how i meal plan: hello fresh!

several months ago (maybe a year?) my friend emily posted about a meal plan that changed her life.  i laughed, but read on anyway, thinking “really?”

one of my most dreaded mom duties is feeding my people, and all thats involved with that: meal planning, grocery shopping, making meals that get complaints & groans, not knowing what i’m doing in the kitchen, making the same meals on repeat and throwing out wasted food.  i thought that meal planning was the way to go and it would solve all my dinner-making woes.  my kids are old enough that they take care of their own breakfasts and lunches for the most part, but dinner was my nemesis.  for sean’s christmas present a couple years ago, i created 6 months of meal plans, with a variety of new and favorite meals (i know, super romantic).  i thought if i knew what we were going to eat each week, grocery shopping would be much more simple, and i wouldn’t dread dinner time.  it seems like a silly thing, but this area of my life was a huge stressor.  after just a few months of following the monthly meal plans, i ditched them.  i was going to 3 different stores to get all the ingredients i needed each week, and i often forgot ingredients i thought i had – almost every meal – grrr!

hello fresh was a breath of fresh air.  it is chef curated recipes based on seasonal farm fresh ingredients delivered every week to your doorstep.  there are several plans (choosing the number of meals each week), you can choose from a weekly meal menu, get pre-measured seasonal ingredients, and prepare amazing home-cooked meals.

when i read emily’s post about hello fresh, i immediately shared the idea with sean.  i think he felt as desperate as i did (he was tired of all the money we were spending eating out as a result of me not being prepared for dinner), so he said, “go for it”!  i was able to use a discount code for $40 off my first box which would feed my family for 3 nights, so it absolutely felt worth the try.

was it worth the try? um, heck yes!  we have continued to order weekly boxes from hello fresh for nearly a year now and love love love it! IMG_7418

so here’s how it works:  each week i get a box shipped to my front door.  i know what day it comes so i am able to plan out my meals according to when the box comes.  i have a little routine when the box comes – i lug the box to the kitchen (its pretty heavy since there are a bunch of frozen ice packs keeping the food nice and fresh), then make sure my fridge space is open.  we have a dedicated section at the top of our fridge for our boxes – 3 sit on the top shelf with their proteins tucked on top of the boxes.

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before i put away the boxes i just do a quick check to see if all the ingredients are there or if any have spoiled. *quick disclosure – i have had several times over the course of many months, where an ingredient was missing or a bell pepper was soft, etc.  a quick email to customer service ALWAYS got me an apology and a discount on my next box – several times i have been given a completely free box because of their minor mistakes!  all that to say, nobody’s perfect, mistakes happen, and the hello fresh customer service ROCKS!

so when it comes time to make dinner, i pull out a box.  the only decision i have to make is which of the 3 meals i want!  we leave our recipe cards on our counter all week, right where we prepare our meals.


i take out a box, empty all the ingredients on the counter, and use the box now as a trash can for meal prep (did you ever watch rachael ray cook?  its like her ingenious garbage bowl she kept on the counter).  the recipe card tells me exactly what to do.  and there are pictures, too.  i also have the hello fresh app on my phone, which sometimes has extra videos to explain techniques that may be new to me. IMG_7426 (2)

the great thing, is i can start the meal, then if i need to take over with the kids, i can tell sean what step i’m on and he can easily step in.


or even better, i can have my kids help with the meal, too, since it really tells you everything you need to know!

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my favorite routine after a long day, when i used to dread having to make dinner because i was drained, i pop in my earbuds, turn on a podcast, and cook in peace and quiet.  if i’m not too drained, i’ll put a fun station on pandora and turn the speakers up.  usually a kid or 2 will join me at the counter, and if i’m lucky sean will pour me a grown up beverage ;)


i call everyone to dinner and they help me plate everything (it always looks beautiful, like take-my-picture beautiful).

here are the pros and cons for you:


i don’t need to decide what to make 3 nights a week

the box for 4 feeds my family of 5 (and sometimes 7 if we have parents in town)

we have loved every single meal with the exception of one so-so option

cooking unique meals that we never would’ve tried on our own

i can choose 3 out of 5 or 6 meal options each week if i want (or they’ll choose for me)

no wasted ingredients, everything is perfectly proportioned

quiet meals – everyone is savoring each bite

lots of appreciation from the family for yummy meals

learning new skills in the kitchen

easy to stop meal deliveries for vacations – or take them with!  we just did that for a road trip and it worked out great because we had all the ingredients we needed, all packed into one box!

the meals are all pretty healthy.  we tend to skip the options with potatoes or pasta.

the sauces.  oh the sauces!  so so good.

fresh herbs in almost every meal – i never knew what a difference fresh herbs made!


cooking takes a good chunk of time, generally 45 minutes or so.  i often need some alone time by that point in the day so i don’t mind too much.

not super cheap, but its definitely been worth it for us.

its only 3 nights a week.  but the other nights we either are eating with friends, eating out as a family/on a date, or have something super simple, like a premade frozen meal or leftovers.

sometimes the prep requires more dishes and pans than i feel like washing.  but then again, sometimes it just takes a few things!

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i’ve been wanting to share about hello fresh for so long, but i really wanted to make sure we loved it and didn’t get tired of it first.  i can honestly say that this meal system has changed our family for the better.  it sounds silly, but meal time is an every day occurrence and it is a mostly peaceful time for our family now.  the cost has been worth it for us, and our time spent at grocery stores has been severely cut down, as has our grocery budget.

so here’s the cool thing: you can try this too, with a $40 discount on your first box just like i did!  you can cancel at any point.

use code Y34NWA for your discount.

and if you really love it, you can refer hello fresh to friends and get $20 off your next box for each friend that tries it out – not a bad deal!  every couple months they also send me codes for completely free boxes that i can send to friends, which is really fun and feels generous even though i’m not doing anything at all!


try it, you’ll like it! (yo gabba gabba, anyone?)

may paper works


you guys know i love my paper works!  paper works is a monthly subscription plan with 3 levels – you can print it all yourself or have it delivered to your door.  plus there’s an online gallery of printables and past collections so you can print extras if needed.

my friend emily designs a beautiful new set every month, and every month i say, “ooh, this one is my favorite!”.

i get an email before each new month, reminding me to download and print my new set, which is really helpful to do some prep work for our month ahead, like write out our family calendar.


i keep a more detailed calendar on my phone, but this one is more for the kids to see what to expect each day/week/month.  i’d like to say its eliminated the question of “what are we doing tomorrow?” each night, but no.  at least not yet!


this is absolutely our most used piece of the set:  the chore charts.  we’re pretty big on raising responsible kids, so we implement lots of chores in our house.  plus, mama ain’t got time for all that!  truly, we want our kids eventually to leave our home knowing how to take care of themselves and serve others.  having a regular rotation of chores gives them experience in all areas of domesticity.  i’ll go into greater detail about our chore system another time, but basically, they have set chores each week (different ones each day), and each week the charts rotate to a different child so one of them isn’t, say, always doing laundry.


these grocery lists have been life-changing for us, too.  unfortunately, my pictures are a little blown out so you can’t see the details, but the list is divided up into categories, like dairy, produce, pantry, etc.  it saves us considerable time at the store each week, having everything categorized!  i’ve tried grocery lists on my phone before, but this works so much better for us.  it hangs on the side of our fridge and everyone adds to it throughout the week.  on the weekend, we grab the list and head out the door.  i like having a paper list in hand while shopping better than my phone because i can cross things off and i don’t have to keep turning my phone back on when the screen shuts off.


there are so many other great pieces to the monthly set, but another of our favorites is the verse cards.  we have a whole stack of verse cards on a big ring that we leave on our dining room table.  we’ve also implemented “prayer sticks” as my kids call them – prayer requests on popsicle sticks.  we don’t do them nightly or as regular as i’d like, but we each grab a few sticks and pray around the table with them, then one of the younger kids usually ask if we can read a few of the verses as well.

if you don’t want to print these out on your own, you can also get the full set delivered to your door each month!  i’ve done that in the past, and may do it again.  i didn’t use every piece of the entire set, so it felt a little wasteful to me (not to my friends who got the extra pieces, though!), but the quality of the print and paper is so much better than what i can do at home, so i might be switching my service soon…

paper works

full disclosure, i do get a $5 kickback for every new subscription, but you can too!  this isn’t me trying to make a living selling beautiful paper products, but me supporting a friend’s business that i believe in and use myself, and think you just might love it too!  also, if you click here, you can get $5 off, too!  woohoo!