When it comes to new ideas for meal planning, stick me with a fork and call me done! Just as busy as the next Mom, meal planning makes me twitchy because I don’t always have it down to a science. And as a busy Team Mom, the part where I’m hardly home at dinner time most weeknights or on some weekends for that matter makes it even harder to give meal planning a second thought. I’m worried about spending time in the kitchen that no one will appreciate. Its not like I need a blue ribbon for my efforts but I do want to know that what I serve my high maintenance family will not only eat but also enjoy. And I’m worried about spending too much money on ingredients I will rarely use or that are outside our budget for a simple one and done. So when I’m worried, I fade to my easiest recipes ~ which is perfectly fine but we can only eat those so often. This Fall I’m taking my own advice and deciding what meal planning website will fit my family’s needs best, giving us a varied selection of meals to pick from that are easy to make and affordable too. Here is the list of meal planning websites I’m currently considering:
The Pioneer Woman
There hasn’t been a recipe I’ve made yet that my entire family did not devour. By chance I was on a flight to BlogHer with the phenomenal Ree Drummond in 2o11. While waiting to board I noticed her incredible shoes, tweeted about it, and she reached out to me on Twitter. After the flight I was so blessed to share a cab with her to the hotel and have been truly smitten with her amazing everything ever since. Because my people love home cooked meals, I started trying recipes from The Pioneer Woman and haven’t had a miss yet. From special occasions to every day meals and oh the desserts ~ don’t get me started on the desserts! ~ we love all she has to offer. While you won’t find a meal plan service like the others listed below, she does offer a great round ups for quick and easy meals, 16 minute meals, freezer meals and more. The extra credit here is you can watch her every Saturday morning on The Food Network too! While you won’t get shopping lists matched with store sales, based on my personal experience you’ll get an empty dish and “Mom can I have more?” every time you make the effort. That has to count for something!
Let’s be honest ~ I don’t currently shop at Whole Foods because its expensive. With 3 kids and up until this fall, 2 teenage boys at home (1 is now away at college) we would go through 2 pounds of meat at every meal! Not huge milk drinkers but huge consumers of yogurt, cheese, lunchmeat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and anything else I have in front of them, my grocery bills are more than I like so I’ve steered clear of Whole Foods knowing I’d be in a pickle. However…now that I’m feeding 4 instead of 5 I’m willing to give the Whole Foods Weekly Meal Plans a shot. And if all else fails, I can always make the most of their convenience foods every now and again.
100 Days of Real Food
Because everywhere I turn my friends are eating super healthy and I feel guilty that I’m not. We eat a balanced diet full of fresh foods and home made meals most every single night ~ don’t be fooled there ~ I work from home so I’m blessed to be able to cook dinner at lunch. But…I don’t buy organic except milk, my pantry is not GMO devoid, we eat things with sugar and preservatives, and I am guilty of baking with white flour and sugar. A lot. Especially in the fall and winter. So…in order to appease my guilt ridden soul for feeding my family less healthy food when I thought I was doing okay, 100 Days of Real Food has my eye. The plans are designed for busy families of 4 and also gives a nod to the reality of dual career households where working parents are having to juggle. This keen consideration translates to limited time in the kitchen and that always works for me. They offer ideas for every meal of the day, there is a grocery list provided ~ AMEN! ~ and they were designed to be budget friendly. Not just politely budget friendly but full food stamp benefits as as a benchmark and not using sale prices or coupons to lower the cost. That right there makes me want to give this a try. And huge bonus points for offering 7 weeks of meal plans for free. Let’s face it ~ if you give me 4 weeks I am sold because I have no trouble repeating them the next month too.
Widely praised by Dave Ramsey, financial guru, as the single best way to tame your budget and regain your time, eMeals has it going on in basically every menu planning way you can imagine. A paid subscription service with varying membership options, there 18 meal plans to pick from including everything from gluten free and clean eating to portion control and breakfast plans, meaning you can truly find a meal plan for every possible preference on the planet. Crockpot plans, low calorie plans, 30 minute meal plans ~ seriously ~ they have it all. But the game changer comes with the grocery list for the weekly meal plan. Its matched to your grocery store!!!! So remember when I said I might just give Whole Foods a try? The eMeals Meal Plans that work with Whole Foods will match what is on sale at Whole Foods that week! In my grocery market I also have meal plan options for big box stores like Costco, Target, and Walmart or I can choose Kroger specifically. We’ll have a Publix soon but not close to home. So…now only does this plan bring it for options, there’s no question they can show me the money!
5 Dollar Dinners
Erin Chase of 5 Dollar Dinners is a savvy gal and if by using her plans I can feed my family for $5 every night then she’s got my full attention. Also a paid membership plan, one of the things I love about her site is she does full month series like 31 Day of Gluten Free, or 31 Days of Crockpot Recipes. If you are trying to make a lifestyle change or simply done making any major effort and want home cooked meals on auto pilot, she’s got you covered! And just recently Erin has started offering a new series on Freezer Meals from Costco for $150 ~ cue angels singing! So far there is a Gluten Free and a Crockpot Plan and both look delicious. The regular Meal Plan service sends you a weekly email on Fridays with your meal plan ~ thank you for acknowledging that I probably don’t shop until the weekends because I’m busy all week long! Meal plans have five entrees and sides and in that mix there is a freezer friendly, slow cooker and a 20 minute meal too. Right there she’s calling my “we need variety” name. You also get a lunch and breakfast solution which is nice even when your people eat the same thing all the time like mine do. And a random surprise recipe of some kind too.
Once a Month Mom
Speaking of freezer meals, Once a Month Mom is the bomb in this category. Know known as Once A Month Meals, this gal was the frontrunner in the freezer cooking category and if you are up for spending one day in your kitchen you can feed your family for a month ahead. The site offers menu choices that are not only traditional but with ingredients from Whole foods, Paleo, Vegetarian, and even Baby Foods. And the concept is based on making 12-15 recipes on one day, either buy yourself or with a group adding in a new example to “It takes a village” because in that case it apparently does to feed your family. Actually group cooking could be really fun and its something I’d be willing to try with my gal pals if we can all find a free day. Ahem. Anyway, members receive menus on the first day of the month that are tailored to make the most of seasonal produce and sales. You can customize your menus to the serving size that works for you, receive instructions and recipe cards, grocery lists that will work with your mobile phone, freezer instructions and labels with cooking instructions for when its time to store your finished meals.
The Produce Box
Okay this isn’t exactly a meal plan but if I signed up for The Produce Box I would make sure that I have a wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables on hand along with a variety of items in other food categories. A brilliant home delivery service that is all about eating local and supported by North Carolina farmers. Weekly boxes are full of fresh fruits and vegetables and can also include locally grown meat, cheese, bread, honey, name and so much more. You sign up for the box you want and can personalize it to your family’s (or your weekly meal plan) needs. The hook here might be that if I use a service like one of those listed above, I may just be able to combine a desire to shop local with a desire to eat healthy and contribute to my community and oh my stars that would be a social good trifecta all in the name of eating dinner.
As you can tell, I’m still in the research phase but the bottom line is I’m ready to try something new. While I’m awesome coming up with one night wonders, I love the routine of knowing what I’m making all month long at this point me and my people could use some new ideas. I love the promise of healthy food without my having to figure out ingredient changes on recipes we know an love but instead finding new family favorites that are already the best our bodies can have. I love the promise of real savings by shopping at specific stores where recipe ingredients are on sale and if I’m extra lucky I may have additional coupons to up my savings too. And oh how I love the prospect of saving precious time. Not just for me but for my family too. I’m just as hungry as everyone else when we all get home from a busy day. Knowing I’ve got dinner covered is a blessing that benefits us all. Tell me…
Do you use a meal planning website? Which one and why is it your favorite?
Our Busy Mom Meals Pinterest Board was created to help us all find solutions to putting healthy food on the table day after day. While it should be easy, sometimes it’s just not and that’s what GO MOM! is all about ~ helping you find do now solutions to make your busiest days generally well organized and exceptionally well loved. If you aren’t working with a calendar, all this meal planning might miss the mark so check out our brand new 2014-2014 DIY GO MOM!® Planner . All about the calendar, our latest edition is entirely focused on helping you manage your time. With 17 dated monthly pages and a non-dated weekly format that also helps you plan your meals, we want you to be laser focused on smart scheduling. We’ve also added my favorite new time management tool ~ The GO MOM!® Organized Week worksheet ~ the best to-do list ever! Remember it all begins with time.
Thanks so much for stopping by ~ see you next time! Molly
Disclosure ~ At the time of this posting I have no relationship with any of the companies listed above. I am just another Mom trying to figure it all out. But if after giving them a spin I choose one above the rest, I’ll be sure to let you know!