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Sometimes self care means admitting what you aren’t good at. Or at least what you don’t have time to do well. For me that has been planning healthy cook-at-home meals and actually grocery shopping for them. I love cooking. I would much rather cook than go out 90% of the time. But I do not enjoy the planning and shopping. If you like cooking, but not shopping or planning then I’ve got a self-care suggestion for you.
A big part of self-care for me is saying no to those things which aren’t life giving so that I can make room and energy for the things I want to invest in. If I have to plan our meals we eat the same thing over and over. And going to the grocery store isn’t something I care to invest my energy in, I don’t enjoy it. That’s where Plated comes in.
A dear friend had started using meal services because she was as overwhelmed by meal planning as I was. So I tried it. There are lots of services out there, the right one for you may vary. Because I like the actual act of cooking, services that delivered precooked meals to reheat weren’t even on my radar.
I’d suggest reading through the example menus from any service you are considering and chose the one that seems to best fit your family’s tastes. In our case we’re committed omnivores and one member of our little family doesn’t consider it a meal without at least some meat involved. For us the Plated menus came out on top.
How Plated Works
While menus and options vary, the meal services all work in a similar way. You sign up online and chose some basics, like servings, meals per week and delivery window. For Plated the delivery options are Wednesday or Sunday. My out of the house work is on Wednesday and Thursday, so we went with Wednesday delivery. We also chose three meals a week so that my busiest days are taken care of by someone else.
We told them things like what we like to eat (meat!). I will say that I don’t know if any of the meal services would work well for a vegan, Plated certainly would not. There are vegetarian options on the menu each week but they aren’t plentiful. Note: since we said we wanted meat it is possible there is an entire Veggie menu we aren’t seeing.
Each week you are given a new menu for the next week. Menus are available about a month out, so if you are a super planner like I am you’ll have things all sorted for weeks ahead of time. You can skip any week you like with no penalty. But do note the date you must have your selections chosen by, or will get a box sent with surprise meals.
We pick three meals a week from a list of about nine to twelve different options. Rarely have I found it difficult to chose three meals we will really like. Instructions, ingredients, it’s all available when you are choosing your meals so you’ll know what you need and what you’ll be eating. If you’ve got allergies this is an important point!
With Plated we get to chose new recipes and old favorites. Our options seem to have grown as we’ve reviewed recipes from past boxes so be sure to review recipes and mark your favorites as they start reappearing in your options list. There’s also the choice to add a dessert option each week. We’ve only done this once so far in an attempt to remain healthy but the results of that one were delicious, and the recipe was easy.
For us the chief benefit is not having to decide what we’ll cook three days out of the week, and no need to run to the grocery store for that thing we forgot or thought we had and didn’t. (This happens a lot at our house on nights Plated isn’t shopping for us.)
The meals are made with very few pre-prepared ingredients. This is “outside of the grocery store” shopping. In other words the ingredients are whole unprocessed items by and large: vegetables, rice, meat, spices. While processed items like soy sauce, and mayonnaise are certainly used in recipes they are small amounts. There is no can of pre-made soup filled with huge amounts of preservatives and salt in your ingredients list.
Easy and Clear
Recipes are generally pretty straight forward and easy to follow. I say generally because as an experienced cook I find myself sometimes reading their instructions and saying “really? There is a far simpler way to do that.” In those cases I do things my way instead of following the Plated instructions. It doesn’t happen often but folks from Texas will note with a laugh that Plated insists that tortillas should be heated in an oven. Turning on your whole oven just to heat tortillas? That’s crazy. But these moments are the exception, not the rule and you’ll still get great results even if you aren’t experienced enough to know there’s another way.
I have to say the recipes Plated presents are incredibly well curated. We’ve been using the service for two months now without a single skipped week and we’ve had all of 2 recipes that we didn’t like. (And one of those, to be fair is just because my husband hates turkey burger.) Two out of twenty seven recipes that we’ve tried. That’s better odds than I get any other way.
The recipe cards include quantities, so if you want to shop for items and remake recipes yourself later you can, easily. We do this pretty regularly now. We’ve kept the recipes we love and will randomly pull a couple out and grab the ingredients for it on the nights Plated isn’t covering. Almost all the ingredients used are very easy to find at your local grocery store. (A few more specialty recipes call for things like kimchi that might not be easy to find in some grocery stores, but this is the exception, not the rule.)
You knew there had to be cons, right? We have found a few and obviously these will vary based on your preferences.
The menus are pretty “modern healthy.” You will not find traditional meatloaf here, much to my husband’s chagrin. I’ve learned to avoid traditional sounding recipes (like that meatloaf). Plated has often made them “better” and that doesn’t go over well here. In other words Plated will do meatloaf, but they’ll sub ground turkey for ground beef for no readily apparent reason. And you’ll discover that your husband really can take one bite of a meal, say “no.” And go hungry. Seriously, that’s dedication.
If you are the sort of person who can plan out a week menu in such a way that there is no waste because you use up the half an onion from Monday on Tuesday. Or if you make sure the package of spinach is all used up before it goes slimy and gross in the fridge, then this isn’t for you. Plated wouldn’t be for the consummate coupon cutter. Plated (and similar services) is for folks like me who shop like Europeans (daily, for that meal) but in an American super market. So we have huge amounts of leftover stuff moldering in our fridges. Plated is for people like me who have coupons hanging on said fridge that expired last year. These services aren’t cheap, but because of how I shop (not well) its’ actually more cost effective for us and results in zero waste, which I like.
We care about recycling. We live in a place that encourages composting and recycling as much as possible and I hate to say it, the problem with all those little individual portions of the ingredients is the sheer amount of plastic packaging involved. I hate throwing it all away. It could be a deal breaker for some and I’d like to see them go to compostable packaging myself. Or that they would allow us to check a box saying that we’re experienced cooks with a well stocked pantry and skip sending us mayonnaise, soy sauce, cooking oils, etc. This alone would save huge amounts of package waste.
Now the fun part. Plated has a promotion to help you get started, your first night of dinner with plated can be free when you follow this link: Better dinners with Plated – Get your first night free. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!
What are your favorite ways to create great meals without the fuss?