Cooking from Scratch: How the Internet has changed how we eat, Part I

Before Sadie was born, I knew I wanted to change our eating habits. But then, you know, we had a baby. And that plan sort of went on the back burner.

A typical week’s menu looked like this:

  • Monday–(microwaved) baked potatoes
  • Tuesday–red bean tacos or black bean burritos (and I use “tacos” and “burritos” pretty loosely here)
  • Wednesday–maybe a stir fry with frozen/fresh vegetables and Asian noodles of some kind
  • Thursday–possibly some fish with a green vegetable
  • Friday–pizza, store-bought crust, same five toppings
  • Saturday–who knows, probably eating out
  • Sunday–possibly eating out again or having something ridiculously random like oven-roasted potatoes and a green vegetable

Alternates: portabella mushroom burgers and fries, Frito chili pie, chili cheese fries, breakfast for dinner

I mean, it wasn’t horrible, but it sure wasn’t balanced, and I couldn’t even imagine raising a child on this diet. It was always just so hard to break out of the comfortable mold.

When Sadie was about six months old and I went back to work, I knew the time was ripe for change. Sadie was eating some solids, and I wanted food to be a fun new experience for her. I did a little Internet research (surprise, surprise), and I came across this: The Six O’Clock Scramble*.

It is brilliant! It takes the part of meal planning that it hard for me and totally does it for me. Every week I get an email newsletter with five new recipes to try. Because our family is small, we often only use three recipes a week and plan to eat leftovers a couple of times. Okay, so I go to the site and I pick the meals I want to make. Then I tell it to print my recipes with a grocery shopping list included. And it totally organizes everything on the list by category. The recipes are all tested by cooks (like moms and dads) for ease and speed of preparation (though I always seem to take a bit longer than the “estimated time,” which is not surprising as I do pretty much everything sort of s l o w l y), by nutritionists for balance and by kids for likability. We’ve been doing this for months, and we’ve had very few meals that we wouldn’t repeat. Of course, there are always new recipes every week, so we’ve almost never repeated a meal. Oh! And each meal comes with a suggested side dish (and instructions for these, too) or two.

This week, for example, our menu has included grilled trout with garlic and rosemary served with garlic toast and green salad, mango and black bean salad served with guacamole and carrots, and hungarian beef and red pepper stew served with whipped potatoes. Next week it’s huevos rancheros with crispy potatoes served with (they call for turkey, but we’ll do local regular) bacon and tortillas, seared salmon with lime butter served with asparagus, and mushroom barley soup served with green salad and sourdough bread. Delicious, right?!

AND there are tons of archived meal plans. This is helpful if we land on a week that has too many meals that I know won’t work for our family. Trevor, for example, doesn’t like pasta. And there’s almost always a pasta dish each week. I am very picky about the meat we purchase (more on that in Part II), so that often eliminates a dish if it doesn’t sound as good with tofu or simply sans flesh.

I almost forgot to mention: this online meal planning tool is very affordable. I would say that the money we save from rarely having to throw out unused groceries is probably all we need to pay for this service. The longer you subscribe at a time, the cheaper it is (we’re talking like $3 a week).

Coming Soon: In Part II, I’ll talk about how we’ve used the Internet in coordination with this meal planner to incorporate fresh local foods into our diet.

*This is not a paid review of The Six O’Clock Scramble. I’m just a very happy customer. That said, Ms. Aviva Goldfarb, if you’re reading this and ever want to advertise here or have me review your awesome service, please feel free to contact me!

3 thoughts on “Cooking from Scratch: How the Internet has changed how we eat, Part I

    1. Brooke Post author

      Well, when you think about it, we pay for a lot of things that we “should” be able to do on our own. It all just comes down to your definition of “should,” I think. It also comes down to how we prioritize things. I value eating healthy meals and feeding my family healthy meals. Sure, I should be able to do all of this meal planning without a service, but I wasn’t making it all come together on my own, so we were eating much less healthily than I wanted. I’m sure there are other options out there, and I’m sure this isn’t the end-all, be-all of online meal planning services. Heck, I could probably even set up my own automated system with Excel or Access or something. But $3 a week is a steal in my book for not having to do the legwork yet still being able to prepare and serve healthy dinners!


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