Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Meal Planning for the broke and busy

First off, let's revisit our garden challenge for 2012.  We committed to donating to Heifer International any of our grocery savings from the summer.  Because of drought, pests, and mystical curses, we didn't really save anything (maybe $20). However,  we did say The Kiefer Cottage would donate at least a goat's worth of funds ($120), and we followed through yesterday, now that the growing season is wrapping up here in Kansas.  Next year, I have big plans for making the garden more efficient, so hopefully we can do better summer of 2013.

But let me get to the main point of my post: meal planning.  I don't usually tout products, mainly because I think we need a little less consumerism in the world, not more, but I have found a service that has lifted a burden for me.  For the past three weeks, I've been using The Fresh 20 meal plans, available for $5 a month.  The weekday dinner plans are estimated to cost about $75 for five meals for four adults, and the ingredients are seasonal and often organic (for those who care about that).

Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Wild Rice Pilaf and Roasted Pears
I didn't subscribe to save money because we are already spending less than food stamps would give us--it'd be hard to cut back much more than we have.  But I haven't had to worry about making extensive lists or about the nutrition-factor (the meal plans come with nutritional information), and I've now got some new recipes in my arsenal (roasted pears were a serious hit in this house).  

Braised Chicken and Peppers with Cilantro Rice
The preparation often includes making extra for a meal for later in the week. For instance, we made the brown rice pilaf one night and then just added wild rice to it for another evening's side dish.

My only complaint is that the preparation time estimates are sometimes way off.  We don't like our onions to be toothy, so I always have to cook longer than the 2-3 minute estimates for that ingredient.  Also, the estimate on the brown rice was 25-30 minutes. Uh, I've never had luck with brown rice taking less than 45 minutes.  But overall, the prep doesn't take too long, and often is less than 30 minutes.

There are other websites that provide this service, so I think there's something for everyone.  I found a website the other day that touts five dinners being prepped in an hour, surprisingly called 5 dinners 1 hour and it costs the same as The Fresh 20.  I think most people (notice I said *most*) can find help if they need it with providing freshly prepared meals for their families.

*As a side note, as a result of eating normal sized portions (something me and Ryan have trouble with--we love food a lot), and enjoying relatively lean foods, we've dropped some weight! I'm down five pounds in 2.5 weeks, so that's a great thing in my book.

**The Fresh 20 is not affiliated with me and doesn't even know I wrote this review.


  1. That is so great you made that garden based commitment and best to you for your improvements for next years garden. I'm on that page with you.

  2. Thanks for the review. I've looked at these before but wondered how effective they really were for their cost (yes, I'm cheap). Scott and I usually work together on Sunday to create our menu for the week, trying to make sure to use ingredients we already have or to use recipes that call for some of the same ingredients. We've been doing a really good job at cooking about 6 dinners a week at home, keeping it healthy, saving money, not wasting food, and I've even cut down on the need to buy frozen meals for work because I take our leftovers half of the week. One of the issues we definitely run into though are coming up with new, easy, healthy (delicious) recipes every week (we end up eating a lot of the same recipes over and over). Throw in the fact that our 4 year old isn't a big fan of half the veggies we love... Definitely going to check out those sites!

    Also, while I'm here, I've totally had garden envy of you all summer. Problems and all. Definitely looking forward to buying my own house and getting one going. :)

  3. Oh! I keep trying to meal plan, and then failing miserably. I don't know why I can't just do it? I'll have to check out The Fresh 20...

    I also have a huge (pun?) problem with portion sizes. Trying to fix that...I'm also really bad about finishing what Mike doesn't eat from his plate. Yikes.

  4. I'm trying to get my act in gear and start doing freezer meals to help with busy schedules and eating less crap food. This is good info to know!

    I've been a bad bloggy friend. I haven't been around and I've missed you!

    I will try and be better!


  5. Thanks for this post! It sounds like it might work for me - we need to cut our grocery budget and not waste so much food!


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