Meal Gardener of the Month, July 2016: Liz

Liz started using the Meal Garden tool a couple months back and has been able to transform the way she thinks about food and plans meals for herself and her family. Her enthusiasm for getting on track a nutritious and efficient lifestyle has been a joy to watch and participate in - thanks for allowing us h to be a part of your healthy living journey Liz!

Tell us a little about YOU…

I am a secretary by profession, but only worked 7 years as a legal secretary and then became a stay-at-home mom. I've been married 32 years and have one married son and one single daughter. My husband is self-employed and I've done the secretarial/bookkeeping tasks for him for over 30 years. He is in the restaurant business and is a marvellous cook but won't take over the kitchen at home so it's up to me – unless it's manning the barbecue. That's his department!
I enjoy yoga, watercolour painting, pencil portraiture, murder mysteries (books and tv), and have travelled fairly extensively. Once retired, Hubby and I hope to travel some more before the world blows itself up. We're especially interested in crossing Canada and taking two or three months to do it!

What’s your go-to strategy when it comes to preparing meals in the kitchen?

If I know there's an event coming up (dinner guests, Christmas, etc.) I like to prepare what I can ahead of time, either completing a dish and freezing it, or prepping the veggies by chopping/slicing/dicing, putting in a container and into the fridge.
When it comes to the daily grind, however, I was leaving it to the last minute to see what appealed to me, then dashing to the grocery store to pick up what I needed, or even, horror of horrors, wandering the grocery store hoping for inspiration! There are usually three of us for supper and my daughter isn't big on eating meat – she'll eat some, but doesn't like “big chunks of animal” placed in front of her. When she cooks, we usually get pasta, which is nice but sometimes you need a little meat! No one minds leftovers, especially me, so when I cook, I try to make a good quantity. Not always easy because we tend to eat a bit more than recipes recommend, so if it says it'll make 4 servings, I'll 1 1/2 x it just as a matter of course, 3 x or more if I want leftovers.
On a scale of 1-10 of my “chef” skills, I'd say I'm about a 7?? I've been at it long enough so I have a fair idea of what goes well with what, flavour-wise, how to prep different things, how long to cook things... My biggest issue is that I'm slow. It's paid off – in all these years, I have minimal scars, and can still count to 10 on my fingers. I'm full of admiration for real chefs who can fly along with a knife and not hurt themselves!

How did you find Meal Garden?

I found Meal Garden when Googling for “menu planning”. I was hoping to find an app or something just to use either on my computer or my iPhone so I could try and organize myself. I was thrilled to find Meal Garden and discover how complete it is with it's Schedule, Cookbook and Shopping app! Meal Garden has been an enormous help to me in planning menus and getting off the 4pm-OMG-What's-For-Supper train. I've tried making menus before and it worked well for a week or two but then I would get all muddled with some dishes winding up as leftovers and then my meal plan would shift and then ingredients I'd already bought would go bad...
Since using Meal Garden, however, I can easily plan ahead as far as I want, shift and juggle meals if we either eat up everything or if there are leftovers unplanned for. As I learn how the whole thing works, adding in my own recipes, using the tools, it just gets better and better. Four o’clock comes around and I'm happily confident that I know what we're having for supper!

What’s your favourite recipe that you’ve prepared (utilizing or found via Meal Garden)?

There have been a number of excellent recipes on Meal Garden that we've enjoyed, and I've only been using MG a short time, but so far, I think our favourite is the Briami (Greek Vegetable Stew).
I made a few alterations, but only very minor ones, and I'll definitely be making this one again and again! The Meal Garden tool made adjustments very easy so I could add my own remarks to the recipe without destroying it for anyone else. It's the same as having a written copy of the recipe in my own binder and I can write all over it!

What would you like to see Meal Garden offer in the future?

As for any recommendations or improvements, I have been emailing poor Kiki regularly, questioning this and whining about that, so I'm sure she's got lots of ideas from me! At the moment, all I can think is I'd like to see the Shopping Lists combine more easily from one week to the next because sometimes my shopping week doesn't go Sunday to Sunday. Maybe a sideways continuous scrolling schedule instead of a week-to-week one, and the Shopping List could just scroll as well, deleting items as you cross them off?

As always, we love hearing inspiring stories such as Liz's journey with the Meal Garden tool thus far - the good, the bad, and the ugly! Thanks for your feedback and suggestions for improvements, we look forward to continuing making this a worthwhile experience for you :)