Out of the box meal planning

Maybe it’s just an eight-year-old thing, but Sassafras is firmly lodged in the “what are we doing next?” phase. Even when we are literally right in the middle of breakfast, she wants to know what’s for lunch. When we are rushing around the house at night trying to get all of these wiggleworm bedtime-haters in their rooms, she’s choosing that moment to ask what we are doing the next day, and what after that and what after that. Always looking forward, never really thinking about the moment right in front of her. It wears us out, mostly because we can BARELY keep up with the moment in front of us much less think about what is for dinner tomorrow night and what cup she will drink her milk out of and what shirt she will wear for green day at school…which could be two weeks from now. And then of course there’s that whole can you just be satisfied, child? thing.

She’s a planner, I get that. I totally, 100% get that. There are things in my life that I am always planning, always organizing, always thinking toward and thinking through.

Meal planning? Is so very much not one of them.

Y’all, I try. I really do. I use the AllRecipes app, I have a delicious pinboard, we joined this community co-op produce group (just co-buying, not co-growing; all I’d have to put in is a few cherry tomatoes which are delicious but tiny and rare), and all of my friends are forever sharing good-looking recipes on the FB.

Some times of year are better than others, and start-of-school month is just beastly when it comes to meal planning. Add to that our extracurriculars and my darling precious children might get a PB&J and some yogurt for dinner…and that’s only when they ask me at 6:00 what actually IS for dinner. I’m just not very good at it.

It’s the going to the store and the behavior battles that stem from taking already tired children to an entire building that is primarily designed to steal all my money. It’s the time and the couponing I so need to do but can’t keep up with, either. It’s the lack of foresight because all of my planning juices are directed elsewhere this time of year. And it's that they always want to eat, like, AGAIN. Aren't lunches enough? What else do you want from me? 3 meals a day? Mercy.

So. Meal planning? Blurg. I was just scrolling through FB one day because I needed just a minute…just one minute somewhat to myself when, lo and behold, some digital angel of the Lord, a holy algorithm, dropped me a coupon for HelloFresh. $35 off my first meal box, they said. And the meals looked pretty good…so I figured, hey. One box? Let’s give it a go. 3 meals for $30 total that are dropped straight on my doorstep? I’m game. What do we have to lose? Maybe some PB&J’s.

About a week and a half later our first box arrived. The packaging was pretty fancy. Nice, sturdy box with lots of insulation and cold packs for our ingredients. The upper layer (with the white boxes of ingredients) was not as cold as the lower section, where the meats were, but everything looked and felt extremely fresh. Each of our meats (shrimp, steak, and chicken) had their own cold pack, which reassured me their proper storage temps had been maintained in shipping.

Today we cooked up our first box, which was the Lemony Linguine Shrimp. Sassafras helped, although there wasn’t much to it for either of us. It came with the fresh shrimp, chili pepper flakes, a shallot, two cloves of garlic, six ounces of linguine, parsley, a lemon, and a red bell pepper. We followed our little recipe card and had a delicious dinner we would never have thought to make or have all the items for on hand without this meal kit.

hellofresh recipe card
hello fresh box

Their ingredients are non-GMO, farm-fresh, organic when possible (our beef and chicken were labeled organic), and they develop relational partnerships with their suppliers to keep quality high. They also offer accommodations for vegetarians, gluten sensitivities, and allergies, so don’t think they wouldn’t have meals to fit your unique dietary needs. Contact customer service (I have, and got a pleasantly thorough and rapid response) if you have specific questions about their meal types or ingredients.

hello fresh ingredients

The recipe card booklet is good quality, and perforated so you can remove them or leave them intact. Picky about my seafood, I was impressed with the cleanliness and quality of the shrimp. They were shelled and deveined, and the vacuum-sealed package they came in kept that strong shrimpy odor to a minimum. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the shrimp that came in my mail-order box were fresher than the ones I get when I bring some home from less than a mile off the coast, which the seafood authorities say is totally a thing.

I zested my lemon with what I THINK is a lemon zester tool from Pampered Chef. I jacked it up, though, because The Captain and I need a special learning plan for using Pampered Chef tools. So I ended up with lemon zest chunks. Zunks. Whatever, though. Still yummy!

I zested my lemon with what I THINK is a lemon zester tool from Pampered Chef. I jacked it up, though, because The Captain and I need a special learning plan for using Pampered Chef tools. So I ended up with lemon zest chunks. Zunks. Whatever, though. Still yummy!

This is what was left over from my prep box. Waste reduction, check!

This is what was left over from my prep box. Waste reduction, check!

HelloFresh advertises that their boxes are designed to feed 2-4. This meal easily covered the girls and me, and there was also plenty left over for The Captain (sad to miss our first meal but has his eye on the leftovers). If you added a salad or other veggie side (thank you, co-cop) to this meal, it would easily feed 6.  

I have a referral code if you want to check out HelloFresh. It’s BETTER than the deal I got from the Facebook ad. This code will give you $40 off your first box (typically around $69). Once you join, you can get your own code to refer others. Referrals resulting in orders will actually bring you a $20 credit, so you can pay it forward while also helping pay for your own weekly boxes…which is obviously what I’d like to do by sharing my referral code. $40 off for your hungry people, $20 off for mine. And the time and angst we save by not having to plan OR go to the store? Now THAT, my friends, is priceless.

Disposable plates, bowls, and cups: an August gift to ourselves.

Disposable plates, bowls, and cups: an August gift to ourselves.

HelloFresh is Amazon meets farmer’s market. You can’t go wrong by trying it!

Now, as an ADDED bonus (and your prize for reading this whole long post), is you can register for a drawing for a FREE meal box. What's that I just said? Free box? Free food? Yes, my friends. YES, a FREE box. I can give away a free box, so to get in the pot for that drawing, all you have to do is go to hellofresh.com and see what they're about. Comment below (sorry, FB and Twitter doesn't count! Has to be on the blog. Just make sure you log in with Disqus or FB before you comment and you shouldn't have any problems) with ONE thing you like about HelloFresh, and count yourself IN. Each comment is an entry and there is no limit. I'll draw a winner and send in your name Friday morning, so get your comments in by Friday morning at 6:00am. Good luck!