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Born to Shop, Forced to Cook: Tips for Delicious & Easy Meal Planning

I hate cooking. There, I said it. I had managed to avoid this task up until I became a stay-at-home-mom. Thirty-four years; it was a good run. "Born to shop, forced to cook" is now my mantra.

Possibly one of the things that attracted me to my husband was his love and ability to cook. He has this amazing gift of looking in the refrigerator, peeking in the pantry, and then whipping up some delicious meal from whatever ingredients we have. I do not possess this talent. The thought of cooking our daily meals seriously sends my anxiety through the roof. Here are some of the things I’ve used to make meal prep easier:

1. Community Supported Agriculture: When we were first married, we had tried out a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that delivered to my work location. It made it super easy to support local farmers and get fresh produce without having to go to the markets. Unfortunately, most of the vegetables in our box I did not know how to cook and had to rely on my husband to prepare. Plus, during the winter months there are only so many variations of squash one can eat.

2. Meal Subscription Service: Next, we tried Blue Apron. It's a great pre-prepped meal delivery service. They portion everything out for you and send an easy to follow recipe cards along with links to videos on how to cook the meals. On average, the price per person per meal is about $8-$9. Not bad for 2-3 gourmet meals a week. Plus, it was a fun relationship-building activity for my husband and I. We started to receive a lot of meals with garlic and onions. Maybe I didn't notice before but the smell was much more potent this time. I had my husband cook most of the meals outside and sometimes I couldn't even eat them, because - you guessed it - I was pregnant. We cancelled Blue Apron shortly thereafter.

3. Curbside Grocery Pickup: After the birth of our first daughter (Ruby), my husband surprised me with a Harris-Teeter curbside pickup subscription. I discovered that if I used the Harris Teeter app and stuck to the sale items, I could potentially save us money on groceries and never have to go into the grocery store with my new baby. Win-win. Then I had to figure out what meals to make, which leads me to my next point…

4. Pinterest Recipes: I did what any new mom would do and I created a Pinterest Board. As it turns out, I'm very good at following instructions. If I have a recipe and all of the ingredients, I can actually make a pretty good meal. There were a few flaws to this method. Especially, when trying to feed my family and learning how to be a new mom at the same time. First, if I was missing an ingredient, I became defeated. Next, my Pinterest Board got out of control and was a hot mess. Finally, I was spending way too much time compiling my shopping list, scrolling through my chaotic pinned recipes, searching my cabinets for things we already had, all while keeping my small human alive.

5. Grocery Home Delivery: Then came our second daughter. With the birth of sweet little Alice came health complications that had me on bed rest for over five weeks. Complicating things even more, our kitchen is located on the second-story and made it physically impossible for me to get groceries into our house alone. Hubby surprises me with a subscription to Shipt at this point in my journey to becoming the perfect domestic goddess. Talk about a game changer! Now, I can have my groceries delivered directly into my kitchen. This is when I decided that I had to find a better way to teach myself how to cook.

6. Recipe Apps: Through a whole lot of Google searches and after reading what seemed like one billion reviews, I decided to try out the free Mealime app. I've been using the free version of this app for about three months now. I have access to hundreds of recipes that meet my preferences. I look for recipes that are easy, fast, and healthy. I picked the 2-4 servings option in the settings so that we have enough for lunch the following day. The preferences are easy to tweak and the recipes are super easy to follow with step-by-step instructions and multiple tabs listing out ingredients and tools. Basically I scroll through the app each Sunday, choose four to five meals, and then it generates my shopping list for me. I browse through the list and check off items that I know we already have and enter my list into the Shipt app. Within a few hours all of my groceries are in my kitchen and I'm ready for the week!

Most of the recipes that I've prepared have been successful, but I have had a few failures. I'm not experienced enough to realize that the "sauce" I'm making from scratch is pesto until my husband compliments me on it and asks "what brand?" For those types of situations I've been able to add notes to the recipes in the app (i.e. buy premade pesto to make life easier!) in addition to having the ability to save our family's favorites. The only disadvantage is there are a couple recipes that look amazing but are locked behind a "premium" pay wall. Maybe one day I'll upgrade to the pro version of the app and try them out.

I feel like a weight has been lifted completing this task that I don't enjoy. Each day around 3pm, I make my way into the kitchen and start prepping for my 30-minute recipe (only because I'm slow y'all, not because it should actually take all afternoon)! I'm all for simplifying and streamlining any tasks that you can. From one domestic goddess to another, you can do it Momma!

A few of my favorite recipes:

http://r.mealime.com/3745

http://r.mealime.com/2177

http://r.mealime.com/1140

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Angela is mom to Ruby (2 years) and Alice (6 months). As one of our founding moms, Angela has been with Fit4Mom Charleston since its inception! You can catch her leading playgroup with her two cuties every week at our Park Circle location!