“What’s for dinner, Mom????”
It’s a frequent question at our house. While my guys always look forward to a warm, home-cooked meal just out of the oven, I treasure dinner time for other reasons. For me, “dinner time” means slowing down and unwinding from our busy days. It’s our family’s space to gather around the table, connect over our daily happenings, and talk and laugh and tell stories over food. “Dinner time” does good stuff for my mama soul.
Because our family rarely eats out, I love to get creative in choosing a variety of home-cooked meals for my guys. And, truthfully, I love to cook (in an un-rushed, background music playing kind-of way). But, in all my years of cooking, let me tell you what I do not love about creating home-cooked meals – the menu planning! Hands down, menu planning is the part I dread. Each week, I struggle to force my multi-tasking self to sit down with a pen in my hand. Then the search begins to find that perfect mixture of recipes through cookbooks, Pinterest browsing, and my mom’s old recipe cards. Sigh. It takes TIME and decision fatigue is real, y’all. After a successful hour of scouring for recipes (and suppressing frustration), I manage to copy each ingredient onto my hand-written grocery list and scurry off to the supermarket.
For most of us, meal planning can feel like such a chore, and frankly, I’d rather be chopping the veggies already.
Because I’ve come to learn that menu planning is not my strong suit, I was recently pleased to discover so many affordable menu planning services online! Pretty, organized menus and printable grocery lists? Um, yes, please! These websites are so perfect for busy moms on-the-go or if you’re just wanting to eat out less and see your family’s faces around the dinner table more. Save time, save money, eat healthier, stress less, and get dinner on the table. High fives all around! Here are 5 of my favorite menu planning services, and by the way, these make awesome gifts ideas too!
- Emeals – Emeals allows you to choose from a variety of meals plans that include but are not limited to: Classic, Quick and Healthy, Clean Eating, Kid-Friendly, Slow Cooker, Diabetic, Budget Friendly and the list goes on. Each week’s menu includes recipes with corresponding shopping lists arranged by grocery section for an easy, once-a-week shopping experience. The cost is $30 for 3 months, $48 for 6 months or $58 for 12 months. You also have the option to add weekly breakfast, lunch, or dessert plans for $3 or $4 more per month. Emeals also throws in a 14 day free trial!
- The Six O’Clock Scramble – This site is all about making nutritious 30 minute meals in a snap! The scramble sends members a weekly meal plan with detailed recipe directions, cooking tips, and an organized grocery list. All of the recipes are community rated, fail-proof and family friendly! Each recipe also includes nutritional information and Weight Watchers points! $3 a month for a two-year subscription; $6 a month for a six-month subscription.
- Plan to Eat – Pinterest addicts, this is the site for you! Plan to Eat allows you to choose from recipes that you’ve saved from across the web to create your own meal plan. Simply select what you want to make that week or month, then drag and drop the recipes onto the calendar tool. The plans can then be printed along with an automatically generated shopping list. Once you have your menu planned, you can use the mobile grocery store app to check off items as you shop. Plan to Eat is $4.95 per month or $39 per year. Plus, they offer a 30 day free trial!
- Six Sisters’ Stuff Menu Plan – The Six Sisters’ Menu Plan provides your favorite all-American family meals and is $5/month for any plan you choose. You have the option of choosing a plan that serves 6-8, a plan that serves 2-4 or a gluten free plan that serves 4-6. You will be able to download your first menu plan immediately after signing up, where you will receive: “a week at a glance”, 6 main dish recipes, 2 side dish recipes, 2 dessert recipes, and a detailed shopping list.
- Prep Dish – Prep Dish is popular for its Paleo and gluten-free meal plans. This site thrives on the concept of one shopping day, one prep day (about 2 hours of prepping for the whole week), and then you’re set to enjoy healthy, stress-free meals the rest of the week! You can select a monthly subscription ($14/ month), yearly subscription ($99/year), or premium subscription ($149/year). Every Friday you’ll receive a newsletter with links to your meal plan with recipes and cooking tips. Your meal plan comes as a downloadable pdf and includes 3 pieces: 1) grocery list 2) prep day 3) dish day. Easy peasy!