Even though my family only consists of three people (mom, dad and toddler), getting a healthy, home-made meal on the table every night is not an easy task, especially when both parents are working. I used to struggle with menu planning. Half the time I wouldn’t even do it and just randomly buy things at the grocery store with intentions to use them at some point in the week. I’d end up spending a ridiculous amount of money and much of the stuff I bought would end up going bad. When I DID try to menu plan, I would find it hard to come up with new ideas. I’d make my grocery list before heading to the store, which helped, but I would still end up buying food that was out of season or something that I only needed a little bit of and then I’d waste the rest of it.
Then a friend told me about http://www.thefresh20.com. The Fresh 20 is a subscription service that sends you a weekly dinner menu plan each Friday for the upcoming week. They provide 5 meals per week so you can still do your own thing two days, whether that is go out to eat or make your family’s favorite. The theory is 5 meals (meant for a family of four so I scale back the recipes a little and then have enough for one packed lunch) using 20 fresh ingredients, that take 20 minutes to prepare, for less than $20 per meal. They send you the menu, the recipes, the shopping list and the nutritional data for each meal. And so far, almost every meal has been something my (sometimes picky) family will eat! They offer menu options such as Classic (usually three meat based meals, one seafood and one vegetarian), Gluten Free, Vegan, even Meals for One. We do the Classic menu. My husband is allergic to shellfish so whenever there is a shellfish based meal, I substitute fish or chicken. You can pay quarterly or yearly. When you pay for a year up front, you save money AND you get access to the archives, meaning you can look up any past menu. Sometimes I do that if there is something that just isn’t going to work out for us that week or if I am in the mood for something from a prior week. If you pay quarterly, you only get access to the prior three weeks meal. But, the menus are in PDF form so you can download and save them all anyway. The menu and shopping plans take advantage of seasonal ingredients and are designed to use up everything that you buy (so you aren’t left with 3/4 of a bunch of basil or half a can of diced tomatoes because you only needed a little bit for one recipe). AND, I usually beat the estimated cost on the shopping list! It’s like a game… 🙂
Another awesome internet-based subscription service that I use (surprise surprise) is http://www.doortodoororganics.com. Door to Door Organics is a a weekly organic fruit and vegetable delivery service. You choose the day, the frequency and the size of your “box” and Door to Door takes care of the rest! The great thing is that you can see what you are getting in your box a few days ahead of time and can make up to 5 substitutions per week (and you can add in extra produce and other groceries for an additional cost). Cost is comparable to the grocery store and there is no shipping charge. So far, everything has been fresh and the one time there was a recall on fruit that was in my order, they notified me immediately and put a credit in my account. The only down-side is that, in my area, the only delivery day options are Tuesday and Thursday which means that timing doesn’t necessarily work out that well with The Fresh 20. Instead of making my 5 planned meals Monday through Friday, I often end up having to make them Tuesday through Saturday because some of the ingredients I need don’t arrive until I get my Door to Door Organics box on Tuesday. Which isn’t the biggest deal in the word, I just wish there was a Monday delivery option. If you want to try a box from Door to Door Organics, comment below with your email address (or send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can send you a code to get 50% off your first delivery! It’s a great way to get organic produce that you can’t always find at your local grocery store!
Anyway, I just wanted to share these two services which have really helped me plan healthy dinner for my family while sticking to my budget!