How I Finally Mastered Meal Planning


 This post may contain affiliate links.  For more information please see my full disclosure statement.

I stopped doing it!  Yep, you read that right.

See if this sounds like you; It’s Sunday night, the kids are in bed, and you’re trying eek a couple more hours of weekend out of the day before you to do all the Monday stuff.  You know you should sit down and plan out the meals for the week (actually, you should have done that before you went grocery shopping, but we’ll overlook that), and your brain just refuses to go there.

While meal delivery service, like Plated or Hello Fresh are popular, they’re far from economical.  But what if you could get a weekly meal plan for the upcoming week sent to you on Thursday?  You’d have time to look through your pantry for items you may need, make your shopping list, and there would be no guilt if, on Sunday night, you just want to sit back with a glass of Chardonnay and watch The Walking Dead.

A weekly or monthly meal plan can help ease the stress of busy weeknights and family schedules, and helps set kids on a path of healthy eating.

I know meal planning is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which are that it saves money and helps stick to a healthy diet.  The trouble is, it wasn’t happening.  No matter how badly I wanted to, I just couldn’t come up with a week’s worth of meals for my family.

Enter Cook Smarts.

Every Thursday afternoon I get a beautiful email with 4 healthy, easy recipes for the upcoming week.  And if there’s something I don’t like, or my daughter won’t eat, I can swap it out for another recipe.  Easy peasey, lemon squeezey.

But it’s not just the pretty pictures I love.  There are a lot of things that Cook Smarts gets right for families.

Easily swap out meals

I mentioned this above, but when you have a picky eater in the house, this option is invaluable.  Cook Smarts has been in business for _____ years and has a huge library of recipes you can look through.  And when you make one your favorite, it uses that knowledge to recommend meals that you will like in the future.  You can also specify if you’re on a gluten-free, paleo, or vegetarian, and while all their recipes are made with fresh ingredients, you can easily use a bottled stir-fry sauce instead.

It’s Adjustable

Just you and your better half home for dinner that night?  Set the meal to be made for 2 instead of 4 and Cook Smarts automatically adjusts ingredients, cook times, etc., saving you the time and frustration of doing it yourself.  Having a dinner party?  Tell Cook Smarts how many people and it will do all the math for you.  And for those our Canadian friends, you can set your recipes to metric.

Healthy meals

Meal planning is hard enough without having to make sure everything is healthy!  Let’s face it, we all know it’s better to eat healthy food, but we also know it’s easier to make a giant pot of pasta and have everyone pull their plate up to the trough.  Cook Smarts saves you the trouble and will only send you healthy meal options.  They also include nutritional info and Weight Watchers points values!  The program also integrates with My Fitness Pal, my favorite diet tracking app, to automatically enter in nutritional value for you based on the given recipe.

Reduces food waste

Americans throw away almost half of the food they buy.  Half!  That means that if you’re spending $100 a week on groceries, you essentially just threw $40-45 in the trash.  Cook Smarts creates its meal plans with that in mind, so they will send you tips on how to batch cook, weekend meal prep (if that’s your thing), or make all your chicken for the week at one time.  They even order the suggested meals by how perishable the ingredients are!  So, if a recipe calls for berries, they’ll put that first, while recipes that use apples will be used later in the week.

1-Click grocery list

Homemade meals can include an intimidating number of ingredients, but Cook Smarts will automatically add all necessary ingredients, in the correct portion size, to your built-in grocery list.  If you change a dish from 4 people to 8, it will also adjust your shopping list.  And in keeping with the theme of reducing food waste, they will bundle ingredients used in multiple recipes into a single item on your list, again, in the proper portion.

How-to videos

Are you a novice cook, or just a bit overwhelmed by the idea of not cooking things from bags and boxes?  On the Cook Smarts page they have tons of videos to show you how to make the most of your time in the kitchen.  Just follow along and you’ll be cooking like a pro in no time!

Realistic

Many people ask why we get only 4 meals sent to us each week.  Well, the average American eats out or orders in twice a week, and has leftovers another night, so 4 meals are all they really need.  Keep in mind, members have full access to the complete library of recipes, so if you cook more often than 4 nights a week, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Another realistic aspect of Cook Smarts is the actual menu they send you.  Yes, they are healthy recipes, but they’re also things kids will eat!  This week’s menu for my family was chicken stir-fry, meatball subs, chorizo stuffed peppers, and Italian wedding soup.  With the exception of the peppers, my daughter will eat all of those things, and she’ll just eat the sausage out of the peppers.

Affordable

Let’s face it.  Money is a concern for most of us.  It doesn’t matter how great a program is if you can’t afford it, right?  Well, the folks at Cook Smarts know this, too, and they’ve priced their program accordingly, and given you multiple payment options.  If you want to pay monthly, it will cost only $8 per month.  Quarterly memberships are $21 per quarter ($7 a month).  Yearly memberships are just $6 a month, or $72.  And in mind that when you use their program you’ll be wasting less food and saving money, so it basically pays for itself.

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