Friday, January 22, 2010

Meal Planning

My wife Lauren kind of made a new years resolution to be more organized, which, by some strange rules of marriage, means that I too , somehow, made the same resolution, which by some strange rule means I now have to clean up after myself and put things away "where they belong, not where you think they go."

One of the ways I wanted to try and reign in the chaos was to become more organized with how we do our food shopping. Planning meals and making accurate shopping lists, not only would our day to day lives easier but we could also save money by budgeting and only making one trip to the grocery store.

When we lived in Florida I made an Excel spreadsheet based on the contents of each aisle of the Publix super market where we shopped. It took some time to do but it was worth it. When I made our shopping list I sorted the items on the list by aisle number, shopping was never so easy. I never had to back track in the store because I forgot to get peanut butter and pass the snack aisle again and accidentally put 2 barrels of cheese balls into the cart. I shopped efficiently which saved time and money. Since moving back to PA I have yet to make a list like that.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Edelman who were doing some work with Kraft Foods. They wanted to know if I would interested in reviewing Kraft's new APP for the BlackBerry, Kraft Food iFood Assistant. Their website said the APP had a built in shopping list function which I thought would be perfect for me. Downloading the APP to my BlackBerry was free and Kraft offered to send me an AMEX gift card to "try the APP". Here is a disclaimer: I have been compensated by Kraft Foods to cover the cost of groceries to try out recipes and features on their iFood Assistant Lite 2.0 and to conduct a reader giveaway. My opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to post positive sentiments Kraft Foods or their mobile device offerings.

After receiving the AMEX gift card Lauren and I decided to try Kraft's 1 Bag 5 Dinners feature on their website. I clicked on the various menu buttons, adding the ingredients to my shopping list which would be accessible from my BlackBerry. I also printed the list and recipes from their website as backup. Lauren and I thought the whole experiment in planning our weekly meals would be fun and how cool that our first try would be on Kraft's dime. Lauren and I also put together our regular food shopping list for the week and we headed to the Giant Food Super Store.

Once in the store I tried to open the iFood application on my BlackBerry. It would not open. There was no decent signal. I then remembered that I can never get a decent signal in any large box store, ever. I kept trying and trying to load the APP but it would not work. I tried by the deli, nothing. I tried in the bakery, nothing. I tried in dairy, meat and seasonal sections and still nothing. It was very frustrating. It was good thing that I printed the list. We filled our cart with the Kraft ingredients as well as other items we would need and proceeded to the check out.

The check out clerk gave us our total. I swiped the AMEX gift card to compensate for the Kraft purchases. The card did not work. I swiped it again, nothing. There was that awkward moment where the clerk kind of rolled her eyes and looked at me like I was an idiot that did not know how to swipe a card. I told her it was a an AMEX gift card so maybe that was the problem. Which she then confirmed that it was a problem. Giant Food Stores does not accept American Express. I did the whole credit card shuffle in my wallet and presented my bank card to pay for our food.

Our fun experiment was becoming annoying.

Sorry, this post just became a Dennis Story (a Dennis Story is any story that goes on too long named after my brother Dennis who does not know how to tell a short story).

Anyway, the actual recipes that we tried for the week, the whole 1 bag 5 meals, were all really really good. Each recipe for the week included using Kraft Lite Zesty Italian Dressing which really added a great flavor to each meal. One of the meals we used the dressing, instead of oil or butter, to saute onions, which I thought was a great idea. The APP itself is a great way to get recipes although I prefer just using their website. The practicality of the APP, being on a mobile device is not really, well, practical in my opinion. The shopping list feature, which to me is the one thing you would need the mobility of the APP for, could use major improvements. I do plan to use the Kraft website more often in the future for their recipes as well as their meal planning tips. They have a section Prep-and-Freeze which looks cool and useful.

As part of the deal for me trying their iFood Assistant, Kraft gave me two $50. gift card to give away to readers. So for a chance to win a $50 gift card we are going to play Price is Right. In the comments the two people who guess the total dollar amount Lauren and I spent at the Giant on our shopping trip (closest to the amount without going over) will receive one of the gift cards. Only one guess per person and I will not accept duplicate amounts so please read other peoples guesses. LEAVE COMMENTS ON THE MAIN POOP AND BOOGIES PAGE. NOT HERE ON THE REVIEW SITE. Gift Cards are only valid in the US and maybe Canada. As a hint we spent over 40 but under 100 bucks. Remember the total is not just the Kraft items but our whole shopping trip. I will stop take guesses on Sunday 1/24/2010 at midnight. If you do not have a Blogger account (or a way for me to contact you) leave a comment but also email me at batmeaks at verizon dot net.

I will contact the winners on Monday.