Melanie: Spending Less Time in the Kitchen & More Time with Family

I really do live off the enthusiasm of others for my kitchen creations – I think a lot about the people I am cooking for, so it makes me happy to make their bellies full and their mouths happy! – Melanie

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Cooking and mealtimes are activities that bring people together. For the folks doing the cooking, like Kitchen Hero Melanie, it is extremely satisfying to create delicious meals that make the people they are cooking for happy with every single bite. As much as cooking is enjoyable, the entire process can take a long time. Melanie used to spend 2 to 3 hours every weekend just planning out meals and making grocery lists. With the help of our meal plan service, this Kitchen Hero was able to cut down the planning process, so that she could spend more time doing the things she loved with the people she loved. Read more in her Hero in the Kitchen story below.

Name: Melanie Jones
Age: 35
City, State: Boise, ID
I cook for: my family – Luke, Abi (11), Lily (8), and Miles (5) . . . and myself too.
Outside of the kitchen I: write for a local software company, Armgasys. We have two enterprise products: EnvioAg and ConDoc. I’m also pursuing a Computer Science degree at Boise State University – Fall 2019 here I come!
The strangest food I have ever eaten is: little broiled fishies – it was only strange because it was breakfast.
I cook because: mealtime provides a sense of order in our daily lives, and an opportunity to be people together.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: That’s so hard – I’ve been at this a while you know! Here are a couple: Paneer Tomato and Spinach Curry, Jerk Chicken Thighs, Pork Schnitzel with Dijon Cream, and Sriracha-Honey Shrimp.

HOW DID YOU LEARN TO COOK?

I really learned how to cook when I got married. Our finances were extremely tight, our baby was extremely young, and eating at home was the only option. Back in 2005, blogging was starting to take off and the bookstore near my work frequently had cookbooks on clearance, so trying new recipes was really easy. I still have all of the dog-eared printed pages with my notes on cost per serving and changes made – all before we entered the era of the smartphone and tablet.

I cooked through the Martha Stewart cookbook we received as a wedding gift to make myself learn to eat vegetables, and slowly upgraded to a book called Raising the Salad Bar that even taught me to love beets! In the process of cooking through books I learned that there is no such thing as bad food – only bad approaches to preparation.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST COOKING CHALLENGE?

The biggest challenge I face in the kitchen lately is getting all the food into the kitchen! My kids are old enough to be in school now, but I work and go to college so I don’t have a lot of extra time for shopping. Cook Smarts is a huge help in that department because of the interactive shopping list.


The structure of this [meal plan] service is immensely helpful and my family loves the variety and quality of the meals, so we’re all happy to have Cook Smarts in our lives.


How has your cooking routine changed since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?

Time is my most precious resource these days, and I have been reflecting on Cook Smarts with gratitude often in this season of life. My weekend used to include a 2 to 3 hour session at the kitchen table, perusing cookbooks and websites to create a meal plan and translate that into a shopping list, organized by category to help me move quickly through the store. If I happened to leave the house without my handwritten list and find myself at a grocery store, I just had to guess at what I had written down because I might not have another chance to go to the store.

It’s not that I didn’t like meal planning, but I felt conflicted about wasting precious time with my family to plan meals for the week. The alternative was equally unappealing – I love putting a well-conceived, healthy meal on the table to nourish the special people in my life. I was ready to simplify by rotating a handful of familiar meals every week when Cook Smarts showed up in my life.

With Cook Smarts I receive a pre-planned menu every Thursday. I can easily review the plan from my phone while in class or between kids’ activities. My selections populate an organized grocery list that I can access from my phone, perfect for those times when I am able to make a quick run to the store. Sometimes a Cook Smarts recipe reminds me of an old favorite, and so I will substitute or modify – I’m not afraid to improvise. Still, the structure of this service is immensely helpful and my family loves the variety and quality of the meals, so we’re all happy to have Cook Smarts in our lives.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROUDEST KITCHEN MOMENT.

I make some pretty good biscuits and gravy. There have been a few times I’ve introduced a new vegetable and my husband has been totally blown away. I really do live off the enthusiasm of others for my kitchen creations – I think a lot about the people I am cooking for, so it makes me happy to make their bellies full and their mouths happy!

WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR HEALTH AND SUCCESS IN THE KITCHEN?

My kids all make their own lunches and snacks after school so my best advice is to stock your home with healthy foods that you don’t have to ration or force feed. It just makes life easier.


Melanie, thank you so much for sharing your cooking journey! We’re so honored to be a part of it, helping wherever we can, so that you can spend more quality time with your family and focus on school and work. Also, kudos to you for raising healthy eaters – maybe we’ll need to consult your kids the next time we do a kid’s lunch and snack series!

To join Melanie and cook meals like her favorite Paneer Tomato and Spinach Curry, Jerk Chicken Thighs, Pork Schnitzel with Dijon Cream, and Sriracha Honey Shrimp, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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