For a couple of years I had a lot of fun with the online menu planner Relish. (FYI, I don’t get any type of compensation from Relish, I just think it’s a great service that you might like to know about.)
There’s a membership fee for the service, but the payback in inspiration, efficiency, and good eating might offset the cost for you, like it did for me.
When my sister first gave me a gift subscription, I didn’t think I’d use it at all let alone for the three free months. My husband is on a restricted diet so I figured it wouldn’t work for us. But as I used it I quickly came to depend on it.
Every Thursday the site posts about fifteen new menus and sends out an e-mail. Between the new menus and a big selection of past recipes there are always plenty of meals to choose from. After selecting my meals for the week, I generate a shopping list and menu printout with my chosen number of servings. I usually make four servings because my tall, hungry husband usually eats an extra portion and uses leftovers for his lunches.
There seems to be a sort of magic in the transformation from the nicely categorized shopping list to the food on the plate. Having the whole week’s ingredients on hand in just the right amounts feels luxurious and organized. Sitting down to eat a meal that someone else has thought about and planned gives me the feeling that we’re eating in a good restaurant. And often I’ve learned techniques or skills that I might not have otherwise, like chicken Parmesan or seeding a pomegranate.
The service costs about $60 per year and is also available in three- and six-month increments. One way it pays for itself is that I’m only buying the amounts I’m going to use, so there’s no waste. The financial clincher is that because of the variety, I’m not as tempted to buy expensive convenience foods or go out to eat.
The recipes use lots of fresh produce and the lists have vegetarian and freezer meals. Printouts of the freezer recipes include labels with preparation instructions and side suggestions and a list of frozen meals to put up on the refrigerator door as a reminder. Sweet!
The service’s does have a few drawbacks. Meat, fish, and poultry portions are larger than what we like, so I usually cut back on those amounts. There have been minor mistakes in the recipes. The time estimates are almost always shorter than actual. It takes time to learn the site and to plan the meals. Finally, it could be making me lazy about finding and creating my own recipes. I’ll have to think about that “problem” Maybe later!
Overall, Relish is a great find and a service I highly recommend for day-to-day meals, and it even has special menus for entertaining.