Where have you been all my life?

The first week John and I were in our first apartment in Denver, I knew I was hosed. I officially--on my own--was responsible for dinner.

With limited budget and absolutely no culinary skills, I went to the grocery store and did what any other directionless person would do.  I bought stuff with directions.  To be specific, I loaded my cart with every version of Hamburger Helper available. (John freaked that one of them was a tuna helper). And I bought box spaghetti and a package of chili.

John and I got along fine this way for a number of years. (If you are curious if this is why I became vegetarian seven years into our marriage, you would be correct.)

Luckily early on I met some women when we were in the military who actually knew how to cook and I learned some skills, but the bane of my existence--especially when I was a working mom with elementary school age kids--was always "What's for dinner?"

First of all, food takes up way too much time.  You have to make a list, then go to the store, then actually cook stuff, then clean up all the stuff you cooked.  It's exhausting.  Of those chores, the most difficult one isn't actually clean up.  It is MAKING THE LIST!

Please, please, don't make me think about what to cook.  Just tell me what to do and I'll do it.

This week, Erin-the-Wonder-Woman introduced me to the most magical, most amazing, beautiful thing the digital world has ever delivered.  She introduced me to e-mealz.com. (Check your spelling and don't forget the dash, there are similar sites.)

E-meals plans are only $5 a month.  They are based on where you shop (Walmart, Aldi, Kroger, Publix) and the type of meals you prefer (family of four, vegetarian, low fat, cooking for two) then THEY MAKE THE LIST!!!  Each Tuesday they give you a pdf file with meals for the week that can all be prepared in 30 minutes or less, and the back page has the list with cost of each item divided by WHERE THE STUFF IS IN THE STORE!!! (Okay, not "aisle 3" but the items are grouped by general area).

John and I have done this for a week now and not only has it been easy, the food is delicious.  And it is stuff we wouldn't have normally tried. (John and I are on the vegetarian version for Walmart and John is supplementing by grilling steaks a couple of times a week.)

Tonight I made gumbo served with toasted pita triangles. I have to say, it never occurred to me to try gumbo because I thought it was a  meat-eaters dish.  Here is how easy this was...per my e-mealz sheet after the ingredients list...Heat 1-2 t coconut oil in skillet. Place “sausage” (I used Morningstars Veggie Italian Sausage) in hot oil & brown, adding green pepper, onion and celery. Cook until browned; add vegetable broth, water and seasonings. Heat through; add okra & tomatoes. Simmer for 10 min. Add salt and pepper to taste.  John and I found one meal on the list we weren't crazy about, so we skipped it and put in one of our normal standbys.

I love it that someone thought of this.  And I'm thrilled Erin shared it with me!

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall