Before becoming parents, my husband and I were pretty good about cooking at home, trying new recipes and having fun with food, in general.
And then, along came this baby.
My meal planning and preparation attention focused solely on him for… like… a year.
Breastfeeding and pumping.
Now, he’s a walking-running-climbing toddler with molars who can eat nearly all the foods we eat, so I can plan food for the whole family again. Instead of just for him.
I say, he can eat the food we eat.
He sometimes just won’t.
What I need now — that I didn’t need before bringing this needy little life form into the world — are tools. Meal planning tools.
Because I no longer have the leisure time to organize a weekly meal plan, put together a grocery list, hunt for sales, cut coupons, go grocery shopping, forget three things, go back to the grocery store, lug all the groceries inside, neatly place items in the pantry, quarter and freeze the poultry, cut and store the produce, put together make-ahead breakfast sandwiches and individual smoothie ingredients…
I have exactly enough time to preheat the oven to 375 (or is in 350? I can never remember) and throw in a few chicken thighs we hope I seasoned while my kid screams at me for MORE SNACKS OMG MOM.
Hence, tools — and I have a smorgasbord.
Evernote used to hold all the recipes I used regularly. There’s still dozens in there. Now, I don’t have time to test a recipe, make the adjustments I like, and then add it to Evernote for later use.
Tool #1: Bookmarks.
Internet bookmarks are an under appreciated tool.
Recently, I went through all the recipes I had saved looking for something new to try while the toddler napped.
I deleted half I’m sure I saved because of hanger, and then I deleted another quarter I’m sure I saved thinking I’d have so much more time once my son was older to make complicated recipes.
Tool #2: A dry-erase board.
It’s sticky-tacked to the freezer door, and it dictates our lives.
Tool #3: The Dillon’s store app.
I used to shop sales at different stores. I used to go to farmers markets, local shops and speciality stores to get the obscure ingredient I needed to complete an equally obscure recipe I dug out from the depths of some random cookbook.
Now, I shop at Dillon’s.
Sometimes, I still go to Wichita’s weekly downtown farmers market to get the flavorful asparagus, cucumbers and tomatoes you just can’t get at the grocery store.
I nearly always buy my coffee from the Spice Merchant because there. is. no. better.
But the bulk of my groceries come from Dillon’s. The store app lets me download coupons to my store card, add items to a shopping list and make use of ClickList, which is a grocery pickup service I use every other week.
Confession: I do not like ClickList. I’m picky about my coupons and sales, and the substitutions offered for out-of-stock items I know are in-stock (just hard to find) make my blood boil. Baby food is the worst. Not all of those pouches are created equal, and if you need to substitute baby food, don’t substitute the SAME ONE FOUR TIMES.
Variety is the spice of getting calories into my kid.
End mini-rant I’m not actually that upset about.
Tool #4: Mealime.
Mealime is a meal planning app with recipes you can add to your weekly meal plan that also automatically creates a grocery list based on the recipes you selected.
I subscribed to the Pro version, so I could get Pro-only recipes (not that big of a deal) and other functionality. It’s $2.99 per month, and I cancelled my subscription because I wasn’t convinced it was worth it.
While I enjoy the meal planning, grocery shopping and recipe storage all in one app, Mealime’s recipes aren’t too much to get excited about. The app does allow you to add your own grocery items but not personalized recipes, which makes it hard to incorporate the tried and tested dinners we’ve come to rely on using the app.
So I still need to use bookmarks, three-ring binders, cookbooks and Evernote to organize non-Mealime recipes.
Plus, nearly all recipes in Mealime instruct you to use coconut oil — no — and a lot ask you to wash the meat bits out of a pan before you make the sauce… like the meat bits aren’t the best part of the sauce? Because they are. (There’s a fancy French word I’m not looking up for “meat bits.”)
Maybe that’s how meal planning is, but I’d continue to pay $2.99 per month for an app that did what I need meal planning to be.
I’m open to suggestions.
He ate like two bites.
Bonus Tool: Ibotta. Because rebates.