Ok, so I don't have super cute pictures for you in this post, but I do have something I think you might like, especially if you've ever stressed about what to make for dinner every night WHILE on a budget. This is a review for a menu planning service called The Fresh 20.
So first, let me preface with how this whole thing got started. I got married and I loved to cook. I loved to cook delicious meals with great ingredients from varying culture ingredient sets. And then the children came...as did a budget, and the stressing began. The stressing over what to make for us and the kids that was good, healthy, tasty, relatively easy to make and didn't require a hundred ingredients, 2 hours at the grocery store and 200 dollars every week.
Let me first state that I know my way around the kitchen, but with two kids (moms with more-kudos!), my entire day is....punctuated. Even dinner time. I can't prep and make dinner without having to referee, change a diaper, run to comfort a crying baby, etc. So, while it's not a problem being in the kitchen to cook a 2 hour meal, it's just not do-able! And let's talk budget. I have a set amount that I can spend every week, plus a little extra here and there to fill in the staples now and then. I can't afford to buy separate ingredients for 5 different meals...it's wasteful or your food goes bad before you can use it (which is wasteful)! And not only that, I would spend HOURS in the grocery store just trying to find everything; not do-able with kids. SO, to combat this, I would spend so much time trying to find meals that had coordinated ingredients to save myself some money, and it would take HOURS, and was absolutely exhausting! I would hate prepping for grocery shopping because it took forever!
My sweet husband picked up on this, and got me a gift. He prefaced with "This is kind of a vacuum cleaner type of gift, but I hope you appreciate it...". This of course made me nervous, and when he showed me what he got, I'll admit, I was less than thrilled. It sounded like there was a hidden trick that was going to make my life more complicated, but I told myself that my hubby bought me a gift, so I need to at least give it a shot.
And I am sooooo grateful I did!
The Fresh 20 is a meal planning service that gives you a full year of week by week meals for about 50 dollars. Kristoffer bought the service as a Groupon for half off, so he spent 25 dollars. The idea behind the name 'The Fresh 20', is that you are only purchasing 20 different ingredients each week for your meals. They do have a section for pantry staples, but they really are staples that you don't need to buy each week.
Let me tell you what you get.
*You can choose from three different meal programs: 1.Classic 2.Vegetarian 3. Gluten Free. (we chose the classic)
*Each Friday the website publishes the next week's menu plan, so you have Friday and Saturday to shop and even do some of the prep-work if you choose to do that. This is what it looks like after Kris prints it off for me: (sorry the pictures are a little grainy)
Front page with the date for the week, what each day's menu will be, and what prep work you can do if you choose.
The next page is my favorite part...the shopping list. That's right, your shopping list is all prepped and organized and ready for you to grab on the way out the door. It tells you what you'll need, how much, for which recipes, an estimated cost for each ingredient AND an estimated final cost that usually between 72-78 dollars. I've been doing this for four weeks, and they actually overshoot the cost estimate, but I shop at Winco (great prices), so that's good news for me!
Then you have 5 menus, each on a different page. They each take between 20 minutes to TOPS, an hour to make. They each use those coordinated ingredients so you use just about every scrap of what you buy, but you don't feel like you're eating the same thing every day.
Aaaand at the very end, they give you nutritional facts for each meal with calories, protein, cholesterol, fat, etc. It's just cool to have, ya know?
So let me run through my Pro's and Con's list:
*This is a virtually brainless way to get your family fed each week. It really is blindingly easy. No stressing. I like that.
*The recipes are very delicious. They encourage me to use new ingredients that I may not have chosen on my own, and it get's more veggies on the table, which I am LOVING. The kids are adjusting, but I am totally fine with this. I want to be the kind of mom that encourages their kids to try and eat new foods. Obviously some recipes are not amazing, but it just comes down to our individual preferences at that point I think.
*I am using all of my ingredients pretty much every week. There may be one or two items I don't use up completely, but it's usually things like half a small head of lettuce (50 cents), not an entire bag of baby carrots or 5 yams or something like that.
*The meals take between 20 minutes to an hour (tops) to prepare. This is a good thing when you have crying kids.
*The recipes are portioned for a family of four. Since two little kids don't eat a TON, we usually have a little leftover, which is fine, Kris or I will take the rest to work. So I like that I don't have a TON of leftovers that may or may not get eaten if I freeze them. Besides, some leftovers don't even refrigerate well, so this keeps me cooking ~small~.
*The meals are chosen for you, even if you don't like them. We aren't really a picky family, so we're open for pretty much everything, fish, veggies, new ideas...it's all good. But if you're a picky family, this might be something to consider.
*Some of the meals require some 'pinch-hitting'. What I mean by this is that it could use a little kitchen know-how, and if you don't know your way around the kitchen, you might get a meal that's not meeting your standards and be less than impressed. Like thickening a cream sauce using some butter and flour. If you didn't know how to do it, you would think the sauce would have been pretty thin.
*Some of your fresh ingredients may have a hard time making it a whole week to meal #5. I've noticed this twice in the 20 meals I've made, particularly if the last meal is or includes a salad. This can be adjusted by rearranging meals, but it's also something to consider.
My overall review in this LONG blog post is a big huge LIKE. I highly recommend this service to anyone looking to improve the quality of their meals, include more fresh veggies, include more fish or meatless meals, stress less about grocery shopping, save money and throw away less food. I was super skeptical at first, but I am totally sold. And for 2 dollars a month, 50 cents a week, I get great, fresh, delicious, healthy meals, a shopping list, and more time to do waaaay more important things.
You can check out the website at www.thefresh20.com