I mention “menu planning” and eyes glaze over. It seems to belong right up there (down there?) with root canals as a favorite pastime. And yet, as I work with my clients, the question of what to cook comes up. For many, it is frustrating and difficult. Would someone PLEASE just tell us what to cook? And while they are at it, can they make it easy? And delicious? Well, they have. And for me, it has been a game changer.
There are a variety of menu planning websites these days, and they have become quite sophisticated. Different companies take different approaches.
At the top of the food chain is the companies that do everything for you. Everything. For a price. The meals are planned, the groceries are bought and delivered to your door, already measured and ready to cook. Don’t want to cook at all? We have a local company that will deliver the dinners fully cooked. (Check out simplebitesgourmet.com.)
For menu planning, there are companies who send you a number of recipes a week. Each dish is new and different. You shop for the listed ingredients, and enjoy the creativity of cooking new dinners each night. Sounds amazing, but it is a bit harder to always be cooking something you’ve never cooked before. And what if you don’t think you’ll like the recipe?
Then there are recipe planners out there for those of us who want control of our own menu, for health reasons or simply because we like a lot of recipes we cook, but want to be better organized. Enter PlanToEat.com. I’ve been using this tool for a couple of years and it has revolutionized the way I plan and cook. I can choose simple recipes that I know will work for quick meals on workdays. I can troll the internet looking for something new and creative. I can plan a week’s menu once and use it again in a couple of weeks. I’m no longer standing in the grocery store at 6:00 p.m. on a work night, wondering what to cook. Thanksgiving dinner for 20 is now planned at the push of a button. The program gives me a shopping list for whatever meals I want to prepare, and I’ve shaved large chunks of time off the total prep time. And, the shopping list can be accessed from my phone.
Have I mentioned that this has revolutionized everything for me? That I’m enjoying cooking a lot more now that I’m following a simple plan? That we are eating better and eating out less?
The bottom line is that, in order to have healthy meals on a budget, you need a plan. You can, like I have in the past, attempt to plan your meals and grocery lists from scratch. Or you can take advantage of an on-line menu planner that does the bulk of the work for you.
I’m going to be teaching you how plan your meals in a class I have coming up. The class, called Plotting Dinner, will be taught at the end of September, with encore classes taught as often as people clamor for them. Click on this link to find details.
Camille Watson is a health educator, speaker and published author of the book Eight Steps to a Real-Foods Kitchen. Her passion is to give individuals and groups the knowledge and tools they need to take back their health. If you are interested in learning more about achieving health through delicious, whole foods and lifestyle transformations, email Camille@camillewatson.com to attend one of her cooking classes or to schedule your free health strategy session.