Let’s make a meal
By Scott Jones
“WHAT’S FOR DINNER?” have to be three
of the most pressure-packed words in the
As we get into the school year, the prospects of whipping up a meal at the end of an
already exhausting day can be overwhelming.
The default is less than ideal: fast food or a
hastily assembled meal lacking inspiration.
There are practical, everyday solutions to
help turn the tide, and they all begin with a
little strategic meal planning. Dramatic results
are not uncommon—everything from eliminating dinnertime stress to slashing grocery
bills to preparing healthful recipes. Who
doesn’t like the sound of that? Here’s a plan.
Easy does it. “The key is to keep it simple
in the beginning. Remember, you want to
eliminate the stress,” encourages Costco member and meal-planning guru Erin Chase. She
says complicated plans only create opportunities to slip back into old buying and eating
habits. “Start by writing down a list of 15 or so
recipes either your family currently likes
or you think they will like,” recommends
Chase, who turned her own journey into the
popular website and blog $5 Dinners ( www.
Follow the seasons. According to Chase,
the crux of the next step is following the sale
cycle: “Layer your recipes against what’s on
sale and in season—that’s when you really
start to bring down your food bill.” This is
especially true for meat and vegetables,
which can be purchased in bulk, then por-
tioned into serving sizes before storing in the
freezer for later use. By prepping ahead
items such as chopped cooked chicken or
diced bell peppers, you’re effectively creating
your own convenience food.
Go online. While the concept of meal
planning has been around a long time,
the digital revolution has helped up its hip
quotient. Several Web-based meal-planning
resources—from smartphone apps and
e-cookbooks to blogs and social media communities—are just a click or tap away.
Call in a pro. Need more hands-on help?
Turn to online services like The Fresh 20
www.thefresh20.com) or eMeals (emeals.
com), both of which do the planning for you
by delivering a week’s worth of recipes and an
accompanying grocery list directly to your
inbox. Plans run the gamut, from low-carb
and vegetarian to gluten-free and Paleo.
Melissa Lanz, the founder of The Fresh
20, used meal planning to reconnect with her
family, then started her business as a way to
help others do the same. “There’s no question
that planning ahead allows you to make
healthier food choices for your family,” says
the Costco member and busy mother of two.
The Fresh 20’s unique twist? Weekly plans use
no more than 20 fresh, seasonal ingredients.
EMeals takes it one step further by creating store-specific plans, including one for
Costco. “Our customers consistently asked for
it, so in early 2014, we launched a new plan
combining our expertise with shopping at
Costco,” says eMeals co-founder Jane Delaney.
Unlike other eMeals offerings, the Costco plan
covers two weeks, rather than one, allowing
members to maximize buying in bulk.
A longtime Costco member herself,
Delaney knows a cartful of groceries can look
like a giant puzzle. She explains, “This plan
helps customers put those puzzle pieces in
place so they’re truly investing in easy, deli-
“Having a plan will bring order to the
chaos and make your kitchen a place of hap-
piness,” says Lanz.
With the help of these tips and strategies,
you’ll be ready to create your own tasty plan
of action. We’ll start you out here with several
recipes that use ground beef. C
Scott Jones ( JonesIsHungry.com and
JonesIs Thirsty.com) is a food, wine and
travel writer. He’s also a wine specialist at
the Costco in Birmingham, Alabama.
46 ;e Costco Connection OCTOBER 2014
Click here to watch how eMeals
meal-planning service works.
(See page 12 for details.)