Note: I wasn’t paid or otherwise compensated for this post; all opinions are my own.
Ask any working mom which regular chore is the bane of her existence, and the answer is often, “Making dinner!” It’s so hard to work a full day, drag yourself home, and then jump right into dinner preparation — especially if you have several little ones and/or are pregnant. Sometimes the husband will help, but let’s face it, most men aren’t able to prepare anything other than basic meals for their family. Meal planning helps, but that’s just one more chore to add on to all the rest, and it can be a daunting one.
I’m always on the lookout for goods and services that will make meal prep and planning easier, which is why I was intrigued when I came across The Dinner Daily. This company was founded by a working mom and promises to take the hassle and stress out of meal planning. I signed up for a two-week trial to check it out.
How The Dinner Daily Works
When you register for a membership, you’re given a selection of local grocery stores in your area. Based on the store you choose, The Dinner Daily will send you a recipe plan and shopping list based on what’s on sale in your chosen store on the day that the store’s sales are published. You can opt out of choosing a specific store; or, if they don’t have the store that you prefer to use, they’ll send you an “Any Store” plan that isn’t based on sale items (but still has a menu plan and a shopping list).
Shopping and Sales
The only store given to me as an option was my local Fry’s Food Store (a.k.a. Kroger). I was happy with this choice, because my local Fry’s also has a grocery pickup service (ClickList) that allows me to shop for groceries online and pick them up at the store. (I intend to do a post singing the praises of grocery pickup services sometime soon, because it has been a game changer for me!) If you can sign up for a store that also has grocery pickup or grocery delivery, that’s a win-win in my opinion.
I can also earn gas reward points from shopping at Fry’s, which helps keep our fuel costs down. So even though there was only one option, it was the one that was most convenient for me. The “Any Store” option would have worked as well, though, because I also have a Safeway and a WinCo nearby, as well as a Wal-Mart. (The Wal-Mart nearest my house does not have a grocery pick-up service, but the one that is approximately five miles away does.)
The Dinner Daily has a wide variety of menus, including Everything (no exempted ingredients), No Seafood, No Red Meat or Pork, Poultry and Vegetarian, Vegetarian with Seafood, and Vegetarian. In addition, each menu plan, no matter which one you choose, has options for reduced carb and gluten-free. I chose No Seafood because I don’t like seafood (my husband and kids do, but since they don’t do the cooking they didn’t get a vote).
The site has sample menus for each option, so you can take a look before you sign up to get an idea of what recipes are used.
What I loved about this service is your ability to switch out a meal. If I came across a meal that I didn’t think I’d like or that I thought my family wouldn’t like, I just clicked an icon in the menu and was presented with several alternative choices. I picked a different one and my menu plan and shopping list were automatically updated to reflect my new choices. So easy!
I was satisfied with the menus I used for the two weeks I was a member. All of the meals were fairly quick and mostly easy. I didn’t end up making all of them, but I tried Greek Burgers (basically hamburgers made with feta cheese) which is a meal a little out of my comfort zone, and they were delicious.
Each meal plan menu item comes with a suggested side dish, which is included in the shopping list. However, these are fairly easy to ignore if you have something else in mind, or if you want to go super simple with a bag of steamed veggies.
The menus themselves were arranged logically, and the ingredients are color-coded as well as numbered so you can easily identify which shopping list item goes with its respective menu item. I could save the menus as PDFs and keep them in my Google Drive folder for easy access, or access them on the site via my iPhone – perfect for me because I never remember to take a physical list to the store, but I always have my phone. I could also keep the menu in one tab and have the online grocery ordering system open in another, and easily switch between the two. I could also make the grocery list on my phone while looking at the shopping list on the computer, or vice versa.
I was pleased with the variety of dishes, and according to their FAQ, they won’t repeat recipes for two months to ensure variety.
Dinner Daily memberships are just $1.50/week or less, depending on the plan you choose ($18 for three months, $30 for six months, or $48 for a full year). I think that less than $50/year for a meal planning service is very reasonable, and it would likely pay for itself over time given the savings incurred with eating out less and not having to run to the store for last-minute ingredients or last-minute supper items.
What I Didn’t Like
My quibbles are minor. I wish there was a menu option for larger families. Your choices are for a family of 2-4 or a family of 4-6. I have eight in my family; however, one of them is still exclusively breastfed and the younger ones eat smaller portions, so I was able to make do with the 4-6 people option. I’m not sure how feasible that will be as my kids get older. It seemed to me that most of the recipes would adapt well to doubling, so that could be an option.
I also wish that there was an option to include meals made with the Instant Pot, as I absolutely adore mine. (I’m currently writing a post about how awesome it is for working moms.) However, it’s fairly easy to convert most slow cooker recipes for use in an Instant Pot, so that could work.
Overall, I was happy with the service. I was actually intending at the outset to purchase a full membership, but my circumstances have since changed (I was laid off from my full-time job) and I need to reevaluate my budget before incurring any extra expenses. Also I’m hoping that meal planning will be a bit easier now that I’m not working full-time. But I can definitely see this service being very useful to those who detest meal planning or who just want to take something off of their plate.
I reached out to the folks who run The Dinner Daily, and they graciously and generously agreed to provide a six-month membership (value: $30) as a raffle prize for one of my readers! (Happy Feast of St. Gianna! As a busy physician with several small children, I bet she would have loved a meal planning service!)
Please sign up at The Catholic Working Mother Facebook page (you don’t need a FB account to enter) if you’d like the chance to win six months of free meal planning. The raffle will run until 11:59pm (AZ time) on May 5, 2017. I’ll announce the winner on May 6, 2017, and put them in contact with the folks at The Dinner Daily to claim their prize. Good luck!