Meal Planning Made Healthy: A Review of The Fresh 20

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Photo Credit Trent Lanz

There is one thing that all moms can agree on: meal planning is necessary in order to get a healthy, home cooked meal on the table instead of take out every night. Meal planning is also an essential way to save money on groceries, which as we know, can get really expensive.

As a working mom, if I don’t have a meal plan in place, there is trouble and STRESS when I get home at 6:00 in the evening. I usually have a hungry, crabby toddler pulling on my leg who wants to eat and a husband asking “What’s for dinner?” unless a plan is in place. If I could afford to hire a personal chef or have fresh, healthy meals delivered to my door every night, life would be a heck of a lot easier. Until I win the lottery and hire a personal chef, I think I found the next best thing: The Fresh 20.

In the past, I would often rely on easy side dishes and casseroles that were loaded with processed ingredients and sodium because they were quick and easy since first and foremost, I want to get dinner on the table. However, in our aim to be a healthy family,  these are things that I had always hoped to avoid when it came to feeding Andrew and teaching him healthy habits. I also discovered that trying to buy fresh organic produce is not easy on the wallet, but I am willing to spend a little more if it is quality, healthy whole food for my family.

The Fresh 20

Recently, Myndee told me about an online meal planning service called The Fresh 20, whose aim is to provide families with healthy, unprocessed meals based on seasonal and fresh produce and ingredients. As soon as she emailed me the link, I started looking into their plans. As I looked through their site, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

I was lucky enough to get a trial subscription to The Fresh 20, and I’m very pleased and IMPRESSED. They offer several different types of plans for a subscription fee that is $5/month or $49/year. Beyond meal planning, their service also offers up meal plans that not only provide healthy meals, but help to save on groceries, as they focus on seasonal items and give cost estimates for each meal and item on your grocery list. If you invest in the yearly plan, you can get access to their archives AND lunch plans as well, which provide you with tons of great recipes to use as alternatives that suit any taste. Their meal plans cover several types of dietary needs as well, including Classic, Gluten Free, and Vegetarian plans that include delicious and nutritious recipes that utilize in-season produce to make you get the greatest bang for your buck, all while getting fresh, healthy ingredients that are great for keeping your body and heart healthy.

The Classic Meal Plan

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I tried the Classic Meal Plan and started out by shopping at the farmer’s market to get all of the produce we needed for the week. With each weekly meal plan, The Fresh 20 provides a shopping list that lays out everything you need and an estimate on how much it should cost. When I did a cost comparson of these items, their price estimates matched (or were actually a little less) what I paid for my fresh produce, thanks to the great deals at the farmer’s market. Fortunately, when it came to the needed protein on the plan, we already had plenty of chicken and shrimp in our freezer so our grocery bill stayed well within budget and on plan! The meals that were provided in the weekly plan were practical, doable and appealed to our tastes. Furthermore, I even checked out the archives just in case there were recipes that didn’t appeal to us, and there were many more that  I could have substituted. Honestly, I had fun just going through the archives to see what else I can try in the future!

As soon as I saw all of those recipes in the meal plan, I was excited as the meals were all something that everyone in our house would eat. On this particular week, our menu included Chicken Milanese, Shrimp Scampi and Creamy Chicken & Broccoli Casserole. On the other two weeknights, we had leftovers or did a freezer meal since I was at a paint party one of those nights and wouldn’t be home to cook.

Another great element to The Fresh 20 is that the meal plan lays out a prep guide to help you make the most out of your time since cooking fresh, healthy meals is sometimes time consuming. By following the prep guide, I was able to pre-cut all of the veggies for the week’s meals AND pre-cook chicken and quinoa for a second meal later on in the week which saved a LOT of time and money, as nothing was wasted and all of the food was put to good use.

Cost Breakdown

I decided it would be fun to share a cost breakdown from a Fresh 20 meal to share what a great bargain it was!

Chicken Milanese with Lemon Broccoli Quinoa

  • whole chicken breasts ($4) (estimated cost $9)
  • bread crumbs ($.79) (estimated cost $1)
  • herbs, etc. that were used in the crumb mixture (already on hand, free)
  • eggs ($.40) (estimated cost $2.50)
  • quinoa ($2.88) (estimated cost $2)
  • Lemon (free from my mom’s neighbor!) (estimated cost $1.25)
  • broccoli/cauliflower ($2.50) (there wasn’t a lot of broccoli at the market, so we subbed in purple cauliflower in addition) (estimated cost $2.00)
  • Raisins ($.50) ($1.00 estimated cost)

Total cost of recipe: $11.07/ $2.76 per serving 

When I saw how much the total meal cost was, I was excited as the meal certainly didn’t taste like it only cost $2.76 per serving. Our dinner was full of flavor and fresh ingredients, and it got two thumbs up from everyone in the house, even Andrew! Most importantly, I knew EXACTLY what was going into these meals, and that meant no MSG, no preservatives with strange words I can’t pronounce, and I knew where the fresh produce was grown, right down the road by local farmers!

Want to hear something even MORE awesome? The Fresh 20 is offering up one free annual subscription to a New Orleans Moms Blog reader (a value of $49). With this subscription, you can choose from their three plans (Classic, Gluten Free or Vegetarian) AND have access to their lunch plans as well as the archives. Furthermore, the subscription can help you start saving on groceries and meal planning some delicious meals that are good for your heart and tasty for your palate.

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NOTE: I was not compensated for this post, and I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are entirely my own.

About Andie

Andie was born and raised in the New Orleans area. After growing up in the River Parishes, she relocated to northern Louisiana to attend Northwestern State and obtain her degree in writing. She was quick to return when she and husband, Scott, tied the knot nearly 10 years ago. After a battle with infertility and subsequently completing the adoption application process, Andie & Scott were blessed to become pregnant and welcome their son, Andrew, into their lives in August 2011. These days, Andrew keeps Andie on her toes and takes her on new parenting adventures daily along with their pup, Maggie. A full time working wife and mother, Andie loves spending her free time taking photographs, cooking tasty eats, cheering for the Saints and LSU, enjoying time with family and friends, and traveling, especially to the beaches of South Walton. Andie loves exploring the area and is always looking for new and exciting places to discover with her family!

33 Responses to Meal Planning Made Healthy: A Review of The Fresh 20

  1. Dottie February 14, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    You should also check out http://www.savingdinner.com Similar idea with more menu options to choose from. There’s also a book in print. This helped get me started with menu planning years ago and I still return for new ideas and recipes.

    • Jen Zen February 18, 2013 at 8:33 am #

      I’ve tried both. The Fresh 20 is much healthier and there is far less waste at the end of the week. they have a cookbook too and a feature in Shape this month that has a full week to try.

  2. Lynsey February 18, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    I’m a big meal planner. I sit down Saturday evening and always plan a weeks worth of meals. I always shop our pantry and fridge first and base our meals off what we already have.

  3. Melissa February 18, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    I try to sit down on the weekend to plan out our meals for the week. At one time I would write my meals in my planner so that I could go back to see what I made….especially if I couldn’t think of something to cook.

  4. JEssF February 18, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    I dont menu plan at all and really would like to get started, especially as my son nears the age of 2 and will eat more foods.

  5. Toni February 18, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    We keep talking about meal planning, and getting the prep done on the weekends, but something always comes up. Fresh 20 seems like a great way to finally start! Thanks!

  6. Crysti L. February 18, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    We keep a running list of what’s in the freezer and on the weekends I sit down with Husband and we decide on 3-4 meals for the week and I list only what I need from the store. And I eat before I go grocery shopping!

  7. Caitlin Brewster February 18, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Andie,

    YOU ARE READING MY MIND! I have been wanting something like this for about 2 years so thank you for your post. I want to help moms with this too because it is such a sorse of stress that should be so easy. Personally, I was never taught how to do this and I find it overwhelming and time consuming so any help is SOOO well received!

    YAY for you!

    Caitlin

  8. Angelina February 18, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    I am definitely going to cook this one!

  9. Sarah February 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    My mum has always planned meals, and made very specific grocery lists based on exactly what she needed for those meals. I, unfortunately, didn’t inherit this from her so having someone help me with it would be great!

  10. Lindsay February 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Great post! I’ve been looking for a site like this!! Thanks so much for doing the leg work ;-)

  11. Hannah February 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    I do meal plan but Fresh 20 sounds like a great way to help make it healthy while watching costs!

  12. Stacey February 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Hey Andie! How is the flavor in the meals? You know us LA folks like lots of flavor!

    • Ashley February 18, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

      I made the teriyaki chicken & bok choy with asian quinoa last night and loved it. It was flavorful enough for me, and I liked making the marinade instead of a processed one. Simple ingredients but still plenty of flavor for me personally!

  13. Kyle February 18, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    I don’t but that’s why I need this service!

  14. Ashley B February 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    We only shop for the week. If I don’t plan I’ll be at the store every day!

  15. tiffany February 19, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    I’ve been using the fresh 20 for over a year and it is the best system I’ve found!!

  16. Emily February 19, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    I would love to try this. We often think of cooking unprocessed foods as expensive and time consuming but it sounds like with Fresh 20 it’s possible.

  17. Lisha February 19, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I do not meal plan but really really need to! This service would help me out greatly!

  18. Heather February 19, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    I’m do plan meals, but try and keep it simple with corckpot items that will last a few nights. We alway seem to be in a rut, and I am really considering trying this service to spice up meal planning a bit.

  19. Jessica Chin February 20, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    I would love to win this! Meal planning and grocery shopping has been so hard lately with my husband and I working full time and only getting limited time with our 5 month old! Lots of take out and ordering in!

  20. Chrissy February 20, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    I sit down and make a plan each week but I would love some inspiration and guidance from the Fresh 20!

  21. mindy m February 20, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    I plan my whole weeks worth of meals sunday. Then I go to the grocery and shop from my list. Saves me money and time and we get healthy meals every night because we have everything on hand

  22. tiffany truxillo February 21, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I don’t meal plan what day for what meal. But when I grocery shop I have an overall plan of what I will be cooking.

  23. Kasey bealer February 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    I try to have running list in my head of options and then about midday see how much time/energy I have to cook dinner!

  24. Sumer February 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Great idea! I look forward to learning more about The Fresh 20

  25. Devin February 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    As a brand new mom, meal planning is something I am definitely in the infant stages of learning to do. Love the idea of this site and appreciate everyone’s tips and advice!

  26. Amanda S February 22, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    I do meal plan but the meals I choose ate not always the healthy or best choice. I would love to have someone give me advice on the meals for the week that would healthier alternatives!

  27. Anna February 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Looks like a great site that would be really helpful for our busy family–my husband’s a resident and I’m a lawyer so between the two of us, planning meals can be a big challenge! It would be great to have the recipes available so easily and to have the shopping list prepared for us!

  28. Amber February 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    Good job, Andie! Gonna give that site a “looksie!”

  29. Poppi Dell February 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    I don’t meal plan, but would love to start.
    Would make dinners fast and easy and reduce costs at the grocery!

  30. Dan March 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Just curious, what day of the week do they put out the new recipes?

  31. Beau January 16, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    “I knew EXACTLY what was going into these meals, and that meant no MSG, no preservatives with strange words I can’t pronounce, and I knew where the fresh produce was grown, right down the road by local farmers!”

    Please explain why MSG and “strange words I can’t pronounce” are unhealthy?

    MSG is found in many “natural” foods such as tomatoes and it is a complete myth that it causes swelling and headaches. The notion that you “can’t pronounce” something means it is bad for you? That’s complete pseudoscience at best and insulting to those of who know anything about chemsitry or food.

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