How “Meal Squeeze” Meal Planning Service Saves my Sanity

meal planning working momsMeal Planning used to be one of my most-dreaded tasks. I would spend literally hours every week trying to cobble together recipes from Pinterest, cookbooks and facebook, write grocery lists, and then forget to do prep steps or misjudge how long a recipe would take from start to finish. I would spend precious time at work worrying about what to make for dinner or wondering if I had the groceries in the house for a complete recipe. I don’t hate cooking and have a deep desire to feed my family a variety of healthy meals,  but I just didn’t know where to start.

meal squeeze circle

For the past year, I’ve been using a super-affordable, convenient meal-planning service  called “Meal Squeeze” to take all the guesswork out of planning healthier meals that my family will enjoy. It has literally been life-changing and is my #1 “working mom hack” that I recommend to everyone!

Here’s what you get for a $39/year Basic annual subscription:

  • Weekly Meal Plan for 7 Dinners and 1 dessert (choose 2,4,6,8 servings)
  • Includes meal AND sides, ready at the same time (one of my biggest weaknesses)
  • Most meals ready in 30 minutes or less if you do the weekend prep list (perfect for busy families)
  • Printable Grocery list that’s easy to customize
  • Nutrition facts for all meals
  • Conversation Starters to make dinner meaningful family time
  • Access to lunch, snack, slow cooker and smoothies ideas
  • Members-only facebook group with cooking/prepping tips from a registered dietitian who will answer your specific questions! (one of my favorite perks)
  • $2 off $10 fresh meat/produce coupon good at Orange City, Sioux Center, Sheldon, Lemars, IA Fareway Food Stores. (this helps my subscription pay for itself)
  • $5 off $20 at Sioux Center, Sheldon, Le Mars, Storm Lake, IA Hy-Vee grocery stores

My daughter LOVES to go grocery shopping with me!

grocery shopping

If you’d rather go digital, a Premium Plan is only $10 more per year. At $49/year, it’s the most affordable meal planning service I’ve seen.

Additional services in Premium Plan:

  • Meal Plans are sent to ModernMeal website and app
  • Mobile grocery list you can customize and check off while shopping
  • Access to ALL past recipes with a search function (great for finding your favorites)
  • Ability to customize serving size on any recipe or filter by allergens (great when hosting)
  • Calendar to customize and add additional meals – plan breakfast, lunch and dinner

Basic Annual Subscription: $39 Annual or $5 Monthly

Premium Annual Subscription: $49 Annual or $7 Monthly

Click here to subscribe or use the Join Button below. Let me know what you think!

join-button-RED-01
FAQ’s:
Does your family like the meals?

My husband is not a picky eater, but has REALLY enjoyed the variety and healthier options without ever feeling like he was on a “diet”. The kids (age 4-9) are apprehensive about unfamiliar foods sometimes, but have discovered MANY new foods they enjoy (my 6-year-old LOVES roasted brussel sprouts!!) and the recipes are family-friendly. My goal is to give them lots of healthy options and teach them to try new things but I do modify once in a while, leaving a sauce off some things or offering the ingredients deconstructed.

Does it use a lot of weird ingredients my store doesn’t carry or I’ve never heard of?

I have found this to be much more “midwest/small-town” friendly than other services. I shop at Fareway Food stores and can find most ingredients. Hy-Vee carries all of the ingredients and shopping at bigger chains like Walmart, etc. will guarantee you can find the produce, meat cuts, and spices that are staples. Modifications are also easy if you can’t find an ingredient or prefer a different vegetable.

Will I have to buy a lot of ingredients I’ll never use again?

The meal plan does a good job of using up ingredients from previous recipes/plans, so the more you use it, the more efficient you’ll be. I’ve bought more vinegars, cooking wines/sauces and spices than I did previously and definitely buy a wider variety of produce and meat cuts but have really enjoyed the variety.

Will I spend more at the grocery store on this meal plan?

That depends on your current habits! At first, I thought my grocery bills were a bit higher due to more fresh produce and higher quality meat than I’d previously purchased, but I noticed a BIG difference in how little we were throwing OUT because we had less leftovers that were forgotten, less ingredients spoiled before we used them (lack of planning) and although we don’t eat out frequently, having a meal half-prepped and already planned for the night GREATLY reduces the impulse to order take-out or make frequent “filler” trips to the grocery store. Overall, I’ve kept my grocery budget at $575/month for a family of 5 including ALL paper/cleaning goods as well. (LCOL area)

What are the recipes like?

A variety is offered every week, but there is usually one meatless option. Other things on the menu frequently: sheet-pan dinners including meat and veggies, whole wheat pasta dishes, stir-fries, soups, salads, Mexican and Asian-inspired meals, “meat and potatoes” meals, slow-cooker recipes (can be modified to Instant Pot). A LOT of the meals are stove-top skillet-type meals, so you’ll want a large high-walled skillet with a lid, but no other special equipment should be needed.

meals

How do I get started?

Click here to subscribe.

join-button-RED-01

 

File Storage Keepsake Boxes

file storage pinThis is my favorite baby gift or 1st birthday gift – a practical way for parents to save a few treasured keepsakes over the years without getting overwhelmed. The key, as with most organizing attempts, is to have a proper place for everything.

The main idea is to have a file folder ready for each stage in the child’s life and limiting the things kept to just what fits in the file, so you have one place to store important documents (like immunization records) but also fun stuff like drawing and writing samples, certificates, and annual school photos.

Here are step-by-step instructions on making a custom file storage keepsake box for your kids or as a gift.

Supplies:

Sterilite Large Nesting Showoff- Blue Eclipse

  1. Plastic File Box. I picked up a Sterilite Large Nesting Show-off at Walmart in the storage solutions section for about $6. (Much more expensive on Amazon.)  You can order at Walmart.com but only for store pickup).  I like the clamp-on lid and handle and it will work for several years. I have already replaced my 3rd grader’s with a Legal/Letter File Box, but no need to store that size until you need it.Smead Hanging File Folder, 1/5 Tab, Assorted Colors, Letter Size, 25/Box
  2. Hanging File Folders. For my project, a box of 25 is enough. You can get multi-colored file folders at Walmart or other office supply stores. I ordered the jewel-toned file folders from Amazon when I made them for my nieces.
  3. File Labels. You can certainly hand-write on the file labels that come with your folders, but I created mine on the computer, then printed them on cardstock, cut them out, and inserted them in the clear file tabs

I used a table in Microsoft Word with each row 0.6″ high and each column 2″ wide and typed in the file name. I also added a shape on the left side and put a symbol on it to correspond with each label. If you’d like to use these, just copy one of the label designs at the end of this post and paste it into a Word document, then print!

Here’s a list of the files and ideas for what to include in each one.

  • Baby Info: footprints and bassinet label from the hospital, birth announcements, etc.
  • Medical: immunization records, check-up records
  • Certificates: copies of birth certificate, awards they earn when they are older
  • Church: baptism certificate, projects they complete in church
  • Cards/Letters: a copy of our Christmas card/letter each year and any special cards/letters they receive that they want to keep
  • Pictures: professional photos/school pictures. Just a few from each year to use for graduation display, etc.
  • Sports: certificates, ribbons, articles as they get older
  • Interview: I want to do an “All About Me” interview on their birthday, so I printed 18 of this version so they are all ready to be filled out each year.
  • Age 0-3: artwork, projects from the early years, notes of funny things they said or did
  • Age 4-5: preschool report card, special art projects, CD of pictures
  • Kindergarten-Grade 12: report card, special projects or papers, etc. The goal is to limit it to only what FITS in the file.
  • Blank: I added one extra file just for anything else that might pop up as a category according to their interests, like Music, 4-H, etc.
Now, it’s just time to put all the files in the box, add all the folder labels, and fill them! I did my boxes from right to left, one space apart so I could see the symbols.
I did my niece’s left to right 2 spaces apart so you could read the whole label.

If you’re feeling really crafty, you can add a cute label to the front. I found it better to place them on the inside of the box and stick on with packing tape. Other ideas are to cut out vinyl if you have a Cricut or use paint-pen markers to just write on the front.

That’s it! For less than $20 and in just an hour or two, you can be ready to keep your kids organized for the next 18 years! This is also a much-appreciated baby gift!

It’s definitely worth putting together while your kids are young and you can modify it to fit your lifestyle. You can keep the files in a filing cabinet, add files as needed, purge things at the end of the year to keep only the most important things, etc. It’s just a system to get you started.

Be sure to PIN THIS blog post if this is something you want to come back to later!

Follow Working Mom Hacks on facebook for more tips!

BONUS: Save any of these label sets as an image, insert into a Word document and print! If you need to check sizes, each cell should be 2″ wide and 0.6″ tall.

file labels jpg

File Labels-bluefile labels-grayfile labels-red

Here is another blogger’s post with cute free printables: https://howdoesshe.com/free-printable-keepsake-box-labels/

Happy Organizing!

file storage pin