Monday, December 14, 2015

How to get out of a rut with your cooking

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There has been a lot of buzz in the past few years over meal services where the ingredients for a particular meal are shipped to your door along with the recipe, such as Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Fresh. It must be popular, as more and more businesses of this kind are springing up. Those who love them say that it has saved them a lot of hassle of figuring out what to make and helped them to try new recipes, as well as not requiring them to shop for their own ingredients.

I am sure for some, it is a time and energy-saver, especially for those who have more money than time, but in the place we are in right no, there is no way we could ever afford a meal for even one night of these meals for our family of six. Most packages run around $8-12 per plate, which would mean that we would pay $48-72 for one meal. Honestly, $72 is sometimes what we spend in one week at the grocery store (though usually it is still a bit higher). I also looked at some of the meals and was surprised that vegetarian/vegan fare was priced the same as the meals with meat-based meals.

It got me to thinking, what is it that people are seeking in these services? As I mentioned above, I think a lot of people feel like they are too busy to plan meals, and when they do, it is hard to think outside the box when it comes to picking meals to serve. I can definitely empathize with that. I love to cook, and yet I have found that with each additional child added to our family, my repertoire has shrunk. Often, it's just enough to get a meal on the table at the end of the day when you're homeschooling and trying to stay on top of housework. I have several meals in our rotation that are the same every week, like pizza night, or beans and rice once a week.

But I also think that there can be more affordable ways to get out of a rut if you'd like the type of service these businesses offer (and I'm not knocking those who use them - I have several friends who love them). So I thought about it and came up with a few ways to get out of a rut with your cooking.

1) Use the recipes that some of these websites offer, but buy your own ingredients. At Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh, they post their recipes and ingredients for the meals that they deliver. Even though the ingredients might be more than what you usually spend, you will come wayyy ahead compared to paying the companies to buy them for you.

2) Create a rotation of meal types for your week (like casseroles on Mondays, soups on Tuesday, roast meat and veggies on Wednesdays) and then pick different recipes for these categories that you haven't tried before.

3) Get together with some friends and pick the recipes for everyone to make. When I babysat when I was single, I worked at a dinner party once where several families got together to make a meal from Gourmet magazine. They would rotate each month who made the main course, who made the sides, and the dessert. It was a way to try a gourmet meal without having to pay for the whole thing, and you got to hang out with other parents.

4) Set small goals for yourself to try new kinds of recipes. It doesn't have to be something new every week, maybe you could set a goal of one new thing a month. I'm hoping to try making my own puff pastry this month as we prepare for the holidays.

What about you? Have you ever tried these services? How do you get out of a rut with your cooking?

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