Recently my wife and I used a coupon to try out HelloFresh which, if you aren't familiar with it, is one of those pre portioned meal services that seem to be the new hotness. While the experience was mostly positive, I found it way too expensive to keep using. A bit wasteful too - I had no idea what to do with all that refrigerated packaging.

But there was something I did really value about the experience. My wife and weren't required to figure out what meals we were going to eat every week.

I don't really like spending any large amount of time deciding what we should eat and what ingredients we will need. So we frequently just end up recycling the same meals, picking out something fast and unhealthy, or... ordering pizza. Or my wife spends hours finding recipes and planning meals because she's awesome like that. But those are hours we just don't have with a toddler.

So I set out to find something like HelloFresh that gave us that provided us with a healthy and adventurous meal plan, but allowed us to get ingredients from our local stores on our own schedule. And I found it in Cook Smarts.

Cook Smarts comes up with a four dinner meal plan every week for you. And if you don't like the options or need to add another, you can choose from their archive of previous meals. You can customize how many people you're prepping for, and whether you want a gluten free, paleo, or vegetarian version of the meal.

I just can't gush enough about how awesome an experience this has been. We don't have to have the dance the What are we going to eat this week dance anymore. Charlie and I get to the grocery store on mondays (Cook Smarts provides a nicely organized shopping list) and we're set for the week. And most of the meals have been baby friendly enough for us to share them with Charlie if we get it ready early enough. The next weeks menu is sent out on Friday so you can actually shop and prep things over the weekend to save time during the week.

Beyond the convenience, it has encouraged us to try new things. The fact that these recipes are delivered to my inbox has a strong psychological effect and I'm more willing to give them a shot, whereas normally I wouldn't have even sought them out. Through Cook Smarts, I've discovered the deliciousness of shallots. Coincidentally, baking a big cookie in a cast iron skillet frequently used to sautée shallots results in some weird flavors.

Cook Smarts is just $6/month if you pay yearly and $8/month if you pay monthly. You can try it out for a few weeks before you decide to sign up and pay.