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February 19, 2008

Relish the Idea of Meals Made Easy

I am a planner by nature. Each week I sit down, plan the week’s meals (dinner only, please I am only half-crazy) and put together a grocery list accordingly. I was curious to see how the meals I choose, which I admit can get old, would compare to what Relish’s system has to offer. I have tried other menu planning services before and have always been disappointed with the recipes and the services ideas on what constitutes a healthy meal for a family. Healthy for me does not involve a can of condensed soup. I can happily admit that Relish surprised me in quite a few ways.

First, the ease in using this site is superb. I log on and can quickly view a variety of meals that Relish is offering that week. Each week the menu selection changes and I can easily point and click my way to creating a plan. I can also go back to previous weeks and choose meals from there as well. Relish offers a slew of ideas and labels the meals as quick, kid-friendly, or vegan, slow cooker and more. It was a breeze and in less than five minutes, I had the weeks menu figured out. The program easily tabulates your chosen meals together to form your grocery list and the cooking instructions in a pdf form. I simply printed it off and took it with me to the store.

Relish compiles a list of ingredients from your meal selections. They are listed in order of how they positioned in the grocery store making your shopping trip quick and organized. Produce, dairy, canned goods, and meats is all separated out in the same format that I put them in when I make my own list. The Relish system really nailed it when they created this part of the program. My anal-retentive heart sighed with love as I breezed through the aisles at my local market. I loved how easy it was to figure out what ingredients went with what meals too. Each meal is labeled with a letter such as ‘A’ and all the ingredients needed for that recipe have an ‘A’ marked by it on the shopping list. If you decide you do not want that meal, you simply take out all the corresponding lettered ingredients.

Another feature I liked was that if I had to buy a bunch of fresh herbs Relish makes sure I would use them up that week instead of only needing a snippet or two and then having it rot in my refrigerator from lack of use. My refrigerator does not need any more green slime also known as cilantro. The Relish system is not wasteful and will have you using all the items that you buy repeatedly. This will saves money and pantry space.

Now to answer the question that has been on the tip of your tongue, “So, how is the food?” The recipes are very simple. There did not seem to be any missing steps or a slew of them to follow. When you are cooking for a family, are short on time or have a toddler messing around in the kitchen with you, this is the most important step. Even the slow cooker recipes, which often take a ton of prep time, were done in a flash. Each meal I made turned out extremely well. My finicky spouse was pleased even with the baby back ribs, which I never thought I could get him to enjoy. He fashions himself a connoisseur of those types of dishes and he had thirds that night. The vegetarian dish of Black Bean Burritos was also a big hit as was the Easy Chicken Kiev. Each dish tasted fresh and healthy. They even passed the toddler taste test which typically is only reserved for such tasty treats as Mac ‘n’ cheese and other forms of gooey pasta or baked cheese mixed with melted cheese.

The only changes I would make with the Relish system would be a way to add my own recipes. If I could least look at more past menus beyond the time of my sign up date I would like the service even more. When it came to my second week of menu planning, I could only find three I wanted to try. I wish I could look at an archive of meals to round out the week and have more of a choice.

My testing of the Relish menu planning system went so well the first week I could not wait to log on and create the next week’s meals! I saved all my recipes from the first week, downloaded some of the many recipes for appetizers, hors d’oeuvres and desserts that Relish frequently features and keep going back to the site for more. My whole family has really enjoyed the Relish program and we will continue to use it in the future. I've already had other friends sign up!

Now, excuse me while I go and make my cornbread to go with the chicken and rice gumbo that has been simmering all day.

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