Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review: The Fresh20 Meal Plan. My attempt at following a plan.

I am a working mother, and dinner comes as an utter surprise to me pretty much every day. I've tried getting friends to explain meal planning to me. They seem so smug, with their "Sunday prep day" and their freezer full of portion-controlled ziploc bags of meals. I just want someone to tell me when Taco Night is.

I prefer to shop European style* -- i.e. pop down to the market every day or two -- for various reasons.
  1. I eat more fresh foods
  2. I never know what I'm going to be in the mood for a few days from now (I know, that's such an entitled attitude, but, hey, I've been self-employed my whole life)
  3. I often have evening gigs or we eat at a restaurant, thus ruining any plans I might have had.
  4. I can't stand throwing food away, so better to buy small amounts at a time.
Eating non-processed foods is not a new thing for our family, so it's not like we don't know how to cook. We've been making our own crackers and tortillas and pasta (not nearly as much since having the Wee Boy) for years now. We are also all vegetarian, so eating healthful foods is a hardly challenging. 

Still, the actual PLANNING part is somehow completely anathema to my carefree ways.

Because we spent an ungodly amount of money last month on restaurants and because the idea of paying someone to meal plan for us is no longer an only-for-the-rich-folks thing, I'm going to try out several meal planning websites and report back to you. I've avoided them in the past partly because of cost, but also because I never liked the sample vegetarian plans I had seen in the past. I'm not big on fake meat. Even tofu, though I like tofu, is a little too processed for my over-thinking brain to handle. I do like tofu, I just didn't want a meal plan based around meat substitutes.

We shall see what follows.

First up in my review will be my week of following The Fresh20.

Overview: The Fresh20 has a week-long sample plan, which I'm trying out. I chose the vegetarian option, obviously, though I do wish there were options that went along with vegetarian, i.e. vegetarian gluten-free or vegetarian dairy-free, etc. Meat-eaters get all of those choices, which is pretty annoying considering eating meat only really adds, like, 4 ingredients to a vegetarian diet (chicken, cow, pig, fish). But I digress into a rant about how vegetarianism is actually not restrictive...
Anyway, The Fresh20 weekly plan posts a menu of 5 meals, a shopping list, a prep-plan, the 5 recipes, and a nutrition guide (including serving size, calories, nutrients, etc). 

Sunday: We printed out the shopping list. Yes, there there is a SHOPPING LIST, which made our trip to the store quick and easy. 

Cost of groceries: $65. 

Monday: I decided I would prep the first two meals. I ended up prepping all five meals because the prep for meals 3-5 only involved chopping vegetables. That seemed easy enough, and I was already on a roll. 
  I spent a total of 65 minutes chopping, blanching, and trimming various vegetables, but those 65 minutes include several minutes of freaking out and running around giddy when my @KensingtonPalace notification went off that the new Princess had been named (Diana, people, they were able to sneak in a Diana!! I died a little, and then went back to blanching broccoli.)
  Ideally, in my hippie ways, I would have stored everything in glass containers, but I can't find any of the lids to my glass containers (who out there has the perfect lid-storage-system-that-doesn't-take-up-much-cabinet-room?). I went with the plastic, which means my photos don't look classy and we are storing our food in chemicals. Forgive me.  
  I wrote a number on the side of the containers to tell me which meal it's for, in case I space. I used a permanent marker and decided I didn't care. David, the genius of the relationship, suggested that in the future I use Dry Erase markers. Duh.

Monday night: We actually ate meal 1! It took about 30 minutes to cook, not including the prep. Those 30 minutes weren't actual work time though, as 25 minutes involved baking the tofu. 

Ginger Tofu, Snow Peas, Rice.
I don't love that tofu was such a big ingredient, but I did love how it tasted. The Ginger sauce (homemade with actual grated ginger root) was delicious. All three of us cleaned our plates. There was one serving left over for lunch on Tuesday. I forgot to take a picture of my plate, which David artfully arranged. But here is the Wee Boy's dinner, minus a few snow peas and some rice.

Tuesday night: I totally failed and went out to eat with a friend. Am horrible person, but will get back on track on Wednesday. 

The Fresh20 offers only 5 meals for the week because they recognize that families in our day and age go out to eat more often than we should. I guess I should accept that. 

*Yes, I know how pretentious that sounds, but what's a better word for it? My word-retrieval skills are failing since I became a parent. 

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