There are some things in life you really can’t shortcut. A healthy diet is top on the list. I eat best and keep costs reasonable when I meal plan and prep. That was difficult to do consistently before, but now as a new mom I need help if I’m going to get it done at all. Recently I found out there is an easier and faster way that doesn’t involve meal replacement shakes or subscription boxes!
Meal Planning Simplified
This past week I started using PlateJoy, which is basically a meal planning service on steroids. It is highly customizable and gives me the information I need to hit my nutrition goals. It has saved me time, money and food, as promised. How? I’ll take you through my experience using PlateJoy.
Getting started with PlateJoy begins with a detailed questionnaire about my food needs and preferences. There were options for paleo, vegan, pescatarian, low sodium, Whole30, dairy free, kosher, and more. Wow!
Here is a brief description of what I told PlateJoy I wanted:
- Meals for two adults that take less than an hour to cook. I put myself down as looking to lose weight but not my husband.
- Mostly paleo recipes with common ingredients but no mushrooms or spicy foods.
- A variety of three+ meals a week that allow for leftovers.
- Just lunch and dinner recipes as my breakfast and snack game is on point. Thank you.
I can go back and edit any of my preferences at any time, which is nice (you know, in case I decide to try the Whole30 thing someday). PlateJoy has really covered their bases with their personalization features. Once I finished my questionnaire, I told PlateJoy to create my menu!
Shopping List Features
After creating my custom menu, PlateJoy immediately prompted me to review a grocery shopping list. This gave me a chance to indicate if I had or did not have certain ingredients. Here is what I love about the shopping list function:
- It tells me how much I need of each ingredient for the entire week, down to how my proteins should be portioned for me vs my husband. This makes it easy to know if I already have enough at home and/or keep me from buying too much if I don’t.
- Items are organized by kind, based on the common grocery store categories.
- It tells me which recipes each ingredient will be used in.
- Four items were used in multiple recipes. Things like spinach, green onions and lemons, which is nice because these are things I often use for one recipe but then the rest goes to waste!
- I could ADD ITEMS to my shopping list! This is so smart. I can add my La Croix and make sure I don’t forget paper towels and Moxie treats.
- I can print it out or login on my iPhone and check off items as I shop.
With inventory done, I moved on to reviewing my menu.
I had told PlateJoy I wanted meals I could cook in 35 to 50 minutes. I also asked for familiar ingredients and family-friendly flavors. As I clicked through the recipes for the week, here are the things that impressed me.
- Recipes are 5 steps or less.
- Ingredients are familiar; things I’m comfortable cooking.
- Most recipes have a photo of the plated meal. If it looks good, I get excited, which increases adherence to the plan.
- Portion sizes are shown indicating how much of the recipe is for me, how much for my husband, and how much for left overs. SO helpful! This way I won’t accidentally starve my husband again.
- I can view the nutritional info per serving for me and for J.
- I can easily swap out any recipe or remove it from my menu if I need too.
Once I approved of the meals in my menu, all I had left to do was go shopping and decide when I wanted to cook the meals. The next test would be the recipes themselves.
Were the recipes going to be tasty?
Were they going to be as easy as they looked?
READ ON TO FIND OUT!
I kind of went overboard and created two separate menus for my first week. Yeah, you can do that. This came out to 7 recipes for two people which would produce 18 total meals (because leftovers) and I ended up spending about $83 to buy what I didn’t already have. Not bad. I often buy more than that because without a meal plan I get worried I won’t have enough.
The overall verdict is two forks up! Of my first 7 meals, I would definitely make 6 again and 4 of them I really loved.
1: Pistachio-crusted salmon with roasted vegetables: Great flavor and textures. Husband approved. Will definitely repeat. Needed an extra few minutes to cook the salmon.
2: Paleo tuna salad sushi handrolls: Fun! I’ve never rolled sushi before. Once I botched the first one, the second was easy. Will be a fast go-to for a light but filling lunch. See it on insta.
3: Stuffed tomatoes with lemon chicken and spinach: Looks are everything. If these ingredients were plated any other way it would be “meh” for sure. Not my favorite. See it on insta.
4: Filet mignon with sweet potato wedges and steamed vegetables: I cheated & used pre-seasoned bacon-wrapped filet medallions because…SALE! Still a great meal. Can’t go wrong with steak and sweet potato fries. I even ate the green beans.
5: BLT egg salad with avocado: Bacon crunch! Simple but so tasty. I love that this recipe uses things I almost always have (boiled eggs, spinach, avocado) and it took 15 minutes to make. Winner!
6: Glazed pork loin with cucumber-radish salad: Juicy and tender pork with crisp veggies and a kind of homemade vinaigrette. Yum. Recipe used apricot preserves but I used a marionberry I had already. It worked.
7: Roasted turkey sausages with apples and butternut squash: Good balance of sweet and savory. Using precooked Italian Sausages sped up the process. Recipe used arugula but said I could swap for spinach, which I already had from other meals so…yeah. No waste!
The Bottom Line
J and I ate healthier this week with more veggies and varied flavors than we would otherwise. I wasted less produce and estimate that I saved about $20 in groceries (by not wasting and not buying extra things just because “what if I need it”?). I was able to put a little extra time and energy every day toward other things because I knew about how long it would take to make lunch/dinner.
I felt less stressed about putting a dinner together. We learned some new recipes we liked. There was definitely more joy because of what was on our plates.
Here’s the thing: failing to plan is planning to fail. I’ve been more successful at eating how I prefer to eat this week with PlateJoy than I have in a long time. I can easily and happily recommend PlateJoy.