I know, I know, you’ve seen the ads on various other blogs with the promise of a simplified dinner routine. No more scouring cookbooks or compiling long shopping lists. No more frantic nights wondering what’s for dinner. They promise easy meals and stress-free nights, but I’m here to tell you, “Save your money!”
I purchased a meal plan service this past December. It was the height of the Christmas rush, my ceramics business was booming, and I needed help. Since hiring a personal chef is not currently an option (darn it!), and my husband’s not keen on the idea of a sister-wife, a meal planning service seemed like the next best option.
The first e-mail came with a week’s worth of meals and a grocery list. Perfect. Compared to the time I’d usually spend figuring out our meals and compiling a list, this was a piece of cake. Then I looked over the menu, and that’s when I realized I’d never really be able to escape this weekly grind.
Here are 4 reasons you should save your money and not bother with a meal plan service:
1. You won’t like every meal they send you.
I guess a meal plan service could be great if you like every single meal on the menu, but seriously, what are the chances of that? We aren’t a big seafood family, and each week seems to have at least one seafood meal. This means that not only do I have to find a substitute, but I have to work my way through the grocery list and try to eliminate the ingredients we don’t actually need. That’s a pain.
Furthermore, only a couple of the meals and sides we’ve made from this service have actually been good. Quite a few meals have been huge disappointments. That’s par for the course when trying new recipes, but night after night of mediocre or gross food is a huge let down. I’d rather plan my meals and know we’re going to enjoy what we’re eating and try the gamble of a new dish here and there instead of trying new meal after new meal every night with such disappointing results.
2. It’s nothing more than a glorified cookbook.
These weekly meal plans are really just glorified cookbooks. Yes, the grocery list feature is nice (if #1 isn’t an issue), but ultimately, no service is going to be able to choose meals to fit our lives as well as I can. Some weeks I need a lot of crock pot meals, others I need a lot of fast meals or want to make something fancy and time consuming. A weekly menu can’t predict what meals will work well with our schedules week to week, and if we end up going through the meals from the service to compile a weekly meal plan we might as well save our money and rely on great cookbooks, websites, or pinterest instead.
3. The predicted time required to prepare is usually not very accurate.
There have been a couple nights when I needed to make a quick meal so I chose one that promised to be “super fast.” Unfortuantely, they ended up being anything but quick. I was usually still frantically trying to prepare dinner an hour or so after I thought we’d be eating while my kids begged for snacks. That didn’t make for an easy or stress-free meal.
4. If you decide to try it, don’t prepay!
I love a good deal as much as the next person, but where the meal plan is concerned I shouldn’t have prepaid for a year.
I decided I wanted to cancel the service after only a month, and that’s when I was informed that the plan would expire in December of 2014. Fabulous, only 48 weeks of crappy recipes to go! Instead, I wish I’d purchased only one month so see how I liked it, but I’ll admit that I was swayed by seeing these advertised on blog after blog after blog. If this many people are raving about them they must be great, right? I love these blogs, and they love these plans so I’m going to give them a shot. My mistake. I still love those blogs, but I can do without the meal plans, which I now suspect they advertise just for the kickbacks from the affiliate programs. Disappointing.
In my humble opinion, the best meal plan service (that either doesn’t exist or I just don’t know about yet) would be one that allows us to import our favorite recipes and ingredients and makes a shopping list for us with those meals so every dinner doesn’t feel like a game of Russian roulette.
I’d love to hear how you handle meal time. Have you ever tried a meal plan service? Any tips or tricks for easy meal planning?