My Life With Twins: Meal Planning (review and giveaway!)
I enjoy planning menus. I even enjoy compiling a shopping list to go with my menus. I don’t even mind the grocery shopping.
However, my twin pregnancy and the arrival of two little blessings at once put a crimp into our meal plans.
First, I was on modified bed rest for about 10 weeks. I did a lot of my grocery shopping online and had groceries delivered. This worked out pretty well, but some things you have to select in person at the store (meat and produce). I also had to resort to really easy meals, as I was supposed to be off my feet. Add to that the fact that my morning sickness never went away, and most food repulsed me by the end of my pregnancy, mealtimes were a disaster.
Thankfully, I had a lot of help. I had friends bring food, groceries, and dinner, and I even had a dear friend from out of state order us pizza!
After the babies arrived I wanted to be able to cook more, but I was nursing babies up to five hours a day! And if I was not feeding them, I was changing them or holding them. Those babies were pretty fussy the first few months! Thankfully, we still had a few meals provided to us each week for a while, and I cooked some simple, easy foods. We ate a lot of spaghetti and chili.
Once the girls were a few months old, I tried to return to my old routine of weekly meal plans. I would lug out my favorite cookbooks, and a notebook, and I’d start to plan. . . and then a baby would cry. Or I would get to the grocery store and load both babies into the shopping cart and get into the store . . . and discover that I planned meals, but I forgot to make a shopping list!
Let’s face it . . . since the babies have been born, our meals have been boring. Everything was beginning to taste the same.
I was delighted to learn of my new friend, Michelle. Michelle runs Make Five Dinners in One Hour.
When I heard of Michelle’s meal plan on The Product Review Place I was intrigued. You see, I’m not new to the preparing in advance scene. I used to be an avid once a month cooking fan. The problem is, with twinfants, once a month cooking seems like a great idea, but it is hard to follow through. You have to plan your month worth of meals, create a list, shop (big shopping trip), and then spend ALL DAY preparing the meals. Also, when I did once a month cooking I did not plan side dishes in advance, so I was always scrambling for ways to round out a meal. Plus, if you are cooking freezer food, you have to actually take it out of the freezer in time to deal with it. (that sounds easy enough until you have several same aged babies in the house!)
Michelle’s plan, Make Five Dinners in One Hour, is exactly what the title implies! She emails you a menu, with recipes and shopping list for five meals per week (with side dishes!). In one hour you can assemble all five meals and be ready to go for the next five days! The food is fresh, it stores in your refrigerator and major time is saved in food preparation!
Michelle sent me the November meal plan so that I could review it for you guys. The very next day I went to the grocery store armed with my shopping list! All of the ingredients were healthful, economical and easy to find. Also, most recipes have the flexibility that you can substitute ingredients that you already have on hand.
I was able to shop in good time with a well organized list. I had the babies with me (I always do), and we were able to complete our shopping trip in about the same amount of time it usually takes me. My grocery bill was no higher than normal, and over time I can see how I could lower my bill. . . having a month worth of menu plans and grocery lists can help me stock up on items when they are on sale and better plan my coupon usage. However, this week I only considered the November week one shopping list!
Here is the great part. When I got home, I did not put my groceries away! I simply arranged them on my table, got out the listed cooking supplies and spent the next hour preparing five meals. I think it actually could have taken me less than an hour, but I substituted fresh made meatballs for frozen as I have a good supply of ground beef in my freezer.
I must say, the Rev. was a bit concerned about the food sitting around so long in the refrigerator. I did, however, remind him that I rarely shop daily and most of our food has been stored for several days. I think he is used the the once a month cooking concept and was picturing a month’s worth of food in the fridge!
I am pleased by the balanced nature of the meals. There is usually at least one meal that can be frozen (and I may freeze that meal in the future so that the last meal of the week is a as fresh as the first), there is generally one fish meal, one slow cooker meal and one “fun” meal (such as burgers or pizza). Side dishes are planned for all of the meals and included in the shopping list. At least half of us have liked every meal so far (which for a family of 8 is as good as I can expect!). There was a also enough food to feed our family with little tweaking on my part (Most recipes serve 4-6 and we are not huge eaters). Eventually we will have to size up on recipes a bit more. But for now it feeds 3 adult portions 3 kid portions and two baby portions.
You can purchase three months worth of meal plans from Michelle’s website for just $15! That is just $1.25 a week for someone else to do all of your planning for you! You can’t even get a last minute fast food pizza for $1.25 a week!
Not sure this could work for you? You can try a sample week here. Michelle is also giving two of my readers a free month of meal plans!
Update: I’m cooking my second week of this plan. I did not assemble the meals in advance, but I do have all of the meal components on one shelf in my refrigerator. Last night’s meal had a mere 10 minute prep time, and about half an hour to cook. The planning and organizing takes me longest! So, if you are uncomfortable having prepared food sitting in your refrigerator, this plan can still work wonders for you!
Do you want to win a free month of meal plans? (please leave a separate comment for each entry!)
1. Mandatory Entry: Visit Five Dinners in One Hour and come back here and tell me about something there that intrigues you. (there are tons of great recipes there…and lunch ideas too!).
2. Follow me on Facebook.
3. Follow me on Twitter.
4. Subscribe to It’s Time for More Coffee via email.
5. Tweet about this giveaway.
6. Follow Five Dinners in One Hour on Facebook
Winners will be selected next Monday (11/15/10), so make sure that you leave an email address so that I can contact you!