I posted on my IG stories yesterday about my deep freeze filling up with meals for after baby arrives and got a lot of questions about how I do it. I laughed because honestly, I don’t know…I’m not superwoman I swear. I am going to chalk it all up to nesting…somehow it really hasn’t been that difficult. The hardest part has been making sure I find time to spend with Owen and Della, especially before the baby comes. They have so much space to play here and they play together really well. When they’re occupied I will clean or cook. As crazy as it sounds, it’s my therapy and I realized that if that is what it takes to get “me time” then I need to make sure I do it. It’s not necessarily the “me time” I dream about (my book in a quiet coffee shop) but it’s better than nothing and I’ll take it. Plus, it’s super rewarding. A clean house and a well-fed family? Gimme, gimme!
Now that we’re back in the US after living overseas for five years, I guess you could say I’ve gone a little (okay, a lot) crazy with the online ordering. Because, HOLY MOLY, it’s convenient. I’m so accustomed to Amazon taking at least 10 days to get to me in Germany or Korea, but two days?! TWO? Two. That’s nuts. Not to mention large furniture delivered to my doorstep…that’s just mind blowing news to me. Needless to say, I’ve been taking full advantage of it. Probably more than I should, if you ask Alex……
Even while living overseas we use Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. Even though it wasn’t delivered to our door, it was still pretty handy to have the essentials just show up about the time I needed them. I recently discovered a new Amazon feature called Amazon Prime Pantry. I’d never even heard of it and when I put my feelers out on my Instagram stories, not many of my followers had either. So I decided to give it a try and see for myself.
First let me begin by saying that I don’t have control issues necessarily, but I would say I’m more of a “control enthusiast.” I really struggle with auto-paying for anything – I much prefer submitting payments manually and on time. On the other hand, I am all about the “set it and forget it” options when it comes to the little things, such as making dinner. I love my slow cooker. But when it comes to the bells and whistles in our modern world, I’m more of a “set it and hover nervously” kind of gal. Subscribe & Save is great, but still sends me into a panic when I get down to less than ten rolls of toilet paper in the house and the order isn’t due to the arrive for another week. I hyperventilate at the thought of running low of tp.
Prime Pantry has proven to be a great alternative to Subscribe & Save for me. There are no subscriptions and no scheduled shipments. You get to decide what you want, how much you want, and when you want it.
Prime Pantry enables Amazon Prime members to purchase “everyday items at everyday prices.” They are packed and shipped in a dedicated box, that is super heavy duty I might add, and are shipped for a flat rate of $5.99 (cute kids not included). You can now also purchase a membership to get free shipping (yes, in addition to your prime membership). I did this because I order a pantry box weekly and after doing the math, it saves us a lot. Okay, whatever. Just take all my money, Amazon.
The boxes are a fixed size so think of it like your shopping cart at the grocery store and you have to rent your cart for $6. If you’re paying the shipping fee, it is obviously more financially advantageous to buy more of what you need at once, though that’s not a hard and fast rule. Frequently, they’re running deals where if you buy five “select items” you’ll get a $5 credit or they’ll have a promo code for $5 off. They also have a section of items with available coupons and extra savings. Boom. There’s your free shipping, and maybe even more savings.
So is it cheaper? I don’t really know. I think it is. But I don’t really have the time to go to Walmart, Albertsons and Lowe’s Market (the three grocery stores in our town) to price shop. I have two kids, soon to be three. I’m a little busy. In my experience, the prices seem comparable and nothing outrageous…our grocery store options in our little town are pretty limited. Each item in the stores come in so many varieties and options. Lowe’s has one item I use while Albertsons has most of the rest and I detest Wally World. I’m a one-stop-shop kind of person, I don’t have time to go to three different grocery stores. I’m not used to this, grocery shopping in the US is overwhelming and stressful. We also don’t have the luxury of the grocery delivery/pick-up from any of the stores in town so while it may not be the cheapest option, Prime Pantry is definitely convenient. I can browse for items online, from the comfort of my own home and weigh my options without a kid falling out of the car cart that they HAD to have and it shows up at my door in a couple of days.
The quantities and sizes of things are regular, just like you’d find at the grocery store. I love Costco as much as the next girl, but the reality is, I don’t really have a lot of extra space to store 100 containers of salsa.
My biggest gripe with the program is the lack of choice and variety, although lately it seems to be improving. I don’t necessarily use the common “everyday” items, we’re not junk food eaters and I’m frequently finding they don’t always have everything I want/need. For example, my go-to coffee creamer is Nutpods (my sister introduced me and it’s a good, healthy alternative) and I can’t get it in my pantry box, but I can still order it on Amazon Prime. So I still use Subscribe & Save but only for one or two things. I find this happens with the “quirky” items I normally use. But you can get a lot of household goods like paper products, cleaning supplies, pet food, common snacks, shelf-stable foods, office supplies, supplements, and much more. Amazon recently purchased Whole Foods so their 365 line is starting to show up in Prime Pantry, which is pretty awesome. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now for everything from canned goods to pizza crusts to bath bombs to toilet paper and it’s my preference lately. But they’ve been struggling to keep the Whole Foods Market products in stock. I have found that the quantities of these options vary depending on the day. Some days I find they have a huge stock of 365 products and other days there’s hardly anything left. I haven’t quite figured out which days are their “restock” days, but lately I’ve seen a greater selection on Mondays and Tuesdays versus Friday and the weekends.
How I meal plan
There’s no right or wrong way to do it but here is my system so you can get an idea if it is something that could work for you and your family.
I’m a planner. When I’ve got it together and am on top of things, that is. Each Monday I make a meal plan for the week (including the Monday of the next week). I write down the meals on my weekly planner (I love this notepad) and print or bookmark the recipes. I put everything in order in a drawer in the kitchen so all I have to do is check the menu each day and pull out the recipe. Lately I’ve been cooking almost every day of the week. I don’t normally cook dinner this frequently. Generally I do maybe 3 days a week but right now I’m trying to stock the freezer (more on this later) and I like to have leftovers for Alex to take to work for lunch.
Picking recipes can be tough. I like to add a variety of chicken, beef, pork and meatless and I really try mix it up throughout the week if I can. Soup, Mexican, pasta… I do have a few tried and true go-to dinners that I throw in when I’m in a hurry or just not into something new. When we moved, I cleaned out my cookbook collection and now only have the ones I actually use. I did this with pretty much everything else in our house and it feels SO GOOD.
My favorite cookbooks
Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Cooking Magazine (I only use this when I have a lot of time or want to be fancy – but every recipe is AMAZING)
The Baby and Toddler Cookbook: Fresh, Homemade Foods for a Healthy Start (I love love love this one for the kids’ the first year and continue to use the toddler recipes for lunches and snacks)
I primarily use Skinny Taste recipes because they’re easy, healthy and really really good. My kids aren’t terribly picky eaters (thank goodness for that) and will generally eat just about anything. Owen especially tends to be a natural vegetarian and healthy eater so sneaking in protein can be a little tricky with him. But since I usually cook healthy in general, I don’t worry too much about him getting the nutrition he needs. Alex never complains about my cooking even if it turns out to a flop (he’s a gem) but more often than not everyone is happy with the Skinny Taste meals. I use the recipes on her website, but I also love her cookbooks. I also will occasionally go to Yummly for inspiration or if I’ve got a craving.
My most used kitchen appliance is my slow cooker. It is on my counter 90% of the time. Skinny Taste has a ton of awesome slow cooker recipes and she’s recently started adding a bunch of insta-pot recipes on her blog (which I just modify for the slow cooker). However, I’m really tempted to add an insta-pot to my round up.
Once I have my meal plan, I make my shopping list while sitting at the computer. I’m super old school and have to use my desktop for just about everything. This is probably the hardest part because generally I have a squirmy toddler on my lap telling me “don’t type, mama…read to me!” I go through the ingredients and mark what I need from each recipe and add what I can to Prime Pantry first. I also go through the kitchen and bathrooms for the things we’re low on such as trash bags, toothpaste, orange juice, fruit, oatmeal, snacks for the kids, bread, butter, and all the basics/essentials that we always have on hand.
Everything that I can’t find on Prime Pantry goes on the grocery store list (mainly fresh or frozen produce, and specialty items). If I have a recipe on the menu that requires something before my pantry box arrives, I’ll just be sure to put it on the grocery store list. Once I order my Pantry box, I receive it in about two days.
I try to add things to my pantry box throughout the week as I think of them and just click the “save for later” button. But I also don’t always have time to pop into the office to do this so I keep a handy little notebook in a drawer in the kitchen and jot down the item I need as soon as I think of it.
I do my grocery shopping on Mondays or Tuesdays. The key is to do it AFTER placing my pantry order so I can make sure nothing gets missed. Like I said, Amazon Pantry has a decent selection and it is improving, but they don’t have everything. I try to go right after dropping Owen off at school. Della is a HANDFUL so I like to shop early in the morning when the store is empty. I always them when the delivery truck arrives so I can make sure I got right after they restock. I also talk to the guys at the meat counter so I know when I can get the best selection there. With Della in tow, grocery shopping takes me about 20-30 minutes assuming I only get what is on my list and excluding any diaper emergencies.
How I stock my freezer
With the new baby arriving soon (three-ish weeks to go!!) I’ve been doing my best to select recipes that can be easily frozen. Lately I’ve been doubling everything, cooking one batch and putting the other batch in a freezer bag in the deep freeze. I have also been freezing leftovers if it looks like there are way more than we can go through. Doubling the recipes has of course doubled our grocery bill and does take a bit more time out of my day, but I highly doubt we’ll regret it in the coming months. The worst part is the redundancy…chopping four bell peppers, peeling all the garlic, etc.
Some of my favorite freezer friendly recipes:
Spinach Lasagna Rolls (I wrap and freeze them individually for a quick and easy lunch or dinner for one person or many)
Chicken Sausage and Peppers Macaroni Casserole (Owen’s all-time favorite!)
Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili (the easiest recipe EVER)
Easy Lasagna (from 1001 Ways to Cook Southern) (the best lasagna recipe)
Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken (Alex’s all-time favorite, he always requests this after deployment or TDYs)
I can’t emphasize enough how much less stressful my life is with this system. It might not be the most perfect and cheapest solution but my grocery runs to the store are much shorter thanks to Amazon Pantry and we don’t run out of things often, if ever. There are other options out there for grocery delivery: jet.com, Boxed…I’ve never used them. I briefly explored Boxed but I opted out when they had practically none of the brands I use.
I hope you find something useful from from this post! We’re definitely one of those families that does what works and this is what works for us right now. When the baby arrives, everything will change again and we’ll find a new normal. Or maybe not! (Hoping this system sticks.)
I’ll be back at you soon with a post about our Christmas (it’s long overdue I know, but life is crazy right now). Take care, friends!