M is for Meal Planning Service #AtoZChallenge

April 15, 2020

Regular readers of the blog know that I have a medical condition that requires a lot of food restrictions. I can’t eat a lot of things that are considered staples, and the transition has not been easy for me. Most of the foods I depended on for my meals are now off limits–foods like beans and cauliflower, for example.

I also hate to cook.

This has been an interesting combination. For one thing, I had built up a list of go-to recipes. And that worked pretty well until I couldn’t eat most of the foods in my recipes anymore. Because I don’t like cooking, it’s hard for me to imagine different ways of making any of these dishes.

When left to my own devices, I have three things on my plate: meat, vegetables, and rice. I can eat any kind of meat, basically, and a limited amount of vegetables. However, I’m usually just eating salmon, spinach, and rice.

Sometimes, I would find a dish I could make and make that a little bit, but then it was back to the usual. Part of this was that I lack the imagination it takes to experiment with food and the other part was the lack of time because of work and other obligations. Oh, and also, I hate scrolling through recipes trying to figure out what to make.  I’m a picky eater on top of the food restrictions (this is a terrible combination) and very few recipes appeal to me when I read through them. Or most recipes depend on foods I can’t eat and trying to sort out what exactly would work is also stressful.

Several people had suggested that I try one of those meal delivery services, and I looked into them, but they also didn’t work. For one, they’re usually budget prohibitive. For the ones that aren’t, I wasn’t able to make enough substitutions to meet my food restrictions.

Enter a meal planning service–specifically, The Fresh 20.

(Oh, here’s where I note that this is not a paid endorsement, just my experience using the service.)

The way the meal planning service works is that every week I get sent five recipes and a grocery list. I then shop for the groceries and make the meals. Easy peasy.

The reason I chose that particular meal planning service (and there are quite a few out there) is that the meals are selected for me, which means I don’t have to think about what I want or don’t. Also, there are several dietary options, one of which is paleo. I am not following a paleo diet, but the paleo diet is closest to what I actually eat since it relies on meat and vegetables and, more importantly, doesn’t include any recipes that depend on beans or other grains/flour. A substitution list is also provided for the most commonly used ingredients, which works great for someone who is both a picky eater and has a lot of food restrictions.

Now, I said it’s easy peasy, but that’s only partly true. I actually still have to sit down and go through each recipe to see what substitutions I have to make or which foods I have to cut. But it’s a lot easier to do that when I know that I am only going to have to sub out/eliminate one or two ingredients rather than figure out how to decompose and then recompose an entire dish.

The other thing about the service is that so far I have enjoyed almost all of the meals. And in an even bigger endorsement, my daughter has enjoyed practically everything I’ve cooked off the plan. In fact, most times I make something, she asks what I’m making because it “smells really good.”

I cannot even fully emphasize how much my daughter doesn’t usually eat the things I cook. And tonight’s meal was dubbed “perfect.”

A miracle, I tell you!

Now that I have remembered how to prep foods (still haven’t taken that knife skills class yet, which really slows me down, sigh) and I’m used to being back in the kitchen, most of the meals don’t even take that long to prepare. Considering the fact that I’m limiting my use of takeout, this has made the whole stay at home thing a lot easier.


For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I have decided that I’m going to focus on my survival/coping strategies while practicing social distancing. What are the things that make it bearable? What helps alleviate my stress and fear–or at least what distracts me from both? Tune in tomorrow to see what I choose for N!


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