As part of my "job" as a stay-at-home mom, it was very important to me to start cooking healthy homemade meals for my family. I thought that not working full time would mean I became an amazing chef overnight, but no such luck. With a toddler and a newborn to take care of and a house to (constantly) clean, I had little to no time to come up with culinary masterpiece recipes. Sure, Pinterest had plenty of enticing finds, but let's face it, I'm probably only going to end up making the desserts because they are simpler and only have a few ingredients. I even bought ingredients for a few recipes and never ended up making them.
I was tired of wasting food and time trying to figure out what to make for supper. I wanted to cook healthily and with fresh ingredients, but the fresh ingredients usually went bad before I even got to use them. Maybe you don't have this problem. Maybe you cook up amazing dishes from scratch without recipes and everyone thinks you are a cooking god/goddess. Awesome for you, but I'm just not a natural cook. Baker, yes. Cook, no. I can make some chocolate chip cookies or cookie dough brownies so good your mama will taste them when you take a bite, but I tend to flop when it comes to preparing meals. We typically end up in the "What's for dinner? Grilled chicken and canned vegetables." camp way too often.
Enter The Fresh 20. I gave a brief preview of this amazing service here. With simple shopping lists, detailed recipes, and even nutrition information for each dish, this meal planning tool does all the hard work for me. Not only do I not waste any ingredients, I also have occasional leftovers for lunch and many times part of the work you do for one recipe helps you with another later in the week. For example, I made braised vegetable lentils (which I wasn't sure about, but turned out wonderful) to go along with my oven roasted chicken on Tuesday and put some back to help make the Creamy Lentil Soup we enjoyed Sunday. It's nice to see your hard work pay off more than one night!
The Fresh 20 uses 20 staple ingredients from your pantry, 20 weekly ingredients (this may sound like a lot, but it's not for a week's worth of recipes), and 20 kitchen essentials (you probably already have most of these and can substitute some) and to create fabulous, healthful dishes for you and your family each week.
Here is a picture of one of the fabulous organic roasted chickens I made last week (they were used for 3 different meals)!
|It's nice to have all that preparation pay off not only the night you make it,|
but also in subsequent meals throughout the week!
(Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes in the background--YUM!)
Here is a list of pros and cons that I've found so far.
- No more wasting of ingredients
- Makes grocery shopping so simple and easy--the list is even organized by category and gives you details such as where to find some ingredients in your grocery store (Grocery shopping had become a major ordeal with an antsy toddler, and this helps me get in and get out before he gets too wild!)
- I feel like a real, accomplished cook after making these recipes.
- The recipes are delicious! Even my picky toddler has gobbled it all up!
- The recipes are healthy--I feel so good about what I am putting into my family's bodies and am confident there aren't any 'mystery ingredients' since I add all the ingredients myself!
- Cost--I have been under budget on my groceries! The grocery list has an estimate of the price of each item and so far, I've come out under the total estimate two weeks in a row, even when I needed to stock up on some of the 'fresh 20' ingredients for my pantry in the beginning.
- The recipes do take a bit more time than grilled chicken and canned vegetables. However, the difference in taste and quality is more than worth it to me.
- You will be chopping lots of vegetables. If you're great at this, it's not a concern. I've never been a huge fan of chopping veggies, but I think I'm getting better at it, and I have to admit they look so pretty and colorful all chopped up on my cutting board (yeah, I'm a bit odd, I suppose, but they do). I think I'll be adding 'awesome vegetable knives' to my Christmas list!
- The serving sizes are sometimes less accurate than I'd like. The plan is designed for a family of four. Our family consists of myself, my husband, and our toddler. Most nights we do have leftovers, which we use for lunches, but others we clean the pan. If we went with just the serving sizes, we would be good, but sometimes those just aren't big enough (I think this can be true of lots of recipes, though, not just the ones in this meal plan). Also, you could avoid any problems with this by looking at the serving sizes ahead of time. If it doesn't sound like they will be large enough, you could just double up the recipe ingredients as you shop and cook.
The following is a breakdown of the Estimated Cost of the grocery items and what I actually paid.
Item and Estimated Cost --- Actual Cost
2 whole organic chickens (about 3 1/2 lbs. each) Estimated Cost: $24 Actual Cost: $14.74
(note: these were actually bigger than suggested because I couldn't find smaller ones)
4 Salmon Fillets (about 1 1/4 lbs.) Estimated Cost: $16 Actual Cost: $19.96
I attribute the price to my not being near an ocean. If you live closer to the coast, I'm sure it would be cheaper.
4 Sweet Potatoes/Yams (8 ounce potatoes) Estimated Cost: $3.50 Actual Cost: $1.25
I could only find larger potatoes, so I got 2 larger ones that equaled the same weight.
1 onion Estimated Cost: $1 Actual Cost: $0.43
Carrots (7) Estimated Cost: $2.50 Actual Cost: $0.78
I got a bag of carrots that had a few more than 7, but no worries--the recipes for the next week called for carrots too, so they won't be wasted! If the recipes for the next week didn't, you could always use them for snacks.
Celery (6 stalks) Estimated Cost: $2 Actual Cost: $1.24
Same story as with the carrots, but I knew I could use them as a snack if I had extras.
1 Lemon Estimated Cost: $1 Actual Cost: $0.39
I'm sure the $1 estimate is just done to make a round number. Most items in the produce section will run you less than $1.
1 bunch of Rosemary (to yield 1 tbsp chopped) Estimated Cost: $1.50 Actual Cost: $1.98
I ended up with plenty leftover from the package available at my grocery store.
Spinach (6 cups) Estimated Cost: $3 Actual Cost: $2.18
I bought a bag of salad spinach and checked the back for serving size to make sure I had enough. My husband made the extra into a salad for lunch. Again, no wasting!
Milk (1 cup) Estimated Cost: $1 (they are going by the portion you'll use) Actual Cost: $3.98 (for a gallon of milk)
I'd say the overall cost of the gallon of milk would mean the cup costs less than that. As mom of a milk-guzzling toddler, I always have this on hand and didn't even need to pick it up when I did my grocery shopping.
White Cheddar Cheese (1 1/2 cups, shredded) Estimated Cost: $4 Actual Cost: $2.08
My grocery store only had one option and it was a block, so I shredded it before supper. My son ate the leftovers as a snack.
Baking Soda (1 tbsp) Estimated Cost: $1 (see note on milk) Actual Cost: ?
I already had some so I didn't buy any, but I'd say you can get an off-brand package for around $1.
Lentils (2 cups) Estimated Cost: $3 Actual Cost: $1.08
I admit I was not thrilled about trying lentils. They just didn't sound appetizing. Turns out, they were fabulous!
Chili Powder (2 tbsp) Estimated Cost: $4 (estimated for entire container) Actual Cost: ?
I already had some chili powder on hand, but I believe you can buy it for cheaper than $4 here.
Corn Tortillas (16) Estimated Cost: $3 Actual Cost: $1.88 (for package of 30)
I usually use flour tortillas, and wasn't sure about the corn ones, but now I definitely prefer them!
Total Cost Estimate: $70.50
Cost Per Dinner: $14.10
Cost Per Serving: $3.525
Actual Cost: $51.97 (!!!)
I did have to add a few items to my pantry that I didn't already have (these are listed at the bottom of your shopping list, under the total estimate), but they only totaled $16.15, bringing the grand total to $68.12--still under budget!
Stay tuned, tomorrow is the beginning of the "You Are What You Eat" Giveaway Hop, where I'll be giving away an annual subscription to The Fresh 20, as well as one of their cookbooks! One lucky winner will get both prizes!
If you simply can't wait for the giveaway, you can go ahead and get your own plan here. You can do a 3 month trial for just $5 per month! If you get an annual plan, you get access to the archives of recipes, plus you save money--annual subscriptions figure out to $4.08 per month! Remember, there are 3 options--Classic, Vegetarian, and Gluten Free. Choose the one that best meets your family's needs!