Would you believe that I spent the last school year flying by the seat of my pants for the most part? There was little to no meal prep or planning. And do you want to know what the result was?
Chaos. And mom-guilt.
A word to the wise, chaos is expensive and stressful.
In an effort to tame the chaos this year, I have spent a great deal of my forced downtime researching meal planning and meal prep services that might help solve the problem. It would seem that there are three categories when it comes to meal prep options.
- Menus are provided and you do the rest: This is where we’re talking about Once a Month Meals and the like. For me, I liked this idea because it gives me the option of customizing things to my families taste (which can be incredibly difficult in our house) and I have the time to devote to being in the kitchen once a month doing batch freezer cooking.
- Customizable. If you don’t like a recipe, then you can easily swap in another. You can also create your own from scratch using the search function.
- Cost. It’s a subscription service, so for less than the price of a pizza each month, I have my recipes, prep instructions, grocery list and cooking instructions right there.
- Ease of use. I log in, I make a menu that works for me. If I have the time, I can create another menu the very next week. Also, creating or changing a menu just takes a few clicks. Win.
- Time. Let’s face it, I’m clearly not going to take the time to research and assemble menus and instructions for same on my own. So if this does that part of the work, small price to pay as far as I’m concerned.
- Cost. It’s still more expensive than doing it on your own. As I mentioned above, I’m not one to do it on my own, so this doesn’t apply to me, but if you are far more organized and ambitious than yours truly, it might be a reason to skip this option and save yourself the money.
- Labour intensive. Take out, it is not. You still do the shopping and preparation yourself. And if you don’t particularly like the kitchen, it might sound about as much fun as gouging out your eyes with sharp sticks.
- Meal delivery: As a second option, I looked into GoodFood. There are several options in this vein, but this one delivers to my area. Basically, you decide on a menu, you decide on how many recipes you want each week and your menu picks are delivered to your door each week. From there, you cook the ingredients provided. Easy, right?
- Fresh and healthy. Every menu seems to be balanced and well thought out from a nutrition standpoint. And based on reviews, all the products delivered seem to be of the best quality
- Cost. At $8.75 per person, you are still cheaper than taking the family out to a restaurant. And I don’t know about you but I can often make something faster at home than it would take for delivery.
- Develops cooking skills and palates. This is where the adventurous will thrive. You only have three or four recipes to choose from, so you will likely come up against a technique or ingredient you have never tried before. And who knows, you might learn to love it.
- Limited variety. My major concern with this service is that I couldn’t know that I would want two of the weekly provided recipes. And in all honesty, after watching the menus for a few weeks, I was fairly certain that my no-freaky-food eaters would balk at more than half the recipes. Since my goal is to get enough food into them, this one is the non-starter for me at this time.
- Planning ahead is difficult. For me, I like to have choices and be able to switch things out on the fly. Can’t do that here, you pick your recipes and you get what you ordered. So there is no changing your mind. Again, for a lot of people, this might not be an issue. But for me, I can see myself wasting a lot of food this way.
- Make and take or pick up: Places like Supperworks are a compromise to the above two mentioned options. You schedule a time to go in and make the recipes of the month that work for you. If you are really crunched for time, you have the option to select your entrees and have them prepared for you. All you do is pick them up at the designated time.
- Time. I don’t know about you, but if I make an appointment somewhere, I’m generally going to keep it. So this would guarantee I have food prepared in advance.
- Cost. Again, not totally unreasonable and cheaper than take out for a family of five.
- Flexibility. If you only have time for pick up, you can opt for pick up. Also the bulk of the options are freezer friendly (from what I can see) so if plans change, there’s no food wasted.
- Options. While there is more variety than GoodFood, the menus each month can be a bit hit or miss. The last few months for me haven’t been hits, but that’s ok, I just move on. I have every intention of using this service to stock up when I hit a month where 3 or 4 recipes appeal to me.
- Location. These places are franchises, so the locations are rarely near me and my small town. Not a big con, but it does take some finessing of the schedule to accommodate. Additionally, because they are franchises, their schedules can be a bit of a hang up. Especially if you don’t work “traditional” hours, or you have to be in three rinks at once.
For where I’m at right now, I chose option 1. I like cooking, I have the time, and customizing the menu was the key factor for me. No point in going that extra mile for dinner if they won’t eat it.
Here’s the bottom line, anything that gets dinner on the table and into your kids’ bellies is good. Even if it’s flying by the seat of your pants or throwing enough snacks at them to qualify as a meal. Chaos and mom-guilt be damned.
See you at the rink.