Meal Planning revisited
A few years ago, when I started this website, one goal was to teach people how to plan meals and shop as efficiently as possible. Several new services and businesses have cropped up to reduce stress for the people eating the food. While there is nothing wrong with any of these options, planning is important.
If you use a delivered meal service, everything is in a box, the recipes, and portioned food. A friend of mine tried a meal kit service, and liked it, but realized that she still had to cook the food. Although some of the packaging was recyclable, much of it went in the the trash, and the food had to be shipped cross country before it spoiled. These are not inexpensive options. She ordered meals at the cost of about $10 per person per meal. Recipes changed constantly, there wasn’t much consistency with the food. If you loved a meal or recipe, it wasn’t always available again. Again, if you love to cook and try new recipes, it’s a great plan, but most people need to get a good meal on the table quickly, with the least amount of stress.
I test products,
and received a meal kit from a large super market chain.. Yesterday afternoon, I made the kit, a meal designated for two people. It contained appropriately portioned salmon, Basmati rice, a packet of blackening seasoning, green beans, a small onion, a large green bell pepper, seasoned butter, a lemon, chicken stock, and slivered almonds. My job was to read and follow directions, (important to any recipe) and make the food. I had to provide cooking oil, salt and pepper, the cookware and my stellar knife and cooking skills. This was not a kit for beginners. And it really wasn’t something I would make on a busy weeknight. Since I was photographing along the way, it took a little longer than the anticipated 30-40 minutes. So I poured myself a glass of wine, and got down to the business of making a meal from a kit.
This is like building with Legos
Everything is in the box, and I had no say in what ingredients I can use, no room for creativity or adapting. So I got out my knife, cutting board, cooking oil, and put a little Kosher salt in a bowl, and grabbed the pepper grinder. I opened the box and et voila! salmon, green beans, a giant pepper, etc., etc. First step, wash the veggies, Check!, cut up the pepper and onion, Check! heat up a saucepan, Check! and so on. The end result was just okay; I wouldn’t pay for this in a restaurant. It was very convenient to have everything all in one box, but I missed picking out my vegetables and adapting the portions. The green bean to rice ratio was unbalanced. The kits provide excellent meal alternatives, but it removes us, culturally, one step more, away from the source of our food.
A lot of people don’t want to cook.
In the past, the only options were TV dinners or frozen pizzas. However, food manufacturers (I kind of hate that term), expanded the choices, but most were still frozen or canned, and not very appealing. Enter the pre-made and assembled fresh and never frozen meals. Supermarket chains, like the one that gave me the kit, have developed one meal, one tray, for one person, products and it’s all fresh, pretty healthy, and tastes pretty good. A meal consists of a protein like chicken, pork or seafood, plus one or two sides, maybe green beans or asparagus, and something starchy like potatoes or rice, and a sauce. Again, it’s easy pop them in the oven, and thirty minutes later, FOOD! It still removes us from the source of our food, but the general concept is sound.
Many retailers have hire- a- shopper services. For a small additional charge, you can order your food and other items online and have the option of either picking them up or having them delivered to your home. These are great options, and as a sometimes caterer, I see this as a huge win by reducing the time to shop for the food I’m serving my customers. I can spend more time prepping and organizing the event. But the product ordered may not be the product delivered, especially if uncommon ingredients are needed,
I love all these options, but with all of these options, you still have to plan and create a list. This is where my original plan comes into play, the simple, list of repeatable meals that your family loves. Easy out the door breakfasts and lunches. Meals than can take as little as fifteen minutes to get on the table for church and soccer nights. And more time for special meals for the weekends.
All of this makes me miss the good old days. We knew farmers, planted our gardens, ate meals socially with family and friends. We created our own convenience meals by cooking on the weekends and having some leftovers during the week. While it’s still my primary method of meal planning and cooking, boredom with eating the same thing all week becomes a struggle.