How many times have you seen articles and blog posts about meal planning being shared on Facebook and Pinterest lately? I’m about to add my 2 cents into the mix because I just can’t shut up about it. Life changing. Seriously. Especially when you have a family to cook for!
I’ve never hated cooking, but I didn’t love it either. It was more out of necessity than for enjoyment, and I suspect that it’s the same way for lots of you too. When it was just 2 of us we could wing it most days, surviving on soup and breakfast for dinner. Does that sound familiar? Every so often we’d go all out and make spaghetti or something. I should probably also mention that my husband Nick used to be an extremely picky eater. He has since overcome that (which I can write a whole post about if you’re interested) but it definitely made our food choices more challenging because I will eat anything at all.
Once we had kids, meal planning became much more of a stress for me since I am primarily the one who is doing the cooking. I want meals that are nutritious (for the most part), taste really good, and aren’t super complex to put together. Sometimes it feels like having all of those things together is a pretty tall order. Add to that, making sure that you actually have the ingredients to create those meals in your cupboards, not wanting to be at the grocery store every damn day, and trying to stay on some sort of budget without spending a fortune on things only to have to throw them out after they sit rotting in the depths of the fridge. Who can live up to these lofty expectations?! I certainly thought that I’d always be a hot mess in this area of my life.
I tried lots of different things in an effort to have some sort of a grasp on meal planning for our family. If you’ve seen my Pinterest profile, you’ll know that I have no shortage of recipes to pick from. I’d go through, choose a few and write them into my planner. I also love cookbooks and I have an entire collection of them with page flags marking different recipes I like the sound of. I probably wouldn’t have everything I needed so another trip to the store would be in order. It had never occurred to me to grocery shop with a plan instead of just throwing things in the cart that I thought we’d eat at some point. I looked at the meal plans of favorite bloggers and I even paid for a meal planning service which is no longer running. I figured that this was just how it was going to be.
Well over a year ago now, I was watching a video from my friend Kate of Minimalist Road and she mentioned a meal planning service that she uses called Cook Smarts. I had never heard of it before, but by the way Kate was talking I was definitely intrigued. She had 3 children at the time of that video (4 now) and I knew that if it was a service that she was using, it must be making things easier for her! I checked things out and decided to try the free trial. Nothing to lose! It’s been love ever since!
Cook Smarts is more than just a meal planning service for me. Once a week Jess, the founder, and the gang send me an email with next week’s menu. No more stressing about what to make! I log into my account and check off the meals that I want to make. Most times, it’s all of them on the list. If I do want to make a substitution because I don’t like a particular meal, it’s very easy to add one to my menu. As you make them, you can even mark favorite meals which show up first when you go to add another meal. The menu they provide each week is strategic. They choose meals with seasonal produce and have you use more than one ingredient in multiple recipes which means you are saving money and eliminating waste.
I think my very favorite part of the service is that Cook Smarts actually teaches you how to be a better cook. They really want to make cooking easier and more accessible to anyone and make it a good experience. Don’t even know how to chop an onion properly? There’s an instructional video! From a pantry essentials guide to information on meal planning with a tight budget, there is lots of valuable information for any home chef no matter your skill level.
If you think this is a sponsored post, you’re wrong. I just really, really, really like and appreciate Cook Smarts and how much of a difference the service has made to my stress levels in the kitchen and on our grocery budget. We can now easily feed a family of 4 for $80-$100 a week without even trying … and we always have leftovers! I did include some affiliate links in the post so that if you do decide to give Cook Smarts a try because of this post, I’ll get a small thank you from them. You can even try it free for 3 weeks to see if it’s for you. That is not my reasoning for writing this post though. I see far too many of my friends posting on Facebook about how they have no idea what to make for dinner and I since I’ve been able to eliminated that problem from my life, I really feel like I should share my secret. I definitely don’t have my shit together all the time, but at least Cook Smarts handles dinner for me!
What’s your biggest meal planning struggle?
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