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.

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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!

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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.

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How do I get started?

Click here to subscribe.

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Top Tater Tot Hot Dish Tips

There is no comfort food greater ingrained for me than Tater Tot Hot Dish.

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Here are my Top Tips to make an easy casserole even easier and better.

  • Make 2 at once. If you’re making the mess, just make 2 and freeze one. This is a huge time-saver and sanity-saver when you have meals made and ready to put on your weekly meal plan.
  • Since you’re making 2 at once, brown 2 lbs of meat. I mix 1 lb of ground beef with 1 lb of ground turkey. Ground turkey is generally much less expensive and if you mix them together in a casserole, you can barely tell the difference.
  • If you’re chopping onion to brown with the meat, chop a whole onion and freeze whatever you aren’t using immediately. Cry once, use twice. I freeze in small containers or freezer bags.
  • Mix it up. I made one with cream of mushroom soup and green beans and the other with tomato soup and corn. You can also add shredded cheddar to either variety if it suites your fancy, but I sometimes skip it.
  • I like to use casserole dishes that come with lids so they are easy to freeze and easy to put away into the fridge as leftovers. Remember to write the instructions on a label on top!
  • I have 2 go-to Pampered Chef tools for this recipe. The Mix ‘N Chop for browning meat and the Small Mix ‘N Scraper for getting the soup out of the cans and stirring up the ingredients. (I am not a consultant, just love the products. Buy from someone you know!)
  • Buy tater tots (or Crispy Crowns or Golden Rounds or whatevs) when they are at rock-bottom price (below $2 where I live) and stash in your deep freezer until you need them.
  • I bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes but then BROIL them for a few minutes to crisp up the tots at the end. Same thing for re-heating. I’ll put a portion in an oven-safe dish, microwave it for a minute but then broil it for a minute or two to get the tots crispy. Yum!

 

Tater Tot Hot Dish from Working Mom Hacks

2 lb browned ground beef (or beef/turkey mixture), browned with onion, salt, pepper, then drained and rinsed

In a 8×11 or 2qt casserole, mix 1 lb meat with : 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup and 1 can Green Beans, drained AND/OR Mix 1 lb meat with: 1 can Tomato Soup and 1 can Corn, drained

Top each with 1/2 bag Tator Tots

Bake for 30 min at 350, then broil 3-5 minutes

Freeze other casserole. Thaw 24 hours in fridge before baking. For best results, you should keep the tots off the casserole and keep them frozen in their own bag until baking, but it does work fine if you thaw the casserole with tots. Don’t over think this, it’s tater tot hot dish for goodness’ sake.