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Meal planning magic!

Home economics was out of vogue when I was in high school – everyone was going to have a career!

All I know about meal planning is that my mom went to the supermarket on a Saturday (day after payday) with a list and mapped out what we were going to eat for the rest of the week, with a few treats mixed in too. She was pretty good at it. She had to be, with five kids!

My efforts at meal planning have been haphazard over the years, depending on time and resources. That is until I went to nutrition school and learned about meal prep, and how this can help ensure you have healthy meals planned out and ready for the rest of the week.

The benefits of meal planning are:

· Save Time – by planning out what you are going to eat for the rest of the week, and organizing it to use multiple food items for several different dishes, you are going to the store once for all of your ingredients.

· Save Money – planning allows you to a) use sales circulars to your advantage and plan your meals around these specials and b) cooking at home is always cheaper than eating out

· Manage your Health – you know what you are putting in your food, and if you prescribe to eating a whole foods diet, you know all the ingredients and can pronounce them. You can manage your portion sizes, and we all know the size of the meals we get at restaurants could feed a small army.

· Family Relationships - we don’t often think of this, but I know from experience how valuable it is to sit around the table and give each other our presence. We practiced this with my stepson so that our meals together were a time of communicating with each other, not distracted by devices. Liam and I often spent time together in the kitchen, prepping our meals and these are great memories.

But I don’t have time to do this, Michelle! I am busy running around taking the kids to soccer and tutors, checking in on my parents, managing deadlines at work and serving on committees. And the supermarket parking lots are a madhouse!

Never fear, there are alternatives. And I am going to share them with you here and in next week’s blog so stay with me.

The first time-saving alternative is meal delivery. There are many to choose from and I have tried several, such as Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, and Blue Apron, all of which are quite good. These all deliver fresh food, spices and the recipes to follow, in portion-controlled sizes for two, four or family sizes. These come in insulated boxes that are delivered to your door and now you have everything you need for several meals throughout your week.

And another added benefit is that if you aren’t comfortable in the kitchen, the step- by- step instructions on the included recipe cards help you prep and cook your meal like a pro. Picking out your selections each week helps you explore different types of cuisine, gluten-free, and vegetarian options as well.

There are also some meal delivery services which prep everything, and you just reheat it. I sent this type to my sister last year, who was dealing with caring for her sick husband. She was so busy with his care it was all she could do to reheat a meal. She still talks about that time and marvels at the quality of the meals she received from Front Porch, which I think is still local to Texas only. But there are others such as Home Chef and Freshly, which I have yet to try because I like to cook. I get my zen on in the kitchen!

My husband and I have been using the Hello Fresh vegetarian meal plan for two, because I have been busy lately and want to make sure we have at least three vegetarian meals each week. For the last several weeks we have been enjoying some tasty meals, and sometimes have leftovers for lunch the next day, which is a bonus.

Another bonus is weight loss! Sean keeps reminding me he can see his abs again since he has been eating this way. He says it like it is a burden, but I think he just likes to pull up his shirt to show off! I am going to take a picture and post it.

These meal service deliveries are a convenience so there is a price point to consider, however you may want to try to incorporate a few meals into your week and compare it to going to the grocery store, the time involved shopping, putting things away and even wasting food that you didn’t get a chance to prepare.

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