Welcome to Meal Planning Madness month. If you’re from Indiana like I am, then you know all about March Madness. If you’re not from a state that’s crazy about basketball, March Madness is all about the college basketball tournament. We thought it would also be the perfect month to focus on meal planning – so we’re going to review several meal planning and meal delivery services for you.
When I say we’re reviewing them for you, I don’t mean that we’re browsing around the websites and basing our opinion on that. We (myself and a couple of other ladies from the I Heart Planners team) have actually tried these services in real life. We’ve been testing them for the past few months, so we had time to give each service a good, solid trial run. We will give you our completely honest opinions – both the good and the bad.
The concept for the 5 dinners 1-hour meal planning service is very unique and absolutely brilliant! Overall, this one gets 5 stars from me. You get a plan each week (or you can create your own from the recipes they provide depending on the plan you choose) that is designed for you to do most of the hard work of recipe prep on Sunday for the week ahead. Then on the day you eat the meal, it requires minimal effort to prepare. Therefore, you can spend just one hour and get 5 dinners out of it.
Who 5 Dinners 1 Hour is Perfect For
This plan is ideal for someone working outside the home who wants to get dinner on the table quickly after returning home since you do most of the work on the weekend. It’s also one of the best plans if you are trying to get away from fast food, carry out, or eating out – since the work is already done and you don’t want the food to go to waste, it’s almost impossible to fail.
My Personal Experience With 5 Dinners 1 Hour
My family loved this plan. I absolutely loved the feeling of having most of the work done on Sunday or Monday. I felt SO accomplished knowing that dinners were all ready. I also found this one ridiculously easy to stick to. Once the week started, the work was done, so I just worked the plan.
I did find that it took me longer than an hour to prep the meals. However, my 4 and 2 year olds were “helping” me, so that made it take longer. I’m also not super fast in the kitchen, and I was unfamiliar with the recipes so I had to read them more carefully. If I made the same menu again, it would take less time. However, I can totally live with it taking more like an hour and a half since it means I don’t have to do much during the week. Also, I did the build your own menu, so I may have chosen combinations of meals that took longer than their premade plans.
I absolutely loved the weeknight experience. All I had to do was stick a pan in the oven or dump a bag of stuff in the crockpot that was all ready. It doesn’t get any easier than that. I will say there was one recipe that required actually frying up ground beef on cooking day, and I thought that was too much work for cooking day. Other than that, there was almost no work on cooking day.
How Does the 5 Dinners 1 Hour Food Taste?
Overall, the meals were delicious. One of the first concerns I had when I heard about this system was if the meals would taste weird after being in the fridge already prepared all week. Would I be able to tell that they weren’t made fresh on the day of? The truth is no one would ever know they weren’t prepared fresh. The people who put together the meal plans intentionally choose recipes that DO taste good when prepared ahead, and they actually test them, I believe. Plus they’ve been doing this for years, so they know how to do it right. If something isn’t good made ahead of time, it’s not in the plan. Or if you need to add one ingredient on the day of so it doesn’t get soggy or something, they say that right in the directions. I love that!
Of all the plans I tried, I think this plan had some of the most traditional, family-friendly recipes that would appeal to a wide variety of people. My favorite recipe was the Tuscan chicken – so easy and so delicious. We had company that night, and they enjoyed it also.
Variety of Meals for Different Dietary Preferences
They basically have 3 options for dinner meal plans available: the classic, the clean eating, or the family combo plan. The combo plan includes both the clean eating and the classic PLUS it has menu builder that allows you to easily craft your own menus from the available recipes for the month. I opted for the combo plan, and I did build my own menus, so I could pick out recipes my family would most like.
The system was pretty easy to use – although I wouldn’t say the overall design was super clean and modern, it was very functional.
I also think that if you wanted to save some money you could definitely buy it for a few months, create a few menus, save them, and reuse them. I’ll definitely be reusing some of my menus.
Also, if you have extremely picky eaters or very specific tastes, I think you would have a hard time building 4-5 menus every month that you loved. They refill the system with new recipes at the beginning of each month – so you have that month’s recipes to choose from.
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