Meal Planning Tool Review #2: Everyday Food "Grocery Bag"

4:32 PM

I can always count on the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living for simple yet delicious recipes that my whole family will love. So when it comes to meal planning tools, I knew I had to try "Grocery Bag" meal plans by Everyday Food.

In each month of Everyday Food and online at, there is a feature called Grocery Bag. Grocery Bag is a set of five weeknight menus with a ready to print or tear grocery list. The Grocery Bag meal plan promises one trip to the grocery store at the start of the week resulting in a week's worth of dinners. I've seen meal plans like this before, but never have I followed one so faithfully as I done had last week. I decided I would follow the meal plan exactly as it appeared, using the shopping list and recipes to help me "sail through dinner from Monday all the way to Friday with our editors' time-tested strategies for ease." So was it smooth sailing?

This was an okay dish. It didn't blow us away - but this could have been due to the fact that we had a cheap cut of meat. This was pretty easy to whip up (gotta love oven-roasted veggies). The no-cook marinade paired nicely with the veggies but was over-powered by the steak. May try it with pork or chicken next time. Grade: B-

This was my first time making gumbo. But as promised, we had a hearty stew on the table in less than 45 minutes. I was not a fan of the okra (got too slimy for me). The kids surprisingly ate a lot of it, even though there was quite a bit of heat to this dish. Grade: Umdaddy gave this an A+. I would say a B+.

This was by far the easiest dish to prepare for the week. It helps to have a rice cooker BTW. And if you don't own a rice cooker, get one. Now. And this was hands down my boys' favorite meal of the week. They could not get enough and as a result, there were no leftovers for lunch the next day. Grade: A-

I was not such a faithful student of Martha on this one. I marinated the shrimp in garlic, EVOO, salt and pepper and sauteed them separately rather than boil them with the pasta and veggies. I just couldn't get myself to do it. I also changed up the veggies - opting for late Summer/early Fall veggies that I knew my kids would like. This was pretty tasty. My oldest loved the shrimp but was not a fan of the feta. Grade: B
I was excited to try making another veggie burger. Except this dish called for lentils, which I could not find for some odd reason at all five stores I frequent. I decided to try Trader Joe's 17 Bean & Barley mix. It did include some lentils (and 16 other varieties of beans and barley), so why not?  I soaked the beans overnight and substituted this bean mixture for canned lentils. The result? Beany deliciousness. Grade: A-

The skinny: I wasn't sure how I would feel about relinquishing all creative control over a full-week's worth of dinners for the family. But can honestly say this helped with the stress level of deciding what to make for dinner on any given night. This works for us since we don't have to factor in any dietary restrictions. I also liked how this pushed us out of our comfort zone. Okra and veggie burgers would normally not be part of a weeknight meal at our house.

As for the "one" bag meal plan? Not so much for us. Since I normally shop at 2-3 different grocers (I prefer to get my produce from Russo's v. Trader Joe's for instance), it was more like a three grocery bag meal plan. 

So short of hiring a personal chef and someone to do your shopping, it doesn't get any easier than this.

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