I love to make grocery lists. I love to eat good, homecooked food. You would think that those two loves would combine to make me a star quality meal planner. Sadly, I am not. I HATE planning menus for reasons I can’t exactly put my finger on.
But this year, I have resolved to become a better meal planner because:
1. I’m tired of being hungry at mealtime and opening up the cabinets to realize I have a bunch of ingredients, but no idea how to put them together to make anything useful. (Cream of Chicken Soup with Enchilada Sauce served on Saltines, anyone? No thanks.)
2. My family deserves to eat nutritious meals and it is my responsibility to cook for them!
3. Whenever I have planned meals in advance, I have saved money.
Reason Number 3 is probably my biggest motivator at this time since I am trying really hard to stick to a grocery budget. The few times in history when I planned meals in advance, I saved money because I only bought ingredients I needed to make the meals on my menu. No wasting money on produce and other items I didn’t have any real plans for using, thus ending up throwing them out went they went bad before I got around to cooking them. Most importantly, I wasn’t running out to the grocery store every other day for the “ONE THING” I needed and coming out with a cartful of items I didn’t actually “NEED” but just grabbed along the way. I waste a LOT of money on those types of trips.
Now that I have decided I WANT to plan meals in advance, do I go the traditional (FREE) route of sitting down with my cookbooks and my ripped out pages from magazines that had a good recipe on them, recipe cards from internet cooking sites, etc., and pick my favorites for the week? THEN, must I go through the tedium of figuring out what ingredients I have (and don’t have) and how much of it I’d probably need to buy for the meal, just so I can make out my grocery list?
Should I sign up for one of the many online services that offer weekly menus? From what I can tell, all I have to do is select the meals that sound good and the amount of servings I want to make, hit Enter and Voila! I have an instant grocery list of everything I need and exactly how much to buy. The list is even grouped into categories so I’m not running back and forth all over the store to pick up what I need.
Okay, so I think I have talked myself into trying one of these online meal planning services. But which one? Do any of you have any experience with paid online meal planning sites? Do you think they are worth it? Here are a couple I’m checking out:
Not to sound like a commercial, but to give you an idea on pricing, the Allrecipes.com service is currently offering an introductory price of 1 year for $17.50 (regular price is $34.95) and Relish! is $58.80 per year. A huge price gap if you ask me. I am going to have to do some further digging to see how their services compare, but at first glance, things seem to work fairly similarly.
What are your thoughts on meal planning? I’d love to hear your comments!