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Why a Meal Planning Service Helps Me Stress Less & Branch Out

on August 4, 2013

I wrote a few blog posts ago about how I do my meal planning.  You can see the whole post here.  But this is a general re-cap.  I plan for two weeks at a time (this just works best for me—some people plan for a week or sometimes a month).  I use the grocery ads and recipes and our calendar of activities to plan my menu.  This way, I can plan a quicker meal for the nights we have commitments after work.

The menu for the two weeks is posted on a Martha Stewart re-stickable weekly calendar—which is affixed to our fridge right about our dry-erase calendar for our monthly activities.  I just split the week into two with a dry erase line horizontally down the middle.  Having a list helps me keep on top of getting everything ready for meals.  I do make changes every so often, because life happens and I just move a meal from here to there.

While meal planning has been a given for the last few years, what I have found is that I like to try new recipes pretty often.  We have standard favorites, but I get bored with them and like to incorporate not so frequently made or even new dishes to spice things up (figuratively—not literally).  My family really doesn’t get bored, but I do.  And since I am the cook, they get to try new things on a pretty regular basis and we find new faves along the way.

To help find new recipes, I would check out a stack of cookbooks from the library or browse through recipe apps on my phone.  The trouble was, I would only find a few at a time—after a few hours, this felt like a bit like a waste of valuable time.  My brain begged for a better way.

Then, I read about the menu services you can subscribe to where the person sends you a certain amount of recipes along with a grocery list at designated intervals.  I was intrigued.  After checking into a few of the services, I realized I am also cheap.  I didn’t want to pay a subscription fee monthly or quarterly for this service, especially if I didn’t like what they had to offer.  (The sample menus only give you so much of a clue as to what you’re really going to get.)  Then, I stumbled upon a shout out from Jen over at I Heart Organizing about a specific service and saw the same service was running a special discount around the first of the year.  I thought, let’s give it a go.  It was $12 for 3 months.  I figured I could fork over $1 a week for the 3 month period, and if I didn’t like it, I could always cancel before the end of my run.  Plus, I could pick what type of menu I wanted to subscribe to.  Winner!

After working with 5 dinners in 1 hour for 5 months, I feel I can give it a thoughtful review.


This service is set up so that you prep 5 dinners in 1 hour and have them stored in your fridge ready to cook.  I like this, because as a working mom I am able to still get home and get dinner on the table by 5:30 or 6:00.

I have expanded my horizons.  I had never used the broil setting or made kebabs before starting this service.  Also, I have used my crock pot for more than making chili.  Many of the recipes use homemade marinades, so we have also tried many new flavor combinations.

The recipes on the classic menu are pretty healthy—and the recommended sides are too.

If you are not a seafood or pork person, she provides alternatives to use instead (usually chicken).

I don’t have to follow exactly what she has laid out for each week.  Usually I pick and choose and make up my own week worth of meals—but I can still usually prep it all in 1 hour on Sunday.


I worry sometimes that what I prepped on Sunday might spoil in the fridge by Friday—especially chicken.  To combat this fear, I usually make the chicken recipes very early in the week or I sometimes prep the night before instead of on Sunday (I know this defeats the purpose of 5 meals in 1 hour, but it gives me peace of mind.)  I really should check out the health and safety regulations for chicken and beef to put my mind at ease.  If anyone knows about this, let me know!

I don’t use every recipe. While we are trying to break out of the box, there are some of the recipes that I know we won’t like.  This number is usually pretty small, and I feel like I still get my money’s worth out of the service.  But, for some people this may be a problem.

I am glad that I started doing this menu service, because it really has expanded our horizons.  And, it really helps me keep my weeknight routines in place by reminding me to prep on Sundays.  While this may not be the ideal menu service for you, there are many out there to try, and you may just find one that fits your needs.  I recommend at least giving it a shot—I’m glad I did.

So, now part of my Sundays are spent prepping meals for the week and preparing snack size portions of goodies to go in our lunch boxes.  And, I am happy to give up that time, because it makes for much less stress during the week.  Anything I can do to make our nightly routine run more smoothly gets two thumbs up in my book.

**I was not paid in any way for this review.  And, yes I did in fact renew my subscription—but I did so with an even better deal than I got for the first 3 months.


2 responses to “Why a Meal Planning Service Helps Me Stress Less & Branch Out

  1. […] plan at least 2 weeks at a time (and this dictates my grocery list).  Read more about that process here.  But, I also try and post those meal plans in the kitchen so I know what’s coming up each […]

  2. […] plan at least 2 weeks at a time (and this dictates my grocery list).  Read more about that process here.  But, I also try and post those meal plans in the kitchen so I know what’s coming up each […]

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