Meal Planning Success!

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.


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.

You can check out their website for more details.

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!


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  1. Look up Thomas Kellers roast chicken on Epicurious. Chicken and salt. SUPER easy and amazing. I used to be intimidated by roasting chicken too-now I do one every couple weeks… Great for dinner, and awesome for leftovers. 🙂 going to check the Fresh 20 out after this baby gets here & our life settles a bit-sounds awesome!

  2. Only $44?! Girl that is a freakin bargain! I need to try this out! I have the same problems with planning ahead and making lists. I am guilty of dishing out the tacos more than I would like just cause it’s easy and I know my kid will eat it…

  3. It only cost $44 for all 20 ingredients? I try to meal plan but I spend on average $130 a week at the grocery store.
    I’ve always thought something like this would be an amazing idea IF they could somehow combine it with weekly sales and coupons. Think of the savings then!

  4. I roasted a chicken (I made the famous “Engagement Chicken”…) for the first time a few weeks ago and it was alarmingly easy and my beau is still talking about it. If I can roast a chicken without screwing it up, it must be easy.

    The “engagement” part hasn’t worked yet…I’m holding out!

  5. This sounds like a great plan and I love that you’re so into it! Something that made cooking way more fun fand manageable for me was stretching myself a bit and learning new stuff. Roasting a chicken, for example, used to be really, really intimidating but one evening I randomly gave the Thomas Keller Epicurious recipe a shot and it was eye openingly easy which was great because of, you know, the easiness but also because it made other things seem less intimidating and easier to do without stressing out. Kind of like with running. If you’ve never done a 5k you’re like, “Run a mile? ACK!” but once you’ve got the 5k under your belt you’re like, “Sure. A mile. Whatevs.” Stretching myself every so often makes the daily stuff I have to do anyway so much easier to handle.

  6. Brandy O'Neill Riggins on

    I promise.. roasting a whole chicken is really so easy. And I’m one of those people who is a mess when it comes to meal planning. You could totally do it!

  7. Shevaun Boatright on

    Jill, I have recipes and menus up the wazoo. I cook a full three course dinner at least 5x a week, the man does it the other times. Feel free to hit me up. I mean, I’m going to try to cloth diaper this time around, so I’m sure to be bugging you. And I third what everyone else says…roasting a chicken is way easier than it sounds. It’s just kinda icky to handle raw chicken. Ok, it’s a lot icky.

  8. I agree, roasting a chicken is pretty darn easy. Actually, I would say it is way easier than roasting peppers! It just takes an oven and maybe a meat thermometer.

  9. seriously, roasting a chicken is easy. really easy. if you put it in on lower heat and for longer it will literally just fall off the bone and if you poke it under the leg say, and the juices run clear, its okay!

  10. Found the groupon and bought it yesterday. We are so bad about making and sticking to a menu so I hope this is the magic thing that sticks. Thanks for the recommendation!

  11. Definitely take an hour or two to do the prep work on Sunday for that week’s meals…it really does make a difference. Since I started doing prep work either on Sundays or the night before it’s considerably cut down my time in the kitchen after work. I use that time on Sunday to make breakfast sandwiches for the husband and I too so we’re not running to Dunkin’ Donuts or Wawa for breakfast on our way to the office. It’s a great feeling knowing 1.) that I save a buttload of cash not getting take out or pre-made meals every night 2.) that the food is better quality for all of us.

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  13. You inspired me. First, it was months ago with the diva cup (unfortunately, I didn’t get to try it out because I got knocked up…again), and now with meal planning. Yup. I just used diva cup and meal planning in the same train of thought. You’re welcome.

    I hunted for a Groupon and signed up for The Fresh 20! Granted, I have to make some adjustments, like adding avocado to everything…but it makes me kind of feel like a legitimate parent and partner having a plan for dinner.

    Keep it up and let us know how it goes.

    (Congrats on #3…we are on that same wild and crazy ride…)

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