishes and would get excited about sharing them with people who had never tried them before,” she says. “And then I started hunting for recipes, looking at vegetarian blogs. It became a game for me. If we had a cold, refreshing salad last week, I’d look for a dish that was a little more warming to serve the following week.”
“The meals we made weren’t necessarily difficult, but everyone really showed up—no one brought PB&Js.”
“The meals we made weren’t necessarily difficult,” Davies adds, but they were thoughtful. “Everyone really showed up—no one brought PB&Js,” she says.
Davies and her two friends enjoyed their lunches so much that even after they stopped working at the same company, they kept their meal prep squad intact—moving it from lunch to dinner. “The day before, we’d start texting about what leftovers we all had in our fridges,” McRae says. “Maybe one person had mango and another had arugula or tofu. Then, we’d all meet up with our ingredients and cook dinner together.” So you can go ahead and add “cutting down on food waste” to the growing list of MPS benefits.
The bigger impact
All three squad members say the lunches became the highlight of their week. “Our workplace was very male dominated, and it was a safe place to voice our frustrations and vent,” McRae says. “We talked really openly with each other about all sorts of things that were going on in our lives, from relationships to career ambitions.”
The MPS members were the first to know about McRae’s idea for a side hustle, for instance, and gave her direct feedback on what they thought worked—and what didn’t. “They were the first people I told when I got my first customers, too,” she says. (Also on the table: wellness advice. “Carolyn told us about an amazing acupuncturist she went to, so then our other squad member went to see him, and she had an equally magical experience,” Davies says.)
“Our workplace was very male dominated, and it was a safe place to voice our frustrations and vent.”
But their topics of conversation weren’t all crystals and kombucha. When one went through a divorce, it was a very dark time for her, and the weekly meals served as an important support system—especially when the lunches morphed into dinners after a few months. Then, the women felt free to dive deep without worrying about how many emails were flooding their inboxes while they ate.
“It was such a meaningful part of my week,” McRae says. “Never once did I want to skip one of those meals.”