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.

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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.

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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 ;)

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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:

pros:

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!

cons:

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!

hellofresh

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

currently reading

currently reading

if you know me in real life, the title of this post will give you a chuckle.  if you know me, your guess would be a variety of magazines.  i used to be a reader as a kid.  i loved reading!  give me a babysitter’s club book and i’ll read it in a day.  but over the years i have lost my love for reading, which has in turn caused me to be out of practice which has made me a slower reader.  dang you, inconsistency!  you strike again!

but when i do read, i find i tend to read for specific purposes.  either i’m reading something i find interesting, like books on design, or i read more often to educate myself on something.  over the last several years, the little bit of reading i’ve done has been either bible-based, homeschool related, or about parenting.  and it you look at my current pile on my bedside table, you’d see that pretty much holds true.

we’re in an interesting phase with our kids right now.  out of the life-saving phase, but into more complex life stages.  and i’ll be honest, most days i haven’t got a clue what i’m doing!  i find myself throwing my hands up more often than i want to and i think digging into books can be really helpful.  now please know this pile of mine is mostly pretty new.  we had a rough few weeks where i was freaking out and ordering everything off amazon that i thought could help!  thank goodness for free shipping.

currently reading

so here’s my list:

growing up duggar – i’ve only seen the show a few times, but its certainly intriguing.  my sister-in-law recommended reading this to my girls.  it sounds like a sweet book with an interesting perspective from the older duggar daughters.

365 ideas for recruiting, retaining, motivating and rewarding your volunteers – as the supervisor for our school’s thrift store, volunteers are a necessity for keeping our costs down, but they always seem to be hard to get.  we’re hoping this book fills us with all sorts of great options for our non-profit.  i’ve also read a couple sales-based books for the store recently, too.

how to talk so kids will listen & how to listen so kids will talk – this one was definitely ordered in one of those “parenting emergency” situations.  somedays i feel like no one listens to me, and it freaks me out!

raising a trail blazer: rite-of-passage trail markers for your set-apart teens – a few moms of pre-teens and i are just starting into this book as our girls near the teen years.  we just heard the author and her husband speak at our church a few weeks ago and they were full of great insight, having raised 3 girls themselves.

6 ways to keep the little in your girl – i haven’t even cracked this one open, but it came highly recommended.

siblings without rivalry – same author as how to talk to kids, also ordered in haste, hoping it will help with some of the junky stuff here.

grace based parenting – i am probably most excited about this book than any of the others!

created for work – we really believe in the power of working hard and glorifying God through that, and we want to instill this in our kids.  i think this book is more specifically geared towards boys, which will be helpful since its our boy who has the strongest aversion to work!

the read-aloud handbook – i finished this book several months ago, but it has great references in it.

one thousand gifts – i am so bad about finishing books!  i have been slowly creeping through this wonderful book for a couple years (yikes!), so there it sits.

praying the scriptures for your children – another unfinished book, but so good!

the reason for God – not started yet, i think it migrated from sean’s table.

my bible

the meaning of marriage – we just finished this book with 3 other couples and i can’t recommend it highly enough!  it spurred on great conversations.

not pictured, being that lent started yesterday, i am starting on my naptime diaries lent devotional.

do you have any great recommendations for me?