Meal planning is a struggle for me. Plain and simple. I’ve never really liked it, and it doesn’t come naturally to me.
However, I have seen serious value in doing it. Not only do I know what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but it helps us to save money by eating at home more often and wasting less food.
I suppose the real struggle I have with meal planning comes down to finding the time to do it. I’m talking about sitting down with a blank calendar, cookbooks (or online recipes), a grocery list… all of it, and planning it out. It just takes me way longer than I’d like.
Today I wanna share some of my real food meal planning experiences with you (the good and the bad) as well as a new real food meal plan subscription I’ll be trying in 2016 (granted it works, and I stick with it). If you struggle with feeding your family healthy foods or if you feel lost by this whole process (as I sometimes do), join me as I share this new journey with you. I hope it helps us both, mama!
Meal Planning Made Easy… Or Not
I’ve tried a lot of different meal planning methods over the years. I’ve read tons of blog posts and ebooks on how to make meal planning easier or quicker. Unfortunately, it’s always the same. I start off motivated, and I’m really consistent for a while. Eventually, my motivation wanes. But, I push through the time it takes and the frustration it causes me, and I do the work. Why? Because of the benefits I’ve seen. So, I think to myself, “I WANT to do this, but it seriously shouldn’t take me this long,” and then I end up more frustrated with myself. I then decide to simplify my life and go back to the quick and easy way of doing things before (which usually means less healthy foods).
I used to think that sharing my meal plans here on GUH would keep me accountable to doing it in a healthy way. It worked for a while… until it didn’t any longer.
Hallelujah! A Real Food Meal Plan Subscription
I can’t remember how long I pushed myself to make my own meal plans before I realized there were real food meal plan subscriptions out there.
The first meal planning service I subscribed to was great! I tried it for free and loved it. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick with it. Probably because I wasn’t ready to pay money for someone else to plan my meals for me. It just didn’t seem right to me then.
Now, I’m busier, and I need help. Working online, homeschooling, managing my home, and everything else I do requires time, and sitting down for 1-2 hours a week to plan meals is not where I want to spend my time. (Yeah, that’s seriously how long it takes me sometimes! Don’t judge me! I know it has to be easier, but it’s not… for me at least.)
However, I want my family to eat healthy food. I want to be able to prepare our foods properly. I don’t want to spend a fortune on food.
So after trying several different real food meal plan subscriptions (some free, some paid), I’ve finally found one I can really get behind and try. Let me tell you about it.
Frugal Real Food Meal Plans
Tiffany over at Don’t Waste The Crumbs is a great real food blogger. Not only does she make real food recipes, but she prepares the foods properly and helps you save money at the same time.
So, when I found out she had a new meal plan subscription – Frugal Real Food Meal Plans, I signed up for the 14-day free trial to see what it was like.
Guess what? I loved it!
It’s a bit different than most of the other meal plan subscriptions I’ve tried in the past, but that’s a good thing.
Below you’ll find some of the ways it’s different that really sold me on this particular meal plan subscription.
1. The Meals
In Frugal Real Food Meal Plans, you get 7 dinners a week (as opposed to 5 with most other meal plan subscriptions) as well as 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 3 desserts a week (compared to none without paying more). That’s a lot of meals.
And if you feel like you can’t eat them all, that’s okay. You can skip them or you can make them and freeze them. And yes, she tells you which ones work well for freezing.
You can also substitute ingredients freely in this subscription which is nice. For example, some of the meals are vegetarian which works great most of the time, but when veggies burgers show up on the menu, I know my man isn’t a fan so I’m sure to make him a beef burger instead while the rest of us enjoy the veggie burger.
Now as far as dietary restrictions go, I feel like this plan is more traditional. You’ll find a variety of meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, gluten-free dishes, etc., but the plan doesn’t cater to any one diet specifically. It’s simply real food. This fits my family great since we don’t have any food allergies and we’re not strictly vegetarian or paleo. We like a good mix of everything.
2. Shopping Lists
All shopping lists are already prepared for you. Just print them and mark off what you already have so you don’t buy extra.
The idea is to shop once for bulk ingredients that you’ll use during the month first and then shop weekly for the fresh produce you’ll need.
I love doing this because I can buy most of my health food ingredients via Vitacost or Amazon and then head to Earthfare for healthy meats. When it comes to weekly shopping, I browse local grocery store ads online for sales and then head to Walmart to get my produce since they will price-match other stores. I also head to Earthfare to get any “dirty dozen” items that I can’t get at Walmart.
Doing it this way cuts down on my time spent grocery shopping, buying extra food that eventually goes bad, and missing out on sales. So far, I’m loving it!
3. Prep List
The “Frugal Real Food Meal Plan” subscription also comes with a serious prep list.
I recently tried prepping food ahead of time but ended up wasting a ton of the food I’d bought because I prepped it too early. Talk about beginner failures, right?
This prep list is different. It tells you what to do, and which days to do it on.
My favorite part of having a prep list is that it keeps me accountable and on schedule with preparing our foods properly.
Some things that the prep list reminds you to do include:
- soaking beans and grains
- making homemade yogurt
- making homemade bread
- making pantry/fridge staples
4. The Recipes
The next thing I like about this meal planning subscription compared to some of the others I’ve tried is that it’s a PDF and you can download it to your computer, tablet, and phone.
Some of the other subscriptions I’ve tried in the past were online only which meant you had to download or print individual recipes which aren’t really convenient in my mind.
Plus, I live WAY up in the mountains where DSL and cable internet don’t go yet which means I have satellite internet and data limits. Downloading everything as a PDF keeps me from using a ton of data cooking.
Only Time Will Tell
So, some of you may be thinking, “I make my own meal plans, and it doesn’t take me all that long. She must be making it harder on herself.”
Well, you may be right. I know a lot of people who make meal plans, and it works for them. And yes, I probably am doing something that’s making it harder on myself, but I’ve yet to figure it out. And I’ve tried, trust me.
So, seeing how other meal plan subscriptions have worked for me in the past, I feel that this is what is best for me right now in order to achieve the kind of diet I want my family to have.
I’m grateful that these subscriptions are out there and that they’re getting better and better. So far, this is the best one I’ve found for my family. Only time will tell how it will truly work for us, but you can expect to get monthly updates from me on how it’s going.
I’m a bit excited (and truthfully a little nervous) to share this with you. This should be a simple part of life, right? Only it’s not for me. But, vulnerability aside, I think there are other natural mamas out there, like myself, who struggle with meal planning, eating healthy foods consistently, and saving time and money. So, not only is this new feature a way to keep me accountable to trying this subscription out for a year (unless I majorly hate it, but I doubt that will be an issue), but my hope is that it helps you if you’re struggling as well.
If you think this is something you’d like to try, CLICK HERE to check it out and sign up to get the free 14-day menu to see if it works well for you.