I will do another post soon on updates as to where we are on our F2A journey… I’m just waiting for confirmation of something so that I can give all the details! 🙂 In the meantime, I tried OAMM so I thought I would blog about what I honestly think about it. Let me get this out of the way – I have not been compensated in any way for my opinion but I will disclose that I did get a free trial but that is something that anyone can get – I’ll explain more below.
Anyway, I don’t know about anyone else but at least 3 (ok maybe 4) times a week I would be on my way to work and think, “Crap!! I forgot to take something out for dinner!” or “Crap! What the heck are we going to do for dinner?!?” Or there would be an afternoon email exchange between the hubs and I where we would try and talk the other into making the plan for dinner.
Since we are starting this journey into Foster to Adopt, I decided to give some meal planning services a try because if the hubs and I are having trouble figuring out dinner now…it’s only going to get more complicated once there is a child (or two?) in our home.
First I tried Blue Apron. The food and the menus were good, it just didn’t work out for us for a number of reasons. If anyone is interested, I’ll do a post about that at another time.
Two weeks ago I was getting ready to break up with BA and I was trying to be a little proactive and figure out what, per usual, we were going to do for dinner that week. On my quest for some ideas for “easy and quick” weeknight recipes, I stumbled upon a post on Pinterest (my happy place) for Once A Month Meals. I had never heard of OAMM so of course I immediately texted my BIFF to see if she had heard anything either. Nope. So I said I would investigate and report back.
The site was pretty easy to navigate and there was a ton of information but I wanted to talk to someone because I had some more questions (of course). One of the reasons why Blue Apron did not work for us is that I am gluten free and they did not have much of a selection for me. Before I signed up for something else, I wanted to make sure there would be plenty of options for us in the GF category. I also recently got an Instant Pot (never heard of it? I suggest you look it up – I am obsessed!) and wanted to be able to use that as well for making dinner. They have a chat function so I clicked on it and almost immediately was connected to Olivia. There was a profile picture and she looked like a nice enough person but I’m no fool, I know that sometimes when you talk to someone on chat it’s not always who they say they are. For all I know I was talking to a guy named Lou who was sitting somewhere in his home office in his underwear. I will say that after talking with Olivia for a little while I did come to the conclusion that she could, in fact be, a really nice and super helpful woman named Olivia. So ok, maybe she is a real women just like me who has conquered the never ending struggle of WTH is for dinner. I will also say that a few days later I was on Facebook in a closed group I am apart of for my Instant Pot (LOL) and I saw Olivia posted a question! It was the same profile picture as what was on OAMM so I knew it was my new pal and I clicked on her name (don’t tell me you would not have done the same) and it linked to a real profile. So yes – the women behind OAMM are real people and the person that you are chatting with is a real person and not someone with a fake work personna.
So score one for OAMM because their customer service is legit! I chatted with Olivia about my two main concerns: making sure there were enough gluten free options and being able to use my Instant Pot. Olivia understood my IP love (and then I later saw on FB that was all true) and shared a link with me where I was able to see that yes, OAMM did in fact have IP recipes. Not only that, but gluten free IP recipes (as well as slow cooker, grill, oven you name it). They also cater to a really wide array of dietary needs. GF (obviously), Paleo, Dairy Free, Vegan, Vegetarian, Diet (they have complete nutritional values as well as WW points) and also have a toddler/child friendly selection that I didn’t explore but I thought that was pretty neat. Olivia then offered me a free trial to be able to use their service for a 8 days so I could go in their site as a member (so much more is available with membership) to be able to explore their menus and build my own menu for the month. I was not expecting her to offer this so I was really impressed (another check in the pro column)!
Lets get down to the next question I know you have (at least it was mine). How much does this cost? Well it is $10 a month or $16 a month with the premium membership (which lets you customize your menu more but if you didn’t have any strict dietary needs the regular membership would totally work out). Ok another pro here because, as I will now explain, that membership fee is completely worth it.
So what makes OAMM worth it? I mean really – BIFF and I were talking about it (I did report back) and she said, well couldn’t we go on Pinterest and find recipes we like and just plan our own menus? Yes of course but it’s what happens after you choose your menu where I think OAMM really has it going on. Once you chose the menu you want for the month (don’t get overwhelmed here, you are not literally choosing 30 meals, more to come on that) it then generates a shopping list, a prep list, recipe cards and a list for defrost day which include what you will need for when you cook your meals.
The shopping list in itself is amaze-balls. It takes all the ingredients for every recipe and puts it together in an itemized list by department (produce, meats, dairy, etc.). Meaning I actually had on my list 44 eggs (oh FYI – this is not just dinner here folks, you also can choose to have breakfast and lunch options on your menu too if you would like). You also customize your menus to the number of people in your household and how many servings. I chose meals for 2 people but with 4 servings because I wanted left overs for my lunches (K prefers to have a sandwich). So yes, you have a giant list that you need to then take shopping (a pro but also a con if you are not a fan of big shopping trips). This was a little overwhelming to me at first but I was really into this and wanted to try it out so I put on my big girl pants and kept going.
But now I had to figure out when in life I was going to be able to actually go on this big shopping trip (I was planning on hitting 2 stores) and then be able to have a day to do all the prep work. Yes you pretty much need to be able to clear a day, at least a large chunk of it, to be able to put all of this together. That could be a con depending on what your life is like. For me, it’s just me and the hubs and yes we seem to always have something going on during the weekends but someone like my BIFF with TWIN babies at home… that might take some planning. But then again, I think having any children in your home means you need to do some planning and then those kids expect to be fed… oh and you and your spouse too…
But then I thought about the amount of time I actually spend going grocery shopping in a month. Lets be real here – I do my once a week grocery shopping trip but then I inevitably end up having to go back once or twice during the week when I am figuring out dinner. If I’m able to really get the bulk of what is needed for the month in one trip and be able to save all this time… minus of course the weekly trip for things like bread, milk, fruit, veggies and deli meat/cheese for lunches.
I mean, Olivia did give me a free 8 day trial and if I am going to really try this… then I needed to do this. Besides… then what else is my plan for dinner??
So I take my big list on Friday after work and hit store #1. I went to BJ’s figuring since I was buying in bulk, this would be a good place to start. Hour and half later and I’m on my way to Stop and Shop (down the street). A hour and a half later, I’m now on my way home. So 3 hours, all things considered, is not that bad. I also didn’t spend as much as I thought I would, certainly a lot less than what our monthly grocery bill usually is. But that would be a con if you did not have the cash up front to be able to do a large shopping trip. I didn’t have any coupons either – totally forgot about that. Oh, I also had my shopping list on a clipboard with a pen because the print out is a few pages.
I’m going to make a list at the end of the pros, cons and then what my tips would be for next time so that you can all learn from what I thought of to do after the fact, haha.
So on to prep day. I was doing it the following morning so I pretty much left everything (except the perishables) on the counter – what was the point of putting it all away if I was going to be dragging it out the next day? Also my own rules for when I am going to be doing any big cook day (like for holidays or family gatherings) is to start with a clean kitchen (clear counters), empty sink and empty dishwasher. Also clean up as you go. It’s the WORST when you have to clean up a disaster at the end. This is just what I have found to work for me.
I mentioned the prep list that OAMM provides because now that I have all this food… I have to do something with it. This list is another fantastic tool. It was, again, multiple pages so I just started with page 1 and taped that to my cupboard so that it was at eye level. I took out every bowl, measuring cups/spoons I had and got to work. The list breaks it down so that the 1st thing is to, say, dice 3lbs of chicken (a kitchen scale is really helpful here) and then it lists which recipes you’ll be using the chicken in. I found myself going to the next set of lists, the recipe lists, to see what I was doing with what I was prepping for each recipe. It says to dice the peppers but how big? 1 inch cubes? Bite size? If I’m putting peppers into mini egg omelet (made in a muffin tin) then I would want my peppers and onions chopped smaller than what I would use in another recipe. That’s just personal preference though I think.
I got into a really good rhythm and had the prep work done in a few hours. Yes hours. Remember, you are putting together items for a months worth of recipes and having it all prepped like that made the work of then putting the meals together really easy. I made a few trips out to our compost (hello 44 eggs left me with a ton of egg shells) and had a few bags of recycling for the Mr to take out.
They mentioned in one of the things I read on Pinterest about how some people get together with a friend or 2 and make a big prep day together. I can see how that would be really helpful and fun. Another thing for the “next time” list is that I really should have looked at the recipes ahead of time because it would have been a lot easier to buy a bag of shredded carrots instead of shredding 3 cups of carrots. Would also be a time saver to get bags of frozen chopped veggies like onions and peppers.
So the prep is done and now I need to assemble all this into actual meals. I was a little bold in my 1st OAMM experience and had 4 breakfasts and 11 dinners in my menu. I decided to forgo lunches because like I said hubs prefers to just have a good ole sandwich for lunch and I can bring leftovers from the night before’s meal. I was putting together 15 meals for 2 but each meal had 4 servings. Also, each recipe made 2 (and a few 4) meals. BAM. Month covered.
I took each recipe and taped it to the cabinet one at a time. Since the prep work was all covered it was now just assembling them into freezer bags. There was a little bit of cooking, like sauteing veggies or browning meat but it was mostly assembling. Except for the breakfast meals which were entire make ahead (at least the ones that I chose). Another con though… you now need to have the room in your freezer to put away all these freezer meals. We happen to have an extra fridge in our basement and I used every inch of that freezer. But you also don’t need to go crazy and make 15 meals like I did at once. In hind site, next time I’m going to slow my roll here and not choose so many. We’ll see how many we eat in a month and I’ll have to base my next menu on that. But it was my first experience with this so I was still figuring out what was going to work.
I’m going to be honest that this pretty much took me most of the day. I really enjoyed it though – I put on Pandora and rocked out. I also listed to a few podcasts. I get very easily overwhelmed – to the point where when it was time for me to pick out bridesmaids dresses I just had them all meet me at the store, told them the color, and let them grab the dresses they each liked and we had a fashion show. Too many choices and too many things to do at once make me go def-com five overwhelmed. The Once A Month Meals site and plan made it so easy for me to get organized and make it happen. I just took it one item at a time. Chopped one thing at a time, put together one meal at a time. Let me tell you how awesome it’s been the past few nights to be able to come home from work and have the defrosted meal right there and all I needed to do was put it in the oven (or on the stove) and then make a side salad or something. We do have to remember to take something out the night before but OAMM also gives you a defrost list which lists each meal you made, how you should defrost it (fridge, microwave or prepare frozen) and how it will need to be cooked (oven, grill, Instant Pot, slow cooker). I have that list on the fridge and we take turns picking which meal we are going to have the next day. So far I have really enjoyed everything except the mini omelets but that’s because I realized I don’t like reheated eggs but Mr loves them.
So after a VERY long post (whoops sorry about that – lol) am I going to sign up for another month? Yes! The pros, for me, outweigh the cons. I had been so seriously stressed about the whole meal planning thing. I wanted us to be able to have good and healthy meals each night and not just make something quick and convenient because we were both just too tired to full on cook. I think once we (finally) have a child in our home this will make things a lot smoother.
excellent customer service
huge menu selection with a wide array of dietary needs covered
itemized shopping list
detailed prep day list
having an actual delicious meal to eat on a week night that’s 95% put together
doing a big shop for the entire month
time needed to shop & prep
large grocery bill at once
room in the freezer for all of the meals
frozen / fresh chopped veggies
lots of cutting boards since you’ll be cutting both meat and veggies (just say no to salmonella)
empty sink / empty dishwasher
start with a clean kitchen
clean as you go
tape prep list /recipe to cupboard so that it’s eye level and easy to see