Learn how to making cooking with kids in the kitchen more fun every day. Engage their senses, teaching them how to chop, and make them meal planners.

Ever since we moved back to the US, I’ve been blown away by how many meal delivery service options are available in our area. Not only are there national brands, but also many smaller, niche meal delivery service choices. As an avid cook, I thought it would be cool to give this idea a test run to see if it’s worth recommending them to my clients.

First off, I was able to partner with Boston’s Just Add Cooking meal delivery service. They offer ingredients that marry with my food philosophy. This includes using fresh, local ingredients, including meat and produce, as well as balance meals focusing on vegetables first. The meals were not too complicated, nor too basic. As someone who truly loves to cook, it was a good sign that I learned a couple of new food preparation tips as I tested out the meals for two weeks. (One week provided for me, one week delivered by accident…and I’ll explain it later.)

You may have seen a sneak peek via my Instagram stories where I share what I’m cooking in the kitchen on a regular basis. 

Just add Cooking Meal Delivery Service Review Boston area meal delivery

Questions to ask of a meal delivery service?

Regardless of where you live, I thought it would be helpful for you to have a list of questions to help you decide which is the right meal delivery service for you. These are the questions that come to mind if you plan to shop around.

  1. Where are you getting your ingredients? Find out about where the meal delivery service company sources its ingredients. If it’s not readily learned from its website, you may want to keep looking.
  2. Do they offer meals that fit your food philosophy or way of eating? Some businesses cater to Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, or family friendly requests. Some have a mix, but check to see the menus to get a sense of the variety offered. In January, you can find many meal delivery services that offer Whole30 approved meals. It can be hard to figure out the “rules” in certain eating styles and these companies do the leg work for you.
  3. How many meals are included per week in the meal delivery service? Generally it looks like 3 is a standard. I know some families only prefer two meals, whereas others really like having four meals ready to go. This may be a case of trial and error, but look at how often you cook a full meal now, and hopefully you can add another day by using a meal delivery service.
  4. How much packaging is involved? This was a hot topic when I brought it up in my private Facebook group.  People who have tested out meal delivery services in the past were really frustrated by the overwhelming amount of packaging needed to ship things to stay fresh. I was actually really happy with using Just Add Cooking because of the minimal amount of packaging used. Not only that, but they use a frozen water bottle to keep the food fresh, so even that can be used. I was able to reuse the sturdy boxes to ship Christmas gifts so I had very little waste. Yes, there are small containers of the ingredients, but they were nearly all recyclable.

Can I use a meal delivery service if I have food allergies?

This is a great question. I find the local services are better able to manage accounts that require sensitive handling of ingredients. You may be better served partnering with a holistic chef in your area who can package the meals and deliver them to your home each week.

What's better_ Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, or Just Add Cooking meal delivery service_

This was one of my favorite meals from Just Add Cooking with roasted chickpeas!

How does a meal delivery service work?

In my case with Just Add Cooking, I needed to select my meals for a Sunday home delivery by a certain date and time. There is a reasonable number of meals to choose from. Some were labeled gluten-free so I was able to narrow my choices down quickly.

Once the meals are selected, they are saved for the upcoming week. I received a box Sunday afternoon by the nicest delivery man.

The following Sunday, I was surprised by the delivery man. I had missed the notation that Just Add Cooking is a subscription based meal delivery service. Oops. Here’s the best part though. When I told my husband about my mistake, he asked if it was the same company who provided the meals the week prior. The flavor in those meals were so good he didn’t mind my oops!  Just pay attention to the fine print is my lesson I’ll share with you.

If you are in the Boston area, you can check out Just Add Cooking here.  I may try them again soon as they consistently adjust their menu to include seasonal items. Happy cooking.

How to pick a meal delivery service_


Making jam is easier than we think.

Drizzle extravagantly. Reading those words solidified that I was going to love my newest cookbook. With a focus on real food and family friendly dinners, Aimèe Wimbush-Bourque’s new cookbook Brown Eggs and Jam Jars is a delight for the home cook. It’s approachable way of using fresh and local ingredients makes nearly everything doable. I say nearly as I am not lucky enough to have maple trees in my backyard for fresh maple water. Maybe at our next house…

I’ve been reading Aimèe’s recipes at Simple Bites for nearly five years. Her food blog was one of the first that I followed, and I often recommend her recipes to friends. Over the past year, it’s been fun to watch the behind-the-scenes of making a cookbook on Aimée’s Instagram account. I pre-ordered the book and was so excited when it arrived on my very snowy doorstep.

Radish butter appetizer for spring

As I devoured the stories of urban homesteading, I started thinking of our spring garden, healthy ideas for the kids lunch boxes and was quickly reminded by my husband that owning chickens are not in our near future. Good thing we live in a town with a poultry farm.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars is a cookbook for people wanting to cook from scratch, without it feeling like too much effort. The ingredient lists are not too long and generally available in most grocery stores. The measurements are in both American and Canadian, (she is Canadian by the way!)

Maple Marshmallows

My kids picked this to make first!

As an avid cook, I’m always excited when I learn new things in a cookbook. Here’s a few of my favorite tidbits so far:

  1. I’ve never heard of low-carbon cooking or hypercooking. Apparently it’s the new trend in eco-conscious cooking.
  2. The ring of a large mason jar is the perfect size to cut the dough for butter tarts.
  3. I’m questioning my store bought eggs as I’ve noticed the skin has been really thin lately…
  4. Buckwheat flour for those pancakes on the cover is on my grocery list.
  5. Sunday’s breakfast plan now includes Coconut Cream Baked Oatmeal.
  6. Le Creuset baking dishes are
  7. My spring garden is going to have baby spinach, radishes and more herbs this year.
  8. It’s okay to talk to kids about where meat comes from and why we eat it…
  9. Yet I’m inspired to eat more meatless meals.
  10. …you’ll have to read the book to discover you own new bites of knowledge.

Aimée personally granted me a copy to giveaway to my readers. Since I have a blogger crush it was especially exciting for me to get a personal email from her. I even remember meeting another Canadian blogger at a conference once and I had one of those, “you know her?!” moments. The other blogger said Aimèe was just a delightful in person and I’m sure you will also see this in the stories of she shares of her family and home in her cookbook.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars CookbookPlease leave a comment below if you are interested to win a copy of the book. Open to both US and Canadian residents. A winner will be chosen after the comments close on February 21st.


You can also order Brown Eggs and Jam Jars over on Amazon. (affiliate link). Note- I bought my own book and this is an unsponsored post. I hope you will enjoy the book too. 

Lunch ideas besides sandwiches

At the beginning of September, packing lunches for the kids was just one more thing to do at the end of the day (or first thing in the morning.) Now a few weeks into the month, staying motivated to pack healthy lunches with variety can be a bit draining. There are two new books on the market that I think will help you with packing lunches, whether you are cooking from scratch, or not. It’s real lunches here, not the super fancy bento box creations that are all over Pinterest and Instagram. Today I’m sharing my thoughts one of those books.

The Healthy Lunch Box eBook by KitchenStewardship 

I know I was guilty of always sending a sandwich into school towards the later half of the school year. Raspberry and cream cheese was the staple, since school is nut-free. This ebook has changed how I think about the kid’s lunches, so there’s hope my kids will get something different even when lunch packing time is nutty. The Healthy Lunch Box is an ebook which you can read as a PDF, or on your iBooks app, Kindle or Nook. The first half is all about strategy…I learned that there is a right, and a wrong, way to pack the ice in the lunchbox to keep the food safe. It also made me think about packing the next day’s lunch throughout the day, not just at the end of the day when you are tired.

Kitchen Stewardship Healthy Lunch Box

The first half of the ebook is filled with tips and tricks with new ways to think about packing lunch.

This collection of both tips and recipes is geared towards moms who are cooking with real food. Think fresh fruits, homemade yogurt, mayo, dips, etc. Many things are totally doable, or you can purchase part of the recipe and make it your own. The ideas are helpful when it comes to moving “beyond the bread.” There are a number of recipes that I liked for dinner, which would then translate into a healthy lunch for the kids the next day. Plus there are ideas for lunch that I tend to forget about, like sending in guacamole and pita bread. A healthy, fun option for the kids, yet now a sandwich. (Click here to see the entire table of contents.)

What are some fun new ideas I’ve gotten out of this book?

  • Fruit and protein skewers
  • Guacamole, shredded chicken, salsa and GMO-free tortilla chips
  • Lettuce wraps with a mix of proteins
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Nitrate free pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and pita bread slices

Click here to order your copy of The Healthy Lunchbox  If you are a real food newbie, this book is also helpful in educating you on what to be mindful of as you grocery shop. Katie’s site, Kitchen Stewardship, is one of the first blogs I started reading four years ago and it really changed how I cook today. We make our own yogurt now, regularly make our own chicken stock and because of her articles, I know why bone broth is so healthy for my family. Her Healthy Lunch Box book fits into our cooking lifestyle and it has given me a lot of good ideas to continue to test out in the coming months.

The Healthy Lunch Box eBook by KitchenStewardship

I received a copy of the Healthy Lunch Box to review and I’m so glad I did and happy to share it with you. There are some affiliate links in the post, but really I’m just sharing this because I know a lot of moms struggle with what to pack for lunch and I think this is one helpful resource.

photo credit: kayepants via photopin cc

A few months ago there was a great conversation on our Facebook page dealing with life without a microwave.  I haven’t taken the plunge yet but I was intrigued by my guest writer Stephanie’s experiences.  Do you think you could do it?  Please welcome Stephanie and share some feedback in the comments.

Guest post from Stephanie of Stephanie’s Projects.

Are you thinking of weaning yourself from using the microwave? Not really sure where to start? I have been there!
I am very excited about this post because of the many discussions about this subject in blogland. On a previous post on my own blog, I mentioned that my microwave died. When the machine busted, I took that as an omen and so recycled the old without replacing it… But I had already begun my journey to get along without a microwave, so the shock was minimal.

Here is how I did it… with some tips on how you can do it too!

I was a microwave-o-holic. I can freely admit that I had no clue how to cook an entire meal without a microwave. The convenience of precooked rice and reheating leftovers or making a cake in a matter of minutes (I do miss that recipe!) was a great pull. But I was also making an effort to eat real foods and toss out the chemicals in my home and food… I realized after researching online, that—just maybe—the microwave was inhibiting my efforts to have a healthy home.
I read posts from people who no longer used the microwave and why. Then I read research about health effects and the evolution… Did you know that microwaves were actually banned in Russia in 1976?! Very interesting.

The first Step: Plan meals ahead of time

It took me a little time to understand that this is the first step. But the truth is that cooking the conventional way takes a little more planning. That is why it’s the first step once you make the decision to use it less or completely cut it out of your cooking routine.
You need to find a planning method that works for you. I use a combination of a weekly meal plan, and a scan of the pantry to see what I have an excess of. It doesn’t always work out that I have a written meal plan, because some weeks are too uncertain and spontaneous (for those times, freezer meals are handy to stick in the oven). I do try to know for-sure what is for dinner the night before so I can search for recipes, thaw meat or prepare ingredients. I typically have 3 different meals in mind that can be prepared in no time (this is a handy trick to have up your sleeve in case you have unexpected guests to cook for).
It is helpful to look at your calendar when making a plan so you can gage the amount of time you will have to cook. If you don’t get home until at least 5:30 and you like to eat by 6, precooked meals from your freezer or slow cooker meals are the best! I have a relationship with my crock pot…

No more whole meals/entrees in the Microwave.

Mac and Cheese is just as easy in a pan. Hot dogs are great the old fashioned way. Rice is great cooked in boiling water, or better yet, chicken broth. Water boils just as well in a pot or kettle. Cakes should be cooked in the oven…
Now, you can jump head-on into this, or you can start by experimenting for a couple days a week. Then once you get comfortable with that add a couple more days to challenge yourself. Once you make the decision to cut the habit (so-to-speak) you can. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip a couple times with this… it happens to the best of us in a time crunch.
I imagined that initially cooking without a microwave would affect my kids in a more positive way than starting with reheating food. Again, this takes a bit of planning. No more taking items out of the freezer 10 minutes before you want to cook it – because if it needs to be thawed you would need to use the microwave and the goal is to ignore it.
When I began to make a conscious effort to make foods from scratch without using the handy microwave, I was a bit shocked at the pile of dishes. (Unfortunately microwave bowls don’t go in the oven) I really don’t like dishes… once I accepted the unavoidable; I began to change my dishwashing methods. For example, instead of piling the dishes in the sink until dinner was over, I found less stress in multitasking; cleaning in shifts while cooking made for fewer dishes on a full stomach (and a cleaner kitchen). I also found it advantageous to cook in shifts. If you have a vegtable dish and a main dish you can prepair the ingredients earlier in the day or the night before to save time when you get around to cooking dinner.

Reheating Foods

This can seem tricky if you have a love for left overs. It also may take a little time to get accustomed to heating up food. I do this one of 3 ways, depending on the food and quantity.

  1. Add it to a pan. I have gotten in the habit of leaving a sauté pan on the stove to drop left overs in to heat. It takes about 5 minutes to reheat and the food tastes just as good as the first time around! You can reheat anything this way; I particularly use this method for pasta and rice meals, cut up food as well as breakfast foods (leftover eggs or pancakes).
  2. My toaster oven is great for heating leftover or frozen burritos, pizza, or french fries on a piece of foil. A pie tin fits great in my little toaster, so I purchased a ceramic pie dish for this purpose. My favorite thing about putting leftovers in the oven is that you no longer have to settle for soggy food! Breaded chicken is crunchy. Pizza is crisp. Writing this is making me hungry.
    But only so much fits into the toaster oven, which brings me to …
  3. You can use your large oven for the same purpose if you have a large quantity of food to heat up. I have some stoneware pieces that I keep in my oven (because I use them almost daily!) like a pizza stone that you just need to place food on and let it heat up. I really like stoneware because I don’t have to scrub them with soap—I did mention that I dislike dishes.
    You can save time (and dishes) by storing leftover casseroles in glass or ceramic that can be put directly into the oven—rather than plastic containers or ziplock bags.

Heating to Cook

Think butter or hot fudge. I found the loss of my microwave very sad when it came to heating butter for recipes or fudge for my ice cream. But in the end, I don’t even miss it! You can heat little things up in a glass jar in a toaster oven or in a small pan on your stove. If you need a container to heat it up in the microwave anyway, you are not even creating more dishes to clean!

Another use for your Microwave…

Can you think of what to do with your microwave? You can donate it, give it away or recycle a busted one. But if you have a built-in unit, you might want to use it to store mason jars or keep bread. Come up with another way to use it!

Stephanie loves being a busy mom to two amazing little kids; ages 4 and 2. She is an over-educated freelance writer, blogger, dance instructor and stay-at-home momma. She loves to share what she has learned on Stephanie’s Projects and through simple ideas, encourages others who want to live full, healthful lives. She and her husband enjoy working for each other on their own financial business in California.

What do you think? Can you live without your microwave?

I’m sharing this post with Frugally Sustainable.