Jason and I fail miserably at planning ahead when it comes what we’re going to eat for the week. For many months we went to Dream Dinners so I could prepare a month’s worth of frozen dinners all at once and we’d jut pull things out each night to warm up. It worked great until my surgery, when my portion sizes and the number of things I could eat dramatically declined. And as soon as we stopped preparing meals, we fell into our usual rut – buy a bunch of random things, make the easiest stuff first, find ourselves too tired (or lazy) to cook the rest, order takeout.
Services like Relish make our lives a lot easier. Relish plans out menus for us based on our own dietary preferences – vegan, kid-friendly, quick, etc. Once a week we log in and choose which menu items we want to eat for the week, and Relish builds a grocery list for us. We can even scale the recipes to various numbers of servings if we want leftovers or are having guests for dinner. We shop for the stuff we need, follow the instructions, and have yummy home-cooked meals with a minimum of effort on our part. Relish also includes and entire section of freezer meals, so I can do the same preparing ahead that I was paying for with Dream Dinners, and I can even add our own favorite recipes to the site so there’s no merging of separate grocery lists when it’s time to go shopping. And Relish provides support along the way the emails filled with cooking tips and info about new foods we may not have tried before.
Relish provided me with a year’s subscription to try out their service; typically a subscription is $7 a month or $58.50 (less than $5 a month) if you pay for a year all at once. When you first log in to the Relish site, you’re directed to the member home page, which highlights the latest weekly feature (typically a cooking or health related topic). Heading to the “menus” link in the main navigation is when you get to the meat of the site (one of many food puns I’m sure I’ll unintentionally write but intentionally leave in!).
Every Thursday morning, Relish launches a new weekly menu. The recipes always sound delicious, and entrees are often paired with side dishes to make planning (and shopping) easier. Each recipe has a few codes to indicate whether a meal is kid-friendly (KF), vegetarian (V), etc. My favorite code to look for is “$12” – this means a four-serving meal can be made for $12 or less. To add one of the weekly suggestions to your own personal menu, simply drag the meal from the right column to the left. If you want to add a meal to your favorites (previous weeks’ meals can also be accessed), just click on the heart icon. Clicking the minus icon removes the meal from your weekly plan, and clicking the pencil icon (or the preview photo of the recipe) opens the recipe detail in a modal window. If you have a favorite family recipe you want to add to Relish, simply upload to the site via their “Custom Menu” function; they take a couple weeks, but they convert it to a Relish-friendly format so it populates your grocery list correctly (and they even figure out the nutritional info for you).
The meal detail shows all the ingredients and instructions for the meal as well as nutritional information (they’ve even calculated Weight Watchers points for you). You can also show all the sides Relish has to choose from (there look to be 50 or more) and add them to your meal so the side’s ingredients will also appear on your weekly shopping list. Printing the meal produces a document that looks a lot like a recipe card, so it’s easy to follow the steps. And if the meal is a freezer meal meant for preparing ahead of time and cooking later, the print view also includes a small label you can attach to your meal with cooking instructions. Pretty handy.
Once you’ve built your weekly menu, Relish automatically generates a shopping list with items grouped by store section. You can check off items you may already have (Relish has even grouped those together for you; you won’t have to purchase butter or pepper every week) and only print a list with the items you still need. You can also add other, non-menu items to the list so all your grocery needs are in one place. And you can adjust the number of people you’ll be cooking for during the week and let the grocery list update the needed quantities of ingredients automatically.
When you print your grocery list, the list is conveniently marked with which ingredients belong to which recipe. Printing your grocery list also gets you recipe cards for every meal and labels for the freezer entrees that require them.
Relish is a pretty handy service that takes a lot of the guesswork out of planning and shopping for our family meals. Now all I need is to have my groceries delivered directly to my house!
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.