Meal strategery for busy moms

I’m a mother of two with a full-time job, side projects, and maybe a couple hobbies and aspirations.  I’m ‘leaning in’ about as far as I can without falling over.  I love to cook, but it’s so hard to pull off on any given weeknight.  I did a reality check the other week and craigslisted my KitchenAid mixer and Cuisinart ice cream maker, because let’s be honest; I’d be lucky to bake a casserole.  I am NOT making artisan bread or fresh ice cream with a sprig of mint.

KitchenWar-IamAdam

Image by theadam via flickr

The minute the kids and I walk through the door at the end of the day, they are clamoring for food.  I want to eat healthy, and I want to eat adventurously, but all THEY want are chicken nuggets and French fries.  And then there’s lunch.  I don’t even want to think about how much money my husband and I waste going out for lunch every day, despite the fact that I spend mucho dinero at the grocery store every week.  Here’s the reality; meal planning is WAR.  The opposition is legion, and you’re not going to win this one without battle plans.

A while back I wrote about Blue Apron, the service that sends all the ingredients and recipes you need to make 3 dinners/week.  I haven’t stopped thinking about it since then, especially with the continued failure to plan any lunches or dinners proactively.  Another argument in favor of a service like that.  Someone, please, do it for me, because I can’t do it for myself!

I want to, though.  So I decided to try and up my own planning game, sort of a step towards a service like that, because clearly I need help.  It’s just a question of how much help and what kind.

My first attempt is going pro on allrecipes.com.  I already find myself on their site frequently when searching for recipes, so I know they have good stuff.  The pro plan also let me buy a 6 month membership for a mere $10.  Definitely worth a shot.  I also got the companion iOS app for $1.99.   A lot of what is going to make this approach work is having a solid collection of recipes in my recipe box, so I want to be able to add them on the go.  The app lets you do that, and it has a fun mix and match slider thing.  I’ll play with that later.

Back to the pro subscription.

I created a Test Menu, for 2 nights.  The biggest way to fail when trying to learn a new habit or method is to go all-in and overdo it, so 2 nights.  Baby steps.

week1-menuThe menu creation process was easy, as was printing up the shopping list.  It let me remove things I already have on hand (like olive oil), and you can add items, too.  An export csv would be REALLY great, though.  My shopping list on test menu 2 went to 2 pages simply due to formatting, which sucks. The shopping trip went quickly, and wound up being about $15 per dinner in this case.

Did I follow through and cook it?  Yes, actually, I did.  Even though one of the nights had me getting home late from a conference I was attending that week.

Did the kids eat it?  Yes, though I kept the blue cheese gravy off their pork chops.  I also gave them green beans again on the third night (I bought extra) because they LOVED that roasted green beans recipe.

Was it economical? Yes again.  $15 to cover dinner for four is great, but on top of that my husband and I got leftovers for lunch the next day, because I made the recipes a little bigger than called for (pork chops are cheap).

Bottom line? Success! It took a little planning, but the drag and drop process for creating menus was fun, and the printable shopping list was handy.  I’m going to plan a second test menu of 2 dinners and see if it meets equal success.  From there, I might up the stakes to 3 dinners, but I have a feeling now that there’s a reason Blue Apron doesn’t offer a full 5 or 7 dinners.  I don’t think that probably works out, because something’s always going to come up. With just 2 or 3 nights planned, missing a night and cooking the third dinner on the next night, for example, is viable and still feels like success.  Even if there isn’t some clever psychology or data analysis behind their decision (and there IS, I mean, $60/week for 3 dinners for two was sticker shock enough, imagine trying to sell $100/week, regardless of being worth it), I know that in my case, trying to plan out all 5 weeknights is destined to fail.  But 3 outta 5 aint bad… 😉

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