Prep Dish meal plans were created by chef and dietician Allison Schaaf to help save you time and put home-cooked, healthy meals on the table. No meal time stress. No more worrying about the question, “What’s for Dinner?!”
Do you want to know what my least favorite part about motherhood/life/homemaking/marriage is?
My least favorite part about all of those things is that these people that I live with all feel that they need to eat multiple times a day, every day, on repeat. And I know some households are different, but in my house, when people are hungry they always look to me.
I am the manager in charge of all things food, meal planning, healthy eating, grocery shopping, and meal preparing. I might be able to convince my husband to do the actual grocery shopping or follow a simple recipe to make the food, but I’m the person who plans and foresees those things.
And it feels like an exhausting hamster wheel that I don’t want to be on most of the time.
I love cooking and I especially love baking, but the issue I have is the planning. I don’t enjoy coming up with ideas, scouring the world for recipes, or making all the decisions (since no one has an opinion on what to eat until they don’t like what they’re served).
So, over the years I’ve made it my sort of mission to try out all kinds of different services that provide help in the world of meal planning and preparing. I’ve tried several meal planning services like eMeals, Once a Month Meals, Eat at Home, Plate Joy, and Mealime. I’ve also used meal delivery services like Green Chef and Home Chef. There are tons of options these days and they all have there own pros and cons depending on your unique family needs and desires.
My Current Meal Planning Priorities
My largest priority for my family right now is that the food has to be healthy. I really don’t care if my picky son doesn’t want to eat the amazing variety of vegetables and healthy food that I serve for dinner. I’m tired of filling our bodies with junk like mac and cheese and corn dogs. I want real food with real, healthy ingredients. Yes, it takes longer and yes, it can be more expensive, and no, my son doesn’t eat everything. But for our current life situation and season, healthy, real food meals are of utmost importance to me. And my son hasn’t starved yet, so I think he’ll be fine.
Next in priority for me is time. I do not have hours of time on weeknights to be in the kitchen. By the time I get off of work we have less than 2 1/2 hours until bedtime and we usually have homework, extracurricular events/practices, and the like. I need to have dinner on the table in as little time as possible.
These two priorities are why my current favorite meal planning service is Prep Dish. The food is extremely healthy, offers tremendous variety, and because of the work I’ve done on prep day I can usually have dinner on the table after only spending minutes in the kitchen. It is a lifesaver for people with limited weeknight time.
How Prep Dish Works
With Prep Dish, each Friday I get an email with the menu and all instructions for the following week. The menu includes 4 dinners, a side salad (that works great for a weekday lunch option), one breakfast (that often lasts at least a couple of days), a snack, and a dessert.
You can choose the option for Paleo or Gluten-Free. I usually go back and forth since I’m not dedicated to one or the other. The menus between the two are very similar but there are slight differences such as cauliflower rice vs brown rice or lettuce wraps vs gluten free wraps.
All of the meals call for only completely real, clean, healthy food with no refined sugars (she uses honey, maple syrup, dates, and the like for sweeteners when needed). Dairy is used sparingly and always optional and she provides substitution ideas for those who are nut free, seafood free, or vegetarian.
The email provides a grocery list organized by category, and very easy to follow instructions for “prep day” and “dish day”.
You’ll need to carve out a few hours (typically on your weekend or off day) to do all of your prep work. Prep day is when you will cut all your vegetables, prepare any sauces, and sometimes cook much of the food so it just has to be reheated or assembled on dish day.
I don’t always make everything on the menu (often just the dinner meals and dessert or breakfast), so I’ve had the prep day take as little as an hour and as much as four hours. The first time will probably take the longest. Once you’ve done a few prep days you’ll start to get faster.
The dish day instructions are usually very simple. Often dish day involves dumping the food you’ve prepped on a pan and letting it roast for 20-30 minutes (while you go play with your kids or do some chores or read a book). But there are other days where the heating/assembling can be done in less than 15 minutes on dish day. It is amazing!
What I love about Prep Dish
- How healthy everything is! I’ve tried other meal plan systems that promised a quick meal in minutes but involved dumping together massive amounts of processed junk food and calling it a meal. I love that I am serving real, healthy food with tons of vegetables to my family each night.
- The variety! Each week the dinner meals include one with fish or seafood, one with chicken, one with beef or bison, and one with pork or vegetarian. It really keeps you out of the dinnertime rut of chicken every night of the week. And things aren’t repeated or similar from week to week either. Some weeks the snack might be carrots sticks with homemade ranch while another week might be chocolate energy bites.
- Experiencing new tastes and flavors. Since you’re trying new recipes each week there always seems to be something new to experience. My usual dinnertime options are pretty simple, so it’s fun to use beets and swiss chard and I’ve learned so many ways to make different kinds of fish and seafood which I usually avoid.
- I don’t have to think about much of anything. As I said, my least favorite part about meal planning is the actual planning and coming up with ideas. I love that I know that come Friday there will always be an email in my inbox with a plan that I don’t have to think about at all.
- Mmm, it’s so good! I can’t promise that your kids will love everything, but my husband and I have liked almost everything I’ve made from Prep Dish. And my daughter adores eating shrimp so she squeals every time she finds out shrimp is on the menu. She also tries and likes at least some part of just about every meal. The other day we had salmon with roasted asparagus and carrots and she ate it all.
What I don’t really love about Prep Dish
- It still takes time to make these amazingly healthy and delicious meals, the time is just shifted to your “prep day”. Some weeks its hard to find 2-3 hours to dedicate to being in the kitchen prepping all the food. But I’d rather spend those 2-3 hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon than try to cram it in on weeknights and eat at 9 pm each night or hit the drive-thru every day of the week.
- It can get a bit pricey. Since you are using all real ingredients, lots of produce, and high-quality meats the grocery bill might feel a bit higher than you’re used to if this is not your norm. I sometimes swap out grass-fed beef when the recipe calls for bison and I almost always choose frozen seafood and fish over fresh to try to save some coin. To me, the extra cost is worth it to know I’m feeding my family healthy, quality ingredients. And it’s still way cheaper than hitting a restaurant every night.
- No swap outs. One of the things I love about other services is that if you don’t love something on the menu there are other meal options you can swap out to make something you know your family will enjoy. With Prep Dish what you get is what you get. This is helpful to my “I don’t like making decisions” brain, but sometimes I’m just not in love with the options in a particular week. Fortunately, I’ve started saving the menus and instructions from previous weeks, so if there is a ho-hum week of meals I can just repeat a previous week that I know we loved.
Try Prep Dish Out for Yourself
Overall, I love using Prep Dish to get dinner on the table during our busy weeknights. It takes the stress and overwhelm off of me so I don’t have to plan it all out myself. And I cannot say enough about how good it feels to know we are eating so many vegetables and healthy foods.
Prep Dish offers a monthly subscription plan for just $14/month to get you started. This is a great price for a weekly meal plan and all the easy to follow instructions to go along with it. You can cancel at any time, there are no penalties or commitments. They also offer an annual subscription of $99/year to save you even more money. You can get all the details and sign up through this link.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to getting food on the table for your family? What have you found that works best for you?
Check out my other meal planning posts