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Getting Fresh

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

A few people asked me about how The Fresh 20 works. www.thefresh20.com

Every Friday, I get a PDF document of five Gluten Free recipes to make over the course of the following week. There’s a “Classic” option and a “Vegetarian” option as well, but you need to select those up front – you can’t change your subscription option from week to week. No matter which option you select, the recipes are all built using the same twenty ingredients, so that you keep your costs down and minimize food waste. For example, here’s what I made last night:

Oh look, those potatoes and carrots from my Lentil and Ham soup (recipe here: wp.me/p1N36Q-3K ) made an appearance again in this Chicken Fricassee. Remember I saved some lentils and carrots as a side dish when I made the soup? These will show up tomorrow for dinner, alongside some roasted salmon. And a different type of chicken will be Friday night’s dinner. I think you get the point.

The document gives you everything you need to make cooking healthy meals easy – a full grocery list, the nutrition content of each meal, the actual recipes, and – my favorite part – a list of things to do over the weekend (chop/prep/etc.) so that you can spend minimal time in the kitchen during the busy work week. Every meal provides four servings (sometimes more), so since it’s just my husband and me, we always have decent leftovers for lunch.

Here’s what I like about the Fresh 20:

1. I’ve learned how to make my way around the kitchen. (I grew up in a single parent household and Mom worked some long hours. I relied on the microwave and frozen dinners a lot, so I received minimal education in preparing fresh food). I now know how to clean and cut leeks. I can chop cilantro. And I have a pretty decent spice rack.
2. The menus have introduced me to vegetables that were pretty foreign to me. They include the stuff I’m used to – carrots, onions, celery – but have also introduced me to kale, leeks, cabbage, and more.
3. I have no trouble meeting my daily protein requirements. Prior to using The Fresh 20 (and prior to being Wheat Free), it was a struggle for me to reach the minimum daily recommendation of 60 grams of protein. I didn’t keep a lot of fresh meats in the house because I just didn’t know how to prepare them, and also thought I’d have trouble squeezing them in without going over my calorie range.

The biggest pro about The Fresh 20? I haven’t had a meal I did not like. I may have left things out of the ingredient list that I KNOW I don’t like (mushrooms), but I’ve always been satisfied with the end product.

So here’s what I don’t like about The Fresh 20:

1. The meals often have a lot of sodium in them. Chicken or vegetable broth is commonly found in the ingredients list of most recipes, and, even though they recommend the low-sodium varieties, there are often meals that can contain 1,000 mg or more. To bring this down a bit, I often leave out added salt when it’s called for in a recipe. I know I could also make my own broths to reduce sodium, but… honestly, I probably won’t. Like I said before, I like to MINIMIZE time in the kitchen.
2. Some meals are higher in calories than I feel comfortable with. For my height, I’m supposed to target 1200-1550 calories per day (according to my nutrition tracker at SparkPeople). Some meals fit in nicely to allow me a snack or two (the lentil soup was only 331 calories), while others (the chicken fricassee was at 534 calories) can greatly reduce what else I can eat in the day. Since I’m eating Fresh 20 meals for lunch AND dinner, I do have to sometimes track and plan more carefully to make sure I feel satisfied on days with higher calorie contents.
3. The Gluten Free menu is NOT Wheat Belly friendly. It’s not meant to be, and that’s perfectly fine. Sometimes, recipes call for gluten free breads and pastas. If they do, I’ll either plan on not making that recipe for the week or substitute something else (for example, spaghetti squash for pasta).

My official verdict on The Fresh 20 is that I think the Groupon deal I got was fantastic, and I would certainly recommend looking out for the deal in the future. I probably will not renew my subscription when it runs out because I feel the menus are varied enough that I can repeat old recipes and not get bored. There also have been some weeks that I have not used the meal plan because I felt the need to use up what was already in my pantry, or I already had dining plans during the week (holidays, social events, visiting family, etc.) that would have made it difficult to get in all five meals – so I can always look back and see what I haven’t made yet.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You know, I didn't really research menu planning before buying The Fresh 20 - since I get Groupons/Living Social/etc every day, I try things out on a whim.

    Looking over the eMeals site, I do like that they have a wider variety of options and that you can get a plan for only 1-2 people. They also allow you to switch on a monthly basis, which Fresh 20 doesn't allow you to do - but looking at their samples menus, it looks like you may be buying a lot of groceries that are only used for one meal. Not sure what kind of waste of fresh food you might have (or you'd have to think of creative ways to use extras in lunches or dinner). I also don't see a "Weekend Prep" list or nutrition facts listed on the samples - I looked in the help section and didn't see anything on these either.
    1842 days ago
    Just for a basis of comparison, do you think it is very similar or different from eMeals (www.emeals.com), which a coworker has signed up for recently? I know you're not an expert, but I'd love to know what made you pick The Fresh 20 over eMeals. Thanks!
    1842 days ago
    Very cool! Thanks for the education!
    1842 days ago
  • COOP9002
    Thanks for sharing the insight. Looks like something that i will need to checkout for my family as well.
    1842 days ago
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