Food and Meal Planning
Planning meals ahead of time works wonders for weeknight sanity and staying on the food budget. But if you find yourself struggling to come up with dinner ideas each week or can't find the time to sit down to organize your lists (and the idea of someone else doing it for you sounds great!), then a meal planning service might be just the thing to get you through the week, well-fed.
We've checked out three meal planning services and three food blogs that provide weekly dinner menus so you have everything you need to cook healthy meals for the family, save money, and spend more time together.
How it works: E-Mealz is a fairly straightforward meal planning system catered (no pun intended!) to where you shop. Members pick a plan based on the size of their family (are you serving 1 to 2 people, or 4 to 6?), where you shop, and if you have a specialty diet. Depending on where you typically shop (some options include Wal-Mart, Kroger, Ralphs, Publix), you will receive a menu plan via email along with a shopping list with items reflective of your chosen store.
Sample menus: Stuffed Shells Florentine, Slow Bake BBQ Chicken, Taco Bean Summer Salad, Lemon Caper Fish
The menu comes complete with side dishes which are also included in the grocery list.
Subscriptions: The subscription package is simple. Each meal plan is $1.25 per week. That gets you seven dinner menus and a complete grocery list.
The Six O'clock Scramble (thescramble.com)
How it works: After signing up for one of three membership options, The Scramble provides you with a weekly menu plan accompanied by grocery lists as well as a weekly e-newsletter filled with tips for eating healthy.
Sample meals: Simple Spice-Rubbed Chicken Thighs, Oven Fried Lemon Garlic Cod, Spinach Burritos, Tomato and Wild Rice Soup
Meals typically take 30 minutes or less to prepare and nutritional information is provided with each recipe. The Scramble also provides meal planning for those with special diets, like gluten-free, vegetarian, kosher, and food allergies, among others. The menus are seasonal, to accommodate what your local store is offering.
Subscriptions: There are three subscription offerings (all with a 100% guarantee), although each subscription offers the same materials. You can order a 3-month subscription for $7 per month, a 6-month subscription for $6 per month, or a 2-year subscription for $3 per month. A 14-day free trial is available to experience The Scramble before subscribing.
Saving Dinner (savingdinner.com)
How it works: At Saving Dinner, members receive weekly emails each Tuesday. The emails contain three dinner menus and a daytime menu that includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The dinner menus are regular (with vegetarian options), low carb (gluten-free and kosher options), and heart healthy (low fat and sodium). The menus also come with an organized shopping list.
Sample menus: Creamy Apple Cider Turkey, Peppery Portobello Pasta, Apricot Pork.
Meals include recipes for sides, which are also listed on the shopping list.
Subscriptions: Saving Dinner allows users to sign up for one of two Menu Mailer options. A regular membership is either a 3-month subscription for $15 or a 12-month subscription for $47. A premium membership allows users to customize their recipes and shopping lists, while still receiving all the benefits of a regular membership. Premium memberships cost either $10 per month or $90 for one year.
It seems like lots of bloggers who are also moms are writing about their weekly meal plans. No surprise, since making dinner is one of the bigger chores for families, plus it's fun to talk about food! Since this offers a free way for you to try out using a pre-made meal plan, here are a few examples of what's out there:
- The Organizing Junkie is run by Laura, a self-professed organizing junkie and mother of three. Menu Plan Monday is a big day on Laura’s blog. This is when over 300 women (including Laura) share their weekly menus for others to sort through and choose what they might want on their own menus. The recipe index has printable grocery lists to make life easier, and you'll find templates for your own menu planning and grocery lists.
- Home-Ec 101 was founded by Heather, a former professional chef and mother of four. Her blog is filled with basic life skills that many have never learned, or have simply forgotten about. Each week, Heather posts her weekly menu of meals and a grocery list to print. She also has a three-part primer on the basics of menu planning, including tips to expand your menu, how and when to shop, basic recipes or tricks in the kitchen you should know, and plenty more.
- Once a Month Mom was started by Tricia, mom of two. She is an avid once a month cook (also known as OAMC, bulk cooking or freezer cooking) and shares menus and tips on her blog. Now everyone can plan out their meals for an entire month - and cook them all in one day and freeze them! The idea is to save money and time by not hitting the grocery store frequently, and get a freezer full of meals so there is less work for you 29 days a month!
Your turn to share! Do you use or run a meal planning service or a blog that shares meal plans for families? Tell us what you know in the comments. We could all use some help getting dinner on the table.
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