My Take On The Fresh 20 Weekly Meal Plan

Before we get started let me issue a couple of disclaimers…

**I am not in any way affiliated with The Fresh 20 other than I am a subscriber to the meal plan service. I am not being paid nor am I receiving any incentives to endorse this service, I’m simply discussing it out of my own free will.**

**I will not and cannot share any recipes with you because this is a subscription service. The folks at The Fresh 20 work really hard to bring us a great product and their business’ livelihood depends on paying subscribers.**

Ok, glad we got that out of the way! Phew!

Why The Fresh 20?

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http://www.thefresh20.com/

A little over 3 months ago, my husband and I made the decision to become Fresh 20 subscribers! For years, we sat down every Sunday to try and figure out what we were going to cook for the week and what groceries we would need. This was always a task that involved a lot of decision-making and little coordination between ingredients needed for one meal that weren’t needed for others. We had staples like Mexican (my husband is Mexican) meals featuring tacos, rice and beans and Puerto Rican (I’m Puerto Rican) food which also involved meat, rice and beans. There was a lot of pasta and ground meat and prepacked short-cut foods. All in all, incorporating a lot of produce was not always easy without having to research recipes so it was much easier to buy a salad for lunch or get veggies while eating out and just stock up on fruit as snacks. We just didn’t have the time with us both working full time, me being in school and then eventually having our daughter.

How It Works

We came across The Fresh 20 (F20) in October right as I was preparing to got back to work full time. Taking a look at the website, we learned that the whole concept behind F20 is that you need 20 fresh ingredients every week to make 5 dinner recipes meant to serve a family of four. You can choose from the Classic plan which includes 4 nights of meat or seafood and a 5th vegetarian meal, the Vegetarian plan or the Gluten-Free plan. We are on the classic plan and the biggest perk about this plan is the huge amount of veggies in every meal! That was one of our struggles, incorporating more veggies into our day to day. What was really mind-blowing though, is that everything is coordinated for the whole week of recipes which means that nothing goes to waste.

This week's shopping cart: red peppers, red oinion, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and baby spinach.
This week’s shopping cart: red peppers, red oinion, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and baby spinach.

For example, if you’re on the classic plan, you might have to roast a chicken on Monday. That chicken will then go into 2 recipes that week. List calls for 2 lbs of chicken and an 8 pack of pita? That’s because on Monday you cook up some pita for fatoush, then on Tuesday you bake all of the chicken, half for dinner that night, the other half for chicken gyros later (which is where you also use the rest of the pita!). All required ingredients are typically a cart full of veggies, lean meats and fish (there is one seafood dish every week on the classic plan) and whole grains. F20 recommends that you buy organic, low to no sodium canned goods (usually just tomatoes and beans) and whole wheat flour and pastas, brown rice and an occasional new grain like quinoa, couscous or the new-to-us farro. There’s also a list of pantry staples such as seasonings, broths, vinegars and healthy oils. And that’s it! It’s almost completely clean eating (with the exception of the occasional canned ingredients) and since these recipes are for a family of four, my husband and I get lunch out of each meal too! So really, we get 10 meals out of this until we have enough little monsters around to actually gobble up the rest of the dinner servings each night.

Pictures of Deliciousity

Here are a few pictures of meals we have made thus far:

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage with Tomato Sauce
Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage with Tomato SauceOn the left: Farro Minestrone On the Right: Chicken Milanese (whole wheat bread and flour crust) and Farro tossed with lightly Steamed Broccoli and Golden RaisinsOn the left: Farro Minestrone On the Right: Chicken Milanese (whole wheat bread and flour crust) and Farro tossed with lightly Steamed Broccoli and Golden Raisins
Citrus Glazed Seabass with Black Beans and Brown Rice and Roasted Carrots
Citrus Glazed Seabass with Black Beans and Brown Rice and Roasted Carrots
Dijon Dill Salmon with Fatoush Salad (whole wheat stovetop toasted pita not pictured)
Dijon Dill Salmon with Fatoush Salad (whole wheat stovetop toasted pita not pictured)

How Much Are We Talking Here?

After the first month we were hooked and fortunately, we also came across a Groupon for a year long subscription for only $26 dollars (normally $49)! A year-long subscription also provides access to all of the archives so you can use weekly plans from year’s past! If you’re not ready for a year-long commitment, you can do a monthly subscription at $5/month, billed 3 months at a time. Weekly plans are based on seasonal ingredients therefore, it’s rare that you’ll be shelling out for expensive, out of season items. A typical week of Fresh 20 groceries runs us $60-$80 in Chicago which fits right into our weekly budget on groceries! The biggest financial perk for us, however, has been our dramatically decreased spending on eating out! Monday-Friday, you will rarely find us having dinner out or ordering in and unless we have lunch meetings planned, we rarely buy lunch out either. That’s easily $60-$80 back in our pockets every week!

Is It Weight Watchers/Diet Friendly?

Finally, the best part about this meal plan is the fact that almost every recipe has been pretty points plus friendly. I do say almost because there are some heavier meals here and there  or the portion size is actually more than I can actually eat which means that the points might be higher than what I actually consume. The recipes use very little fat, usually just olive or grapeseed oil and the occasional cheeses. The flavor comes from really great combinations of seasonings, using chicken or vegetable broths instead of butter and if dairy is needed, low fat sour cream or non-fat greek yogurt is recommended. Every meal has at least 3-5 different veggies in the recipe so you get most of your servings just from your dinner! One of the best WW-friendly features is the fact that you get all of the nutritional information every Friday so you can literally plan your dinner and lunch points out for the next week! This is what I do on Mondays and then plan other meals and snacks accordingly.

All in all, we are hooked! We get to cook and try new things all of the time, we are never bored, we are getting nutritious meals and check this out: my 21 month old is eating salmon and quinoa! What?

photo (26)

If you’re considering checking out this meal plan, let me know if you have any questions! Also, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a possible groupon deal in the future, $26 for a year is not bad!

Will You Please Give Us A Recipe?

Nope! Not a Fresh 20 recipe! BUT I will give you a recipe we came across for making your very own homemade vegetable stock! We recently tried this recipe so that we didn’t have to keep buying stock for our weekly F20 recipes. For the price of about 4 carrots, 6 celery stalks, an onion, radishes, peppercorns, salt and olive oil, you can get WEEKS WORTH OF STOCK! That’s like 10-12 cups of stock (in a stock pot) for roughly $3. Also, per the instructions, if you leave the skins on the onions, radishes and carrots (just give them all a really good scrub) you get an even more nutritious veggie stock. The olive oil is the kicker, this adds that chicken-like flavor back into the stock without having to use any meat! This website has some other really great ways to make recipe-ready foods for cheap!

Have you tried Fresh 20? Let me know what you think! Happy Cooking Unfluffers!

❤ M.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

by the Hillbilly Housewife

I’ve fallen victim to a rather lazy trap and I guess it’s time to confess – I love having cans of chicken broth in my pantry. Lots and lots of cans of chicken broth. I discovered this addiction while I was cleaning out my pantry recently. There they were – six big cans of chicken broth. Adding up the money is what got me thinking about this wasteful habit. Of course, approximately 9 out of 10 recipes call for chicken broth, so why not stock up? The answer is simple. The cost of canned chicken broth is outrageous. Typically, I would now be offering up my recipe for making your own chicken broth. But wait. Before you go out and buy a bunch of whole chickens to make your own chicken broth, I had another epiphany. Why chicken broth? The last time I made a chicken casserole that called for chicken broth to be added, it should have struck me then. You already have the chicken in the casserole, why do you need more chicken in the added broth. What would you miss if you used something else, like vegetable broth? Of course, I checked the price of vegetable broth in the grocery store before I took my next step and found that even the vegetable broth was outrageously expensive. And, along with the expensive, I checked the ingredients.  Why all the added sugar? The next logical step, of course, was to make my own vegetable broth and use that as the basis for my casseroles, soups, and stews. So, that is exactly what I did.  Here is the process I used to make my very own tasty, frugal, and nutritious vegetable broth. carrotsI scrubbed and washed some carrots. These were the real carrots, full sized, not baby carrots.  The flavor of fully grown carrots is much heartier.  For the big soup pot I was using, I used a whole bunch of carrots, but I would cut that in half.  The broth was a little too sweet for my taste. I didn’t bother to peel them; just took my vegetable scrubber and got them clean. A coarse chop was next, just throwing away the very top part. celeryI washed and cut up celery, including the tops. A coarse chop with the celery is just fine as well because everything gets strained out anyway. Nothing in a vegetable broth has to be bite-sized because once the vegetables are boiled and simmered for hours, there’s no flavor left in them (it’s all in the broth) so the vegetables get strained out and composted. radishesThe surprise ingredient is the radishes.  I have never found a broth recipe that calls for radishes, but I had some on hand so I scrubbed those, cut them in half, and threw them in. And why not? I like the peppery flavor and they would probably will add a little color to the vegetable broth as well. As it turned out, they made a nice addition to the broth. onionsThis next step I think is crucial to a good vegetable broth. I scrubbed up some yellow onions, cut them in half, and threw them in the pot. I am of the Jamie Oliver school of cooking when it comes to this sort of rough cooking. Wash the onions and put them in skin and all. Not only does it add nutritional value but the yellow skins add rich color to the broth. Scrub the roots well, but if you’re squeamish about the roots, just cut them off. vegetable brothThen a handful of salt and about 10 whole peppercorns, garlic if you like, and cover with fresh, cold water, and voila!  You have the beginning of a beautiful broth! But, before you get your pot boiling, there’s one last Secret Ingredient that makes all the difference between a pot of watery vegetables and a real rich vegetable stock that actually looks and tastes rich like chicken stock. Olive oil. Olive oilYes, drizzle about a tablespoon or so of olive oil in your vegetable broth and you won’t miss the chicken! Now, bring your pot to a boil with the cover off, not too quickly, over medium high heat, then turn it down to a slow simmer, put the lid on, tipped to keep the pot from boiling too hard. Your simmer should be a gentle bubble and not produce any foam.  If you get foam, you’re boiling too fast. Cook this as long as possible to get the most flavor; at least a couple hours.  Then, adjust your seasonings, cool and store as you wish. NOTE: The next time I make my vegetable broth I would cut the amount of carrots in half. Too many carrots make for a sweet broth and I prefer my broth a bit less sweet. I also would stick with yellow onions and not try the sweet onions for the same reason – just not enough onion flavor, which I prefer. You can also add other spices and seasonings, but I like having the basic broth ready for recipes which I’ll be adding the seasonings to anyway. vegetable broth completedI ladled out a bit of the broth before I poured it into my freezer containers so you could see the results. It did turn out pretty colorful and rich. For the cost of a couple carrots, a bunch of celery, a half dozen or so yellow onions, some water and spices, I have a nice supply of flavorful broth stored in my freezer. What other broth do I really need? This is one frugal tip worth trying today!
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4 thoughts on “My Take On The Fresh 20 Weekly Meal Plan

  1. I tried Fresh 20 for the same reason. I’m Cuban and the bulk of my cooking was Cuban food and fast food. I bought the year service and in addition I bought the book. I love learning on the new cooking techniques. The increase in vegetables have increased my energy and is helping me lose weight. I LOVE Fresh 20 and am eternally grateful to my daughter for turning me on to the meal plan system.

  2. We have been eating Fresh 20 since November. It has been a huge blessing. The small number of items on the grocery list saves time at the store. The amount of produce I throw out has dramatically decreased because if I buy a bunch of cilantro, I use the whole bunch over the 5 meals. The time I used to spend planning meals and making grocery list can be used for other things. We eat a wide variety of food–no ruts. My family enjoys the food. In 9 months, we have had two meals that all 4 of us disliked. We are eating less salt, more veggies, trying new foods, trying new flavors. My kids or husband can make dinner when I am not home because they know what we are having and that we have all the ingredients.

    BTW–If you go to the Fresh 20 website they have free sample menus so you can give it a try before you buy.

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