Meal Gardener of the Month, September 2016: Janice

1. Tell us a little about YOU…

I live with my husband in Cumberland, a beautiful forest village on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia.  We are both originally from the Island and love this area for the never-ending trail network in the surrounding forest; which is perfect for hiking, running and mountain bike riding; as well as the immediate access to Comox Lake and the ocean.  I am a mother of 2 and grand-mother of 5.

As I’ve gotten older, maintaining my physical health has become a priority; regular activity and maintaining a healthy diet is a big part of that.  With 5 young grandchildren (all under 8), I want to keep active and motivate them to do the same, by sharing the activities we love with them.  My husband and I have been mountain biking for 8 years and since the addition of Caro (1yr old Plott hound) to our family, I’ve been trail running regularly as well.  In the warmer months we spend a lot of time boating and swimming; paddle boarding was new to me this summer, and I highly recommend it.    With winter not too far off, I’m looking forward to some snowy hikes and cross country skiing.

I like to try different things to stay active outdoors and I’m very lucky to have a network of friends who like to do the same, as well as live in a place that is perfect for doing it. 

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

We have a busy lifestyle, there is usually a ride or trail run scheduled at the end of most days, even though there’s only 2 to feed, making every meal from scratch is not the ideal method for us.  In order to keep my meal plan on track, one of the first things I did was set up a reminder in my profile for planning and shopping.  I get a text message on my selected days and now there’s no forgetting and no excuse for not using the plan. 

I batch cook with my ‘Instant Pot’ most of my staples:  i.e.; beans, oatmeal, lentils, chickpea, rice etc., then freeze in appropriate portions.  Usually I spend a Saturday or Sunday once a month doing this in between other chores. (FYI: this is very cost effective too, I can get the equivalent of 6-7 cans of legumes from one bag of dried for less than $2.00.  We are vegetarian, we eat A LOT of legumes, so this is great for us!) 

Once I’ve set my meal plan for the week, I review the recipes and do as much pre-prep as I can.  i.e.: chopping vegies, making sauces etc.  I label the containers for the fridge so I remember what goes in which recipe, then I can just pull out the day’s dinner and throw it all together.  I primarily use the meal garden scheduler for dinners Mon – Fri.  Weekends, we usually wing it.  Each dinner also becomes the next day’s lunch, I just make sure I include leftovers when I add a recipe to the schedule.  My breakfasts are usually a fresh juice (my husband is the daily juicer, nice bonus for me), a smoothie or my pre-cooked oatmeal with fruit added.  Snacks we just stick to fresh fruit or vegies chopped up for the most part.  Ok, there is an occasional donut at the office.  

3. How did you find Meal Garden?

Meal Garden has simplified the entire process of meal and grocery planning for us. There’s no more wondering what to have for dinner and no more forgetting “one thing” every time we go shopping.  Now if it could just do the shopping? 

I found Meal Garden through an advertisement on Facebook.  Took advantage of the free 2 week trial offer and quickly signed up for a year.  After spending a bit of time working with it, emailing Kiki when I needed help or had a question, I found it easy to use in no time.

Setting up my weekly schedule:  being able to choose between automatically dropping in an entire week’s schedule or selectively choosing recipes on my own for each day is a great option; I find now I prefer the later. 

Recipe Search:  search tool filters are wonderful, I use the time filter every time I’m looking for a recipe; I like to cook, but don’t want to spend the entire day making a meal.  Searching recipes by ingredients I have on hand is a quick way to find a meal and reduce my shopping list. 

Automated shopping list:  the fact that I don’t have to figure out what quantities I need for the weeks meal plan is fantastic!  I love being able to add my own items and cross off items as I shop as well.

With Meal Garden I can plan my week in less than 30 mins (that includes scanning new recipes and checking the pantry for things I already have on the shopping list).   

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

Healthy Avocado Black Bean Enchiladas, we’ve had this 3 times since I signed up.  The last time I used refried beans instead of black and added some chopped peppers and corn as well. Delish!  

5. Why do you use Meal Garden?

I started searching for a meal planning app a couple of years ago to help with planning meals, provide new recipe ideas, manage my weight and reduce food waste.  After using another meal plan for a while, I discovered we were kind of planning backwards, that is: shopping (for the usual things) and then planning the meals based on what we bought vs. planning the meals and then shopping for just what we needed.  Meal Garden provides me with a similar planning tool, but with much more flexibility and better features.   

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

 Some features that would be nice to have:

·       Would love it if my weekly schedule could start on Sunday instead of Monday. 

·       Being able to drag and drop in the schedule on iPad. 

·       Hovering over a recipe in the schedule revealed list of ingredients.

 That’s about it, it’s a fantastic tool and you guys have done an amazing job.  Thank you!