Posts Tagged ‘ meal planning ’

New Delivery Services Make Dinner Easier

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Picture this: it’s 4:30 PM. You’re running the kids from soccer to dance to guitar, then back to dance because your daughter left her backpack in the studio. And then you have to feed them. Sure, ordering pizza or Chinese is an easy option. But, we all know that home-cooked food is a much healthier choice. Unfortunately, meal planning and grocery shopping can be a pipe dream in the whirlwind of a modern family’s everyday activities.

Now there is a new option for families that want the convenience of delivery with the healthfulness of home-cooking. Three companies, HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and Plated–recently launched to help busy people who don’t have the time to plan and shop for meals. Once a week, these companies ship recipes and fresh ingredients for a fixed number of meals right to your door. All that you have to do is cook and enjoy.

HelloFresh

  • Three meals per box, choose from classic or vegetarian
  • Each meal serves either two or four people
  • Delivers to the entire East Coast
  • $129 per classic 4-person box, $109 per veggie 4-person box
  • For more information, visit hellofresh.com.

Blue Apron 

  • Three meals per box
  • Each meal serves any multiple of two
  • Delivers to the western third and eastern half of the U.S.
  • $120 per 4-person box
  • For more information, visit blueapron.com.

Plated

  • Two, four, or six plates per box
  • Each plate serves one person
  • Delivers to 80 percent of the U.S.
  • $15 per plate
  • For more information, visit plated.com.

All ingredients are pre-portioned, eliminating food waste. And to spare your sanity, meals vary–no more “chicken, again?” protests. Another perk: all of the companies allow cancellation at any time. Sadly, clean up is on you.

Obviously, services like this cost more money than simply planning, shopping, and cooking for yourself. But, if time is more precious than money at this point, a meal delivery service could be the difference between a health family dinner and the drive-through.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: Groceries via Shutterstock.

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Sunday Saver: How to Reduce Food Waste and Slash Grocery Bills

Friday, November 8th, 2013

“When my daughter wakes up, she opens her eyes and asks ‘What’s for dinner?’”

“I wish I was kidding,” Alex Guarnaschelli laughs. ”By the time she’s eating breakfast, I better have an answer for her.”

Like moms everywhere, this Food Network star faces The Dinner Question. (And thus, trips to the market and food storage tasks.)

Alex, the author of Old-School Comfort Food and mother to a 6-year-old, is the executive chef at Butter in New York City. Last year, she became one of Food Network’s Iron Chefs, and she is a regular judge on Chopped.

Every morning Alex goes to the kitchen to plan her entire day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.

Making a plan of attack on your groceries will save time, money, and cut back on waste, she says, which is why she partnered with Glad for the Save It Sunday campaign. The movement, which encourages participants to protect and preserve food, centers on the Sunday ritual of grocery shopping.

“It’s the one day of the week when you can commit to setting aside time: for shopping, cooking ahead meals, and storing other items—it’s about starting the week on the right foot,” she says.

Alex does a lot of her cooking on Sunday, which is why the pledge really speaks to her. But it also goes a step further.

“Ironically, the last thing I want to do when I get home is cook—because I’m doing it all day everyday and by mid-week I’m fried,” she says. “Taking that time on Sunday, and getting joy from it, is wonderful.”

A proponent of reducing waste, Alex is extremely conscious of the issue both at work and at home.

“When I talk to my team about how to prep and store 100 pounds of beans for the restaurant, the same thing applies when I go home and make braised short ribs for my daughter,” she says. “You have to be very proactive.”

According to a 2012 study by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American household throws out 25 percent of the food purchased—roughly $1,500 worth each year.

 

Try Alex’s tips for saving time, money, and reducing food waste:
• Make a meal plan.

“Figure out what you are going to do with everything you buy,” she says. “It’s a pleasure to have an agenda—you’ll feel like you’re pulling a fast one on everybody because it’s so easy!”

Read the Parents meal-plan guide to get started.

 

• Stop thinking about leftovers as, well, leftovers.

“Instead of looking at packaging as something that lets you recycle and throw back in the scraps no one ate, think about it as a new beginning,” she says. “And, by making a plan, you’re actually ensuring there aren’t any leftovers.”

Plus, “leftovers” can be better than the first time around: “Growing up my mom would make a big batch of meatballs and sauce and, to me, the sauce tasted better two days later,” she says. “It’s not a leftover—it’s something you created that got better with age or other ingredients.”

 

• Don’t be hard on yourself.

“Some weeks, I don’t have my act together,” she says. “As a busy working mom, there are nights when I have to say, ‘Guess what kid, it’s fried eggs tonight.’ And that’s okay.”

 

• Reorganize your fridge.

“The crisper can be the kiss of death. Don’t put your fruits and veggies in there,” she says. “Instead, fill it with club soda and put your produce on display. My favorite thing to do is put herbs in a jar of water on the top shelf, or sometimes right on the kitchen table.”

 

• Buy different ingredients.

“Challenge yourself to use new items—like a bunch of thyme or mint—by taking one little step each day for a week. In order to use it up, you’ll find creative ways to add the ingredient to dishes.”

 

To join the #SaveItSunday movement, visit glad.com. If you pledge, you’ll be entered to win a meal prepared by a personal chef.

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Plan a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menu With Udi’s (Yes, It’s Possible!)

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Udi's gluten-free food - sweet potato hummus, sausage and fennel stuffing, roasted beet salad with garlic croutons, snickerdoodle cranberry cream cheese tartRounding up the family together for Thanksgiving (and having them get along) is already hard enough without the added worry of creating dishes to satisfy certain diets and picky eaters. And if you have family members who have certain food allergies and sensitivities (especially to gluten), you might feel even more overwhelmed.

But don’t throw in the towel yet.

Hosting a gluten-free Thanksgiving feast is possible — and Udi’s Gluten Free has simple and delicious recipes that can even convert gluten lovers (like me). Recently, another editor and I were invited to a special Udi’s Thanksgiving luncheon, along with other Meredith editors, to sample gluten-free takes on classic holiday dishes. As a foodie and someone who believed going gluten-free meant eating pale imitations of “real” foods, I was surprised by the versatile spread and even more surprised by the delicious flavors.

On the menu was a whole course that incorporated gluten-free bread, chips, and cookies:

I could definitely see the sweet potato hummus and roasted beet salad on my own Thanksgiving table, which usually has some gluten-free (and dairy-free) dishes made especially for my little nephew, who has a few food allergies. Even if no one in your family has gluten allergies, there are still some benefits to going gluten-free, like taming tummy troubles and maintaining a healthy weight. And some studies have shown a gluten-free diet could possibly help kids with autism, though research results are inconclusive.

Best of all: these gluten-free dishes could easily substitute Thanksgiving mainstays (without sacrificing tastiness) and be worth repeating for Christmas, perhaps served with an additional dessert like ice cream sandwiches made with Udi’s maple pecan chocolate chip cookies. So now that you have some new recipes, I hope this year’s dinner planning will be just a little easier!

More Gluten-Free Foods on Parents.com

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Best Baby and Toddler Feeding Tips

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Both in the U.S. and the U.K., Annabel Karmel is the number-one name for moms who want to make their own baby food. The mother of three has written more than a dozen books about feeding babies and toddlers; her iPhone app is also a hit. Now she’s offering advice and delicious recipes for pregnant moms with her new book Eating for Two.

What inspired you to dive into nutrition, meal planning, and baby food?

About three months after my first child was born, I felt very uneasy—she didn’t look right to me. We took her to the hospital and were there for five days and nights. They believed something was wrong with her brain. On the last night, she died. I can’t even explain what that feels like. She was my first child.

I knew that having another child was the only thing that could bring me back to life, and so my son Nicholas is the reason I wrote my first book. I was quite adamant that he should eat well. I tried books on baby purees and they were all very bland. I tried commercial products and he wouldn’t eat them. I only got him to eat well with my own with herbs, garlic, and fresh food.

I was giving my recipes to all the mums around and they told me I should write a book.

So you did!

I spoke with many, many allergy specialists, nutritionists, and research bodies. It took me two and half years before my first book came out in 1991, The Healthy Baby Meal Planner. I thought that would be the only book I wrote, but so far I’ve written about one book each year on a range of topics: weekly meal planning, feeding fussy eaters, creating family meals, transitioning from puree to solid food, and cooking with your child.

What are good first foods?

I don’t believe in baby cereal. I like vegetables and fruit, preferably sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash. Simply steam it to preserve the nutrients, or bake it, which will caramelize it. Then mix it with your baby’s usual milk. Apple and pear are also great choices because they are slightly sweet, similar to breast milk. Then start branching out and introduce mashed papaya, peaches, banana, and avocado.

When making purees, stick to a single ingredient and keep it as close to liquid as possible. Babies are used to breast milk, and you need to mimic that consistency to start. Then work up to mixing a fruit and a vegetable together and creating thicker purees. Try introducing your little one to broccoli and spinach by mixing them with root vegetables.

What if my child is picky and won’t eat a lumpy sweet potato puree?

Stick with it! In the first year, you must introduce to as many foods as possible. Withholding certain foods has nothing to do with developing an allergy or not, but rather it can make children quite fussy. It’s really about trying to train kids to like good food. It’s hard to transition from commercial, processed food to homemade family food. Start them on fresh family food and you shouldn’t have much of a problem.

What are the best first finger foods?

Steamed veggies and soft fruits like peaches, broccoli, pears. I also love serving fingers of toast with real cheese, mini meatballs, and sautéed grated onion and apple.

How can moms be sure their babies and toddlers are getting the nutrition they need?

Follow my books and meal planner—it takes all the worry out of it. Once you’re past the simple foods, bring in eggs, fish, chicken, and other meat. I like putting things like dried apricot into beef casserole or fresh fruit into a savory puree to get babies to like it.

Other key points to remember: variety and food groups. Serve fish or meat twice each week or add cheese to a veggie puree. Do not stick to smooth purees for too long. To avoid this, blend half and chop the other half or keep it lumpier.

Don’t be discouraged or frustrated when you’re baby becomes independent, experiments with food, and then makes a mess. Mums need to accept that and take a deep breath.

Sometimes introducing the same food over and over doesn’t work for me. So I make something else. Is this the right thing to do?

It’s actually important for the child to feel hungry. Otherwise he will carry on and on and get fussy with food whenever he doesn’t feel like eating something. Give him no attention for not eating. It’s a hard thing to do, but focus on the good and not the bad. We’re all guilty of going to the cupboard and trying to appease our children, afraid they will be hungry. But when they’re hungry, that’s the time they will eat something different. Otherwise their diet won’t be varied and that’s the worst thing.

What is the best way to store baby food?

I loved cooking for my children on the weekend and freezing purees in ice cube trays. You’re better off making it in bulk.

Can parents just blend up what they’re eating for dinner?

Yes! But be mindful that no salt or strong seasonings are added.

Do you have a favorite go-to recipe when you’re in a pinch?

My mini-meatballs. I bake them in the oven and then freeze the extra. I also love chicken balls and salmon balls—all are made with breadcrumbs, tomato, and spring onion.

Any tips for mom’s diet?

While pregnant, try not to gain too much weight. You don’t need any extra calories, not until the last three months anyway, because your body is great at using all of the calories and nutrients you already provide. Eating many small meals is best, and good snacks are sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

After your child is born, you must continue to eat well, especially when breast-feeding. You don’t think about storing up food in the freezer but it is such a help to plan ahead for when you’re back from the hospital. If you eat well and rest, you will feel so much better. And it will be nutritious for baby.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

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