Last night I made quite possibly one of the best dinners ever… for me. (The bar is pretty low to begin with.) And the night before that, the dinner I made was pretty tasty, too.
In fact, I’ve made 7 pretty great dinners in the last 9 nights. And by “made” I don’t mean “picked up to-go, brought home, put on plates.” I mean I actually COOKED it, all of it, from start to finish, with mostly fresh and lots of organic ingredients.
WHO AM I? STOP ME BEFORE I START CLEANING BASEBOARDS.
My issues with cooking stem from a lot of things, but I think I’ve boiled it down to the big 3- time, organization, creativity.
I always find I’m scrambling at 5:30, trying to figure out what to feed the kids. If it was just me and Scott, we could fend for ourselves, but I feel like we have to make an effort to have family meals. And many of those meals consisted of some kind of “taco.”
I never had the time to plan out what we wanted to eat for the week AND go grocery shopping. And even if I could find the time, I was simply stumped by what to make. I’d come home with random stuff that could probably come together as something decent, but by the time the evening rolled around, I didn’t have it in me to think up something delicious or search Pinterest. Plus, half the time I was missing one or 2 important ingredients because lists are hard.
Another issue for us is my desire to try to feed our family as much whole, fresh, organic food as possible. Oh, and then there’s the budget issue. So I wanted inexpensive meals that were fresh, easy to cook, and healthy, but my follow through was always crap.
I put out a call for help on my Facebook page a couple weeks ago, and there were so many wonderful, helpful suggestions. Lots of people kept recommending a meal planning program called The Fresh 20. They had a Groupon at the time, and looked somewhat promising, so I went for it. So glad I did!
This works for me because you get a shopping list, they tell you what to prepare ahead (confession: I haven’t prepped anything ahead so far… but I intend to next week!), and then you get 5 recipes for the week that make 4+ generous portions. We always have quite a bit leftover for lunch the next day.
The recipes have been delicious AND full of great, whole foods. This isn’t a diet plan, but it’s something healthy I’m happy to feed my family. Lots and lots of great veggie side dishes. We’re signed up for the classic plan, which includes recipes with meat (though some are vegetarian). There’s also a vegetarian plan and a gluten free plan.
Do the kids like it? You know, they don’t *not* like it. In fact, they loved last night’s dinner, too! They’ve always found enough to eat on their plates, and I love that we’re exposing them to new foods. I honestly don’t care if they like it. They get whatever they want to eat the rest of the day. They’ll either learn to like it, or they’ll be hungry. (Says mean mommy)
What if you don’t like that weeks menu? I skipped this week’s menu because it required roasting a whole chicken and that scared me. So I went back in the archives and pulled up one from December. Since I have a year membership, I can access the archives any time. I highly recommend it.
How much prep and work are the meals? If you do the prep ahead of time, I think you can cut the meal time down to 30 minutes. I haven’t done the prep the last 2 weeks, but even still the longest it’s taken me is 45 minutes, and that was the night I had to roast red peppers. I know! I roasted red peppers! Now, since I’ve never done the prep, I can’t really say how long it would take each weekend, but I really can’t imagine it’s more than an hour. And some of it can be shortened if you do things like buy pre-grated cheese and pre-sliced, pre-washed veggies. A recipe this week called for breadcrumbs that I was to make, but F that. I had a box of Panko in my pantry that worked perfect.
Do you think the cost of the membership is worth it? Granted, I got mine for half off via Groupon, but I would say we’ve already saved as much as I spent by not doing take-out or making more trips to Target for random ingredients. *I think there is still a Groupon out there for it, just in different cities. Try googling “Groupon Fresh 20” and see what you find. You don’t have to live in that city to buy the Groupon.
How expensive are the meals? Money savings is important to me, but it’s not my #1 priority. That said, I spent $44 on all the ingredients I needed (had a few in the pantry, refrigerator already) for this week’s meals. A lot of those ingredients were organic, too. Again, worth it to me because we’re not eating out as much.
This isn’t a sponsored post. I just promised I’d share my thoughts after I tried it out for a bit. If this program doesn’t seem to work for you, there are a lot of other great suggestions in this thread on my Baby Rabies Facebook page.
Let me know if you have any other questions, or even any other meal planning suggestions!