Let’s face it: cooking healthy dinners on a consistent basis is tough...
We all know we should do it - and we want to do it - but it just doesn't happen. You know the saying - "Failing to plan, is planning to fail"? (One of my dad's all time favorite quotes!) This couldn't be more true when it comes to our meals. My husband and I have both been victim to it. No groceries in the fridge, nothing prepped to make - "oh shoot, I forgot to get the chicken out to thaw!" We call each other around 6 or 6:30 pm after work with the age old question, "What do you want to do for dinner?" It takes commitment, diligence, and planning. Who has time for that? In our household, both my husband and I work full time. We don't even have kids (or pets for that matter!), and we still find this tough.
The truth is, I’m terrible at meal planning. I have been known to go to the grocery store to try and figure out what to make. Two hours later, I come home with waaaay more than I needed because I couldn't decide what exactly I wanted to make. I actually have this really funny story about having a last minute house guest for dinner - which ended in me deciding to make a meal that took 6 hours to fully cook (I only had 2) and adding waaaay too much Old Crow Whiskey to the marinade. My husband and I now have this saying that goes, "When it doubt, just add more Old Crow".
Annnywayssss, this brings me back to my point that I totally stink at deciding what to make and making sure I am prepared for it.
To try to fix this issue, I’ve tried a bunch of different meal planning tools - cookbooks, .PDFs of meal plans I found online, as well as doing a meal delivery services. The problem was that none of them gave me the flexibility I need to adjust on-the-go. My ideal meal planning would include the flexibility to swap out ingredients or recipes I don't like to eat or prepare, plans according to what is in season to ensure the most economical value, as well as allow me to be creative and exposed to new recipes that could becomes a new family favorite!
Enter Real Plans. I am obsessed with Podcasts, and one of my favorite food bloggers, Juli Bauer Roth from Paleomg, talked about a meal planning service that she contributed her recipes to. I LOVE her recipes, so I had to check it out. I wanted to get as much out of it as I could not only for myself, but also for all of the patients who ask me what they should eat and if I could design a meal plan for them. I sat down one night, signed up for my first month, and was amazed at the intake process to ensure this would be doable, easy to follow, flexible, and life changing!
Step 1, Real Plans asked me something no other meal planning service has ever asked - which hemisphere I was in. This allows the system to generate ingredients that are in season. Seriously, I was hooked just because of that. (ProTip: In season items are generally on sale!) Lastly for this step, it asked which grocery store I preferred. I chose Kingma's (for all of my Grand Rapids and soon to be Ada people!), this place is the best local grocery store!
Step 2, Real Plans asked what my nutrition preference was. My husband and I generally stick to a Paleo lifestyle, but I would love to try out some of these other options. I have also recommended AIP to my patients dealing with autoimmune disease or weight loss resistant conditions or a GAPS diet to someone with extreme digestive issues such as Crohn's or IBS. So seeing these as options would make their lives SO much easier, as these diets are pretty extreme and restrictive.
Step 3 included information about proportioning and when you actually needed meal planning. Although we are only a family size of 2, I like to make extra to have for lunch and/or dinner the next day when I KNOW neither of us will have time to cook. Also, this is super easy to change. You can go in and change a particular meal to actually needing maybe 6 serving sizes because you will be having company.
Once your meal plan is generated, you can view your calendar and look ahead to what is coming up for the week or as far ahead as you want to go:
Remember the chicken you forgot to thaw? With the Timeline feature, you can look day by day at what you need to do for upcoming meals:
The shopping list is pretty awesome, too. Rather than being a static PDF, it categorizes everything based on how you typically shop a supermarket. (For example, all the produce, spices, and bottled goods are all grouped together.) You can then check off anything you already have in your kitchen, add anything else you want to add to your list, and then take it to the store. Real Plans allows you to print, email, and open your shopping list on your smart phone so that you (or your husband!) can access it from anywhere.
There are SO many other features like nutrition information on any of the recipes, an app for your phone, a feature called "recipe roulette" if you want to change up a recipe, a recipe box to see all of the 1500 recipes available and even add your own favorites to this list, as well as amazing customer service through the "Chat with me" link in the lower right hand corner. Not only is this easy to use, but every single recipe I have created was easy to make and delicious!!
Another amazing feature is that Real Plans allows you to exclude whole food groups (like shellfish, nuts or nightshades), and gives you the option to exclude specific ingredients, too. VOILA - You’re given a complete weeklong meal plan, totally customized according to your specific dietary preferences.
If this isn't enough of a reason to try it out, the people running the site might be. Anthony and Emily are running a family business committed to helping people getting comfortable cooking in the kitchen and making it FUN! They have refined and perfected this insanely powerful and dynamic meal planner. Seriously, watch this video and see if it blows your socks off too:
So you're probably thinking that this has to be super expensive. Actually, NO! It is quite affordable, especially if you are willing to commit to a year of meal planning.
Subscriptions start as low as $6 a month and you won’t just be getting a meal plan. A meal plan is great, but you’re also getting a carefully thought-out and dynamic timeline and shopping list. When it comes to meal planning, it doesn’t get any easier for Paleo eaters like me - or those of us with even more restrictive diets due to allergies or other health concerns.
So what do you have to lose? Try Real Plans and let me know how much you LOVE it!