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What’s for Dinner? Help for Meal Planning

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Dinner time. It happens every single day at the same time, yet somehow many of us let it sneak up on us. When 5pm rolls around, we stick a frozen pizza in the oven and promise to do better tomorrow.

Well, tomorrow is here, my friends. So when dinner time rolls around and your kids and/or spouse start asking the inevitable, “What’s for dinner?” it’s best to make like a Boy Scout and Be Prepared.

More and more websites and entrepreneurs are stepping up to help busy families solve their dinner time dilemmas, so there are lots of resources out there to help you with this task.

Meal Planning Websites

www.emeals.com

This popular website offers a variety of meal plan options, recipes, and grocery lists. If you would rather not spend your time scouring cookbooks and the internet to compile a weekly meal plan, have emeals do it for you. They take care of the planning, grocery lis,t and budgeting. It’s only $5 a month, and you can sign up for a free trial before you make the commitment.

www.weelicious.com

This site promises to “take the stress out of dinner time with a meal plan created just for busy families” and offers weekly meal plans, a free meal of the day, links to school lunch tips, and more. If it can do all that and get my four-year-old to eat his veggies, it’s well worth $8 a month.

www.plantoeat.com

If you want a little more flexibility with your meal planning, check out this site. You can drag and drop recipes into a calendar, and it pulls the ingredients into a streamlined shopping list for you. You can also save recipes from other websites here, and plantoeat keeps them organized for you. ($4.95/month)

Some other sites and apps to check out:
www.thefresh20.com, www.cooksmart.comstephsmenu.com

Meal Kit Delivery Services

www.myveggiechef.com

This local vegan meal delivery service can be a life saver when you need to pull dinner out of the freezer, stat. Here’s how it works: They post a weekly menu of five entrees, you peruse it on-line, and if you like what you see, place your order. It’s $80 for the five meal kits (that serve four each) which are delivered frozen, with preparation instructions. I like this idea because you can have something healthy and locally made on hand when you need a quick dinner, and you don’t have to worry about fresh food spoiling. For all you meat eaters out there (like myself), you can easily incorporate meat into many of the dishes yourself with a little creativity.

Meal kit delivery services like www.blueapron.com, www.hellofresh.com, and www.plated.com promise fresh ingredients and great recipes delivered weekly to your home. There’s even a local version which focuses on locally-sourced, organic ingredients: www.musiccitymise.com. Food delivered to your door with recipes and pre-portioned ingredients? Sounds great to me!

Grocery Delivery Service

www.shipt.com

What a revelation this is. Since I signed up for this service, I have now gone two weeks without a major grocery shopping expedition. (I have popped into the store for a few items but have avoided the weekly 2 hour roundtrip affair.) I’m still getting the hang of remote grocery shopping, but so far, it’s definitely a time saver, and it’s saving me money as well because I’m not straying off my list with impulse buys. ($99/year)

Slow Cooker

There’s nothing better than coming home to dinner happily simmering away in your slow cooker. I love this idea, but I have a really hard time making it happen. Looking for help to build up an arsenal of reliable recipes?

If you’re feeling really ambitious, and have no problem with meat and more meat as the centerpiece of your slow cooker meals, check out Who Needs A Cape. This site has instructions to make “40 meals in 4 hours” that are freezer-ready and instructions on successfully cooking them in the slow cooker.

For a source a little closer to home, check out Nashville blogger Amy Schmidt, who has a nicely curated selection of slow cooker recipes at Fearless Homemaker. I can vouch for the slow-cooker chickpea coconut curry recipe. It was so easy, tasty, and meatless (although I must admit, we topped it with crumbled bacon).

Meal Swaps

Form a meal swap group! I am a member of one and it’s nothing short of fantastic. There are four of us; one person cooks and delivers a meal for the group each week. We email the group at the beginning of the week giving the group a heads up on what the meal is and what day we’ll be delivering. Then—Tada!—one night a week, a home cooked meal is delivered to your door. (That’s usually the night I do all the dishes leftover from cooking on the previous days…)

You could also try this slow cooker meal swap idea!

However you choose to get a handle on dinner, the key is planning ahead and keeping it simple. Happy cooking mamas!

What meal planning tips help you keep your family’s meals on track?

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