How I Simpified Meal Planning ~ a review and a giveaway

I love to cook. I like to make up new recipes, to find creative ways to make delicious food with dietary restrictions, to make a beautiful plate. Really I like to play chef.

Cashew Sesame Noodles

But I am also a mama, a wife, a housekeeper, a homeschool teacher, a chauffeur, a writer, a volunteer in my community, a goat nanny... the list goes on. It is a full life.

Unable to keep up with it all, I realized a few years ago that I needed a way to simplify my kitchen activities. I tried planning simpler menus but kept forgetting to actually plan, and would spend silly amounts of time each day figuring out what I could make with what I had on hand. I was terrible at getting dinner on the table on time.

So when a local homeschooling mom sent out a call for beta-testers of a new meal planning website a few months ago I signed right up!

Pepperoni Chicken

I was so impressed by Build A Menu's service, and their heart to do good, that I became a paying member this January after they launched their full site.

Since I am finding Build A Menu to be such a help to me as I go about my busy week, and because I feel so passionately about using our gifts to serve others (as Build A Menu does with its support of orphan care), I decided to do a review to let more people know about this wonderful new service.

Hash Browns with Greens (all steamy in the pot)

Build A Menu was started by sisters Karee Blunt and Lisa Holcomb to help families both simplify meal planning and stay within a budget.

My subscription costs me $2 per week, and allows me to customize a menu based on my favorite store. Every week they publish a great selection of recipes that take advantage of sales at that store. Hooray for the budget!

Each meal shows its total cost as well as ingredient list before I choose it, so I can make decisions based on price and the ingredients I already have on hand. Once I select the menu I want for the week, I print all of the recipes, as well as a shopping list (oh do I love the shopping list!)

A really cool feature of the service is that I am not limited to a specific seven meals each week like other meal planning websites I have looked into. I can pick any seven dinner recipes from across all of the menu categories. In fact, I have run into the problem of wanting to use more than seven dinner recipes in a given week!

The store options:
  • Fred Meyer
  • HEB 
  • Kroger
  • Safeway
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods
  • Any Grocery Store 
  • coming soon Costco (YAY!) and Publix

And the menu category options:
  • family friendly
  • low fat
  • low carb
  • sensible portions
  • gluten free
  • vegetarian
  • slow cooker
  • soups on!
  • crowd pleasers
  • grill a meal
  • manly meals

These women totally get my life. It's like they somehow know that I have several days with afternoon activities so need a few crockpot recipes, and I cook low carb for my husband, and even occasionally prepare meals for friends who eat gluten-free! Regular people have complicated lives, sometimes even in the kitchen. I'm so glad Build A Menu doesn't restrict the menu options.

Now here is where my heart is completely captured by these wonderful folks. Karee and Lisa both mother biological and adopted children. Their passion for adoption led them to decide to give a portion of Build A Menu's proceeds to orphan care ministry. In fact, you can even choose which organization you want your portion to go to!

Please take a moment to read this beautiful blog post Karee wrote a few months ago. It is incredible to me that I can contribute in a small way by using a service that benefits me so much.

And now for some more yummy pictures! I made all of the recipes in this post in a two week period....

Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup

Crock Creole Chicken

Bean and Kale Ragu

Slow Cooker Artichoke Pasta

Curried Tomato Bisque

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

Spicy Fish

Quiche with Hash Brown Crust

Thai Basil Chicken

I pay for this subscription because I think it's worth it. I emailed Karee and Lisa to tell them I was going to review the site, and guess what?

They have offered a free two month subscription to Build A Menu to one of you! I think you will find it a great blessing!

There are three ways to enter the Build A Menu two month subscription giveaway (please leave a separate comment for each... one comment = one chance to win):

  1. "Like" Build A Menu on Facebook
  2. Tweet "I just entered to win a free meal planning subscription to @BuildAMenu!"
  3. Tell me... which of those yummy dishes above would you want me to serve if you came to hang out for dinner at the farm?

Please include a way to contact you (via email, twitter or facebook) in one of your comments.

The Build A Menu giveaway will end on Friday, February 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. The winner will be chosen using  This giveaway is now closed.

I hope you win!  


UPDATE 02/11/12: Congratulations NeKisha! I think you are going to enjoy your new two month subscription to Build A Menu! 

All photos by Patti Brown, all dishes made from Build A Menu recipes.

Disclosure: I am a paying subscriber to Build A Menu. I did not receive anything to do this review and giveaway. I just think you will love them!

Disclosure update 07/28/12: BAM has recently started an affiliate program, so I have changed some of the links in this post to my affiliate link. All it means is that if you click through and sign up, I get credit. Which makes it even easier for me to buy the ingredients for yummy Build A Menu meals! :-)


  1. If I am already a fan on Facebook does that count as 1??? :)

  2. I want to try the Artichoke Pasta.....and the creamy brocoli cheese soup :)

  3. I "liked" Build a menu on FB.

  4. I would to try the creamy broccoli soup.

  5. Definitely the broccoli soup. Its a weakness!

  6. Liked on facebook!

  7. We love breakfast in my house so I would have to to try the hashbrown crust quiche. do you get the gluten free menu....looking for real food menu or real with gluten free!

  8. I would want pepperoni chicken! :)

  9. I liked build a menu on FB. Thanks for the entry!! :))

  10. I would love to try the Thai basil chicken!
    Thanks for the entry ;0)

  11. Wow...the broccoli cheese soup looks delicious. Definately need to try that recipe. Thanks for offering a giveaway.
    bertschbunch at q dot com

  12. Broccoli Cheese Soup and Artichoke Pasta!!! YUM!!!

  13. I liked it on FB.
    THank you,
    l-belle at hotmail dot com

  14. I definitely would love the Thai Basil dish!
    THank you,
    l-belle at hotmail dot com

  15. I liked Build a menu of fb

  16. I would want the curried tomato bisque!

  17. Build a Menu looks awesome! I liked them on FB & I'd try Basil Thai Chicken.

  18. Crock creole chicken looks awesome. What a great site.

  19. I have liked Build a Menu on FB

  20. I would love to try the Thai Basil Chicken. Sounds like something different than the norm!

  21. I tweeted what you asked us to. :) @NeKishaRowe

  22. ooooh oooh oooh!!! I liked them on FB, I dont tweet, and that last pic of Thai Basil Chicken makes my mouth water! :)

  23. Creamy mushroom soup would be awesome to serve for dinner!

  24. I,d try the pepperoni chicken!

  25. I would love to try the quiche with hash brown crust-yummy:)
    miamichickens at yahoo dot com

  26. I "liked" Build a Menu of fb.
    miamichickens at yahoo dot com

  27. I liked the page on fb!! Its incredible!! I need a dairy free option though :)


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