Last year, my college student cousin asked for my assistance in creating her budget, mainly because I’m the neurotic number-cruncher in our family. After we talked for a bit, we quickly identified that food was a large area where she could save money, as she lived off-campus…in Hawaii. I can’t possibly describe how much I wished to help her in person.
I asked her what sort of stores she had access to, and if she got sales fliers. “The key is to pull out the sales fliers, and make a meal plan and shopping list each week based on what’s on sale,” I said.
“Ummm, a meal plan?”
I realized that no one taught me how to create a meal plan, and no one had taught her. My weekly process has evolved through tribulation, failure, and desperation. The most dreaded words in my house used to be: “What’s for dinner?” immediately followed by my patented “deer in the headlights” look.
Finally I learned and each week I’d look through the sales fliers, look through my pantry, see what’s in season, and put together a meal plan for the week with a shopping list. I realized that people like my cousin (a busy student and entrepreneur) didn’t have the time for, or didn’t prioritize something like meal planning in their routine. I looked for a service that would provide healthy meal plans for her, but it seemed there was no middle ground between vegetarianism and plastic cheese.
For a while I’d been looking for a business that was based on product and not time. I’ve had side hustles in the past, but they were reliant on me to be there, and last time I checked, hours are still rationed to 24 each day, a very limited resource.
I began to wonder if people might pay for the time I already put into planning good meals for my family. Since I knew there were successful weekly meal plan services in existence, I probably didn’t test the idea as much as I should have; I reviewed their sites, blogs, and social networking pages for complaints. My dad always told me it’s easier to make a product better, than to reinvent the wheel. Eventually I decided on seasonal meal plans; buying seasonal is healthier and generally less expensive because the produce is in abundance. So people save money regardless of where they shop, and eat healthier.
Once I did talk with people I knew fit the demographic, I asked them if this was a service they would use, and if they would be willing to pay $5-8 each month for the convenience. The answer was a resounding “Yes!” Whether people were looking to save time or money, they wanted something easy, complete, and delivered on time.
I partnered with one of my favorite people to create a website and help me with meal plans. While I like the way my family eats, I know it’s not the only way. Al brings vegetarian cooking, marketing experience, and a healthy dose of cynicism to the table. Luckily, we think on the same page and our partnership has been smooth. Not everyone can count on that. Al and I created an LLC, designed our brand and built our website. We were on a very tight budget, and had to be creative with the website and the meal plan delivery. Every time we thought we had figured out what we needed and how it was going to work, a new problem or complication would flip us the bird. Plug-in “A” thinks plug-in “B” is a pansy and refuses to play in the same yard. We spent a few bucks and every weekend for three months tuning what we wanted to present, and we launched this last month.
Within an hour of launch we had our first subscriber to a premium seasonal meal plan. (And no, it wasn’t my mother….or Al’s.) That first subscriber gave us the courage we needed to let this fly. Both very pessimistic by nature, I think Al and I had to overcome ourselves more than anything. Now, I get a little happier when I do meal plans each week, knowing that it’s not just for me. People are using my hard work to save money and eat healthier, which I think is just about as sexy as budgets.
We’d like to give one lucky Budgets Are Sexy reader a free 3-month subscription to our meal plans! All you have to do if you’re interested is answer this simple question and you’ll be entered to win: Do you know what you’re eating tomorrow? If yes, what? If no, why not?
I (Andi) will personally email back the winner in 3 days, and get you started on the free meal plans :) Thanks for reading everyone!
Guest post by Andi Blackwell who spends her free time with her husband and dog and her hustlin’ time at MealPlanRescue.com. If YOU’ve got a side hustle you’d like to share with us, give us a shout
(Food faces by Colin Kloecker)