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WEB REVIEW: Online help for escaping dinner rut and menu freeze

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Jim Cota

I don’t mind buying things, but I hate “shopping” for things.

Even the people I know who like to shop don’t find a lot of pleasure at the grocery store. As hard as the merchandising folks try to create an “Old World market” atmosphere, there’s just no ignoring those giant arc lights on the ceiling and the thousands of products competing for your attention. And if you should be so lucky to be towing three or four children with you … well, let’s just say they can really enhance the experience.

Compounding those problems is the “dinner rut.” Unless you really like to shop and cook, chances are you’ve found yourself standing in the kitchen, wondering what you can possibly make for dinner with the ingredients in your fridge, and soon find yourself making the same thing you made last week, calling the local pizza parlor, or texting your spouse with instructions to pick up something on the way home.

The problem with all of this is that it’s more expensive than it needs to be. And, frankly, it’s a little boring.

But fear not. There are a number of solutions to this problem, including grocery services that will bring goods directly to your house.

Probably the most interesting here in Indianapolis is Green B.E.A.N. Delivery (www.greenbeandelivery.com). The B.E.A.N. in the name is an acronym for Biodynamic, Education, Agriculture and Nutrition, and the company works hard to live up to it. The service provides free home delivery of fresh produce and groceries from local farmers and artisans. It functions as a membership service, where you sign up and create a standing order of at least $35.

This order is a “bin” that you fill with items you’d like to have delivered either weekly or biweekly. A standard bin contains “a healthy variety of organic fruits and vegetables.” It’s a great way to get healthy, organic food year-round while supporting local farmers and minimizing your carbon footprint.

On the “what’s for dinner” side, there are a number of options, as well. One of the best is Epicurious (www.epicurious.com). Epicurious is available online and as both an iPhone and iPad application. Epicurious bills itself as the “first truly smart cookbook,” and it has some features that are really great.

First, the recipes are top-notch (though they tend to lean toward the complex side). You can find something based on category (like appetizers, desserts or even “Super Bowl”), by ingredient, or by searching. You can store your favorites or find new ones based on other users’ ratings.

One of the best things is the integrated shopping list. Simply select the recipes you want to make, hit the “shopping list” icon, and all the required ingredients are compiled on one main shopping list. You can send it to your phone or e-mail, or simply use the application in the store.

I recently found out about a different site called E-mealz (www.e-mealz.com) that bridges the gap, in a sense. E-mealz is an online service designed to help you save money on groceries while still making good, healthful meals. The idea is this: You create an account, pick your favorite grocery store (currently Kroger, Wal-Mart and Aldi are available) and select a meal plan. Meal plans range from meals for two people to families of four to six. There are also plans for those who have dietary concerns and want meals that are gluten-free, low-carb, low-fat, vegetarian or otherwise different from standard fare. Once you’ve made your selections, the site provides a complete weekly meal plan based on recipes provided and cross-referenced with items currently on sale in your store. For example, the Kroger plan is updated every Sunday and takes into account the current sales fliers. The shopping list is customized based on the recipes and your store of choice and then condensed into one page for simplicity.

Even better, the recipes are included on the plan, with simple instructions that even the most inadequate cook could follow.

There is a small fee of $5 a month to be a member, but members report far greater savings by having the meal plan, as well as complete avoidance of the dreaded “five o’clock cupboard stare” and the infamous dinner rut. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. I suspect that both your wallet and your family will thank you.•

__________

Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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