One of the pieces I vowed to outsource in 2019 was meal prep.
As any parent knows, it takes time and energy to figure out what to feed a family, shop for groceries, and make the food.
Last year, I made a habit of doing meal prep on Sundays, because it made the rest of the week less stressful. But I resented spending hours making food when what I really needed after a busy work week was to spend time with my kids or exercise or rest.
So my husband and I agreed to hire someone to help us with meal prep.
I found Sunny on Care.com. I’d already signed up for a two-month subscription (it costs $39/month) to find a few babysitters, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look for meal help there, too.
We were lucky — there weren’t many people who described themselves on Care.com as available for meal prep. Less than a handful, in fact. Sunny’s profile looked promising, so I sent her a message, and set up a time for us to visit us at our home.
During that visit, I learned Sunny was vegan and most enjoys cooking with veggies, but also cooks meat and fish — a perfect fit for our family.
We decided she would visit our home on Mondays. That way we’d have food for the entire work week.
And since Sunny has other meal prep clients, she had ideas for how we could coordinate. Here’s what we landed on.
Sunny, husband and I all have the grocery app, Out of Milk.
(Sunny actually suggested the app AnyList, but it’s only for iphones and we’re a hardcore Google family. Out of Milk works on both Android and iphone.)
We created three lists on the app:
Last week’s to-do list looked like this:
The short answer to how we choose are meals is… we don’t. We let Sunny choose our meals.
I gave Sunny some details about what we like to eat as a family: lots of veggies, salmon, chicken, not much red meat.
We also talked about some of our favorite meals: veggie lasagna, chicken pot pie, squash curry.
I shared with her my Pinterest board of recipes.
But… I didn’t really want her to use my recipes. I want to use her recipes! We’re sick of ours.
So our first week, she made us lasagna soup; salmon, veggies and sweet potato with lemon; and butter chicken.
The second week, we had veggie lo-mein; chicken and veggie casserole; and veggies alongside store-bought salmon burgers (we requested these because it’s one of the only healthy meals our kids eat).
For each of the meals, she made enough to last at least two nights, so we were covered for the full work week and even part of the weekend.
The meals have been SO YUMMY. And while she’s a fabulous cook, I’m pretty sure some of that yumminess comes from the fact that I DIDN’T HAVE TO COOK IT.
During last week’s visit, Sunny asked me for feedback. She wanted to know what we thought of the food, she said, because this was the most leeway she’d ever had with a client. Most clients, she explained, like to request certain meals or at least certain types of foods.
I told her how much I appreciate her making those decisions — because it means I don’t have to! Through her meal prep work, Sunny is helping me take back not only time, but space in my brain.
So how much does this cost?
We pay for groceries by transferring money to Sunny via an app called CashApp. Actually, my husband does. We agreed that if I maintain the grocery app, he would maintain the payment app.
We also pay her through the app for her time: $25/hour. She typically spends about five or six hours shopping and cooking, which means we pay her up to $150/week.
That comes out to about $600/month. Which sounds like a lot, right?
Here’s how I justify it. (I mean, beyond keeping myself sane… because that’s priceless, right?)
If I ordered all of our food each week on Publix, which is what I did when I was overwhelmed with work and baby last year, I’d spend about $50/more a week.
On top of that, we’d probably order take-out once a week, because even though we had the food to make the evening meal, we would be too tired to make it. With delivery, that take-out meal would cost around $40.
So, start with $150 and subtract $50 and $40… and in the end, this costs us, at most, $60. To save me six hours of shopping and cooking. That’s well worth it in my book!
Ironically, what makes the biggest difference isn’t even included directly in that time or cost estimate: I don’t have to figure out what we’ll eat each week, which means I can use that brain power on other life and work decisions.
To me, outsourcing those decisions is the biggest relief of all.