Because I like stuff. A lot.
I believe that I first saw mention of Cook Smarts on Instagram. And, in a fit of meal-planning frustration, made even more difficult by navigating the ridiculous food aversions/picky eating habits of my offspring, (Anna won’t eat potatoes, because she deems them “too potato-y”) I was very close to throwing in the towel on meal-planning.
Enter Cook Smarts. Cook Smarts is a weekly meal-planning service. Unlike other meal planning/food delivery services, Cook Smarts only sends you the menus–the grocery shopping is all on you. I pay about $8 a month (less than Netflix) and have access to, not only new meal plans every week, but a grocery list generator as well as an exhaustive archives of additional meal ideas, if I’m not feeling the menu for the week or if I need to add in some extra meals.
The idea is fairly simple: Every Thursday, I get an email from Cook Smarts, with 4 meal ideas. Depending on how busy our week is, I typically plan to make at least 2 of the menus (but have also made all 4 weekly menus, some weeks). Then, I can modify each recipe to account for servings (say, my mother-in-law is coming over for dinner, so I can bump up the servings on Thursday’s meal to 5, instead of 4). Then, I can modify each recipe to make it gluten-free, Paleo or vegetarian too. Once I have the servings and modifications in place on each meal, I can then generate a grocery list.
Then, after the shopping is done, Cook Smarts also gives you options for weekend prepping, where you’re advised which veggies you can go ahead and slice and dice and then store before cooking, later in the week; what meats can be tenderized and/or marinated a day or so before, etc. This prep-time has proven to be invaluable now that school has started and our before-dinner routine is chaotic, at best.
When it comes to the cooking day, the recipes are easy to follow and many even have tutorial videos that show you specialized kitchen techniques–from cutting to sauteing.
Another helpful feature is the Cook Smarts Facebook group (Cook Smarts Kitchen Heroes). People often post photos of which menu items they’ve made, with helpful suggestions; likes, dislikes, etc. I’ve found other people’s experiences and advice extremely helpful and I try to post photos and tips as well.
You see, I’m a decent cook–I mean, I can follow a recipe like a normal person–but what I lack is creativity. Cook Smarts has given me the opportunity to introduce my family to some new flavors and foods. Also, since I’m buying for specific recipes at the grocery store, I’m saving money. I used to go to the store and grab items right and left thinking, “I’ll grab this chicken and this broccoli and these beans and I’m sure I’ll come up with some way to feed this to my family,” only to end up throwing half of the items out, after they sat unused in the fridge for a week or more.
The very best part of Cook Smarts though? When dealing with my absurdly difficult, picky-eating children, if a Cook Smarts recipe is a flop, it’s not all my fault anymore! “Sorry, guys. Cook Smarts told me to.”
Go to www.cooksmarts.com and sign up for 3 free meal plans to try.
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