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Clouts uncast, but not for long

May 15, 2012

As vaguely threatened – a brief review of the NHS 5-a-day meal planner. (Bear with it, there may be less dull things to follow.)

I’m just going to go with a simple list of pros and cons.


  • Free.
  • Online – nothing to download.
  • Simple to use.
  • Inspires healthy food choices – with lots of fruit and veg!
  • A fair if not overwhelming selection of vegetarian choices.
  • Included some meal ideas I might not have thought of.
  • Gives you a shopping list for all the meal choices you’ve included.
  • Gives you recipes for all the meal choices you’ve included. Even for bananas and custard – now that’s dedication.
  • The quantities are tailored to the number of people eating each meal.


  • Limited choices. You can choose which meals to include and, to a limited extent, who’s eating them. But you can only choose meals that are on the database, and there isn’t a massive list.
  • No breakfast! There is a “breakfast booster” thing but it doesn’t actually let you choose what to have for breakfast each day. You just have to pick one or two healthy breakfast items and promise to eat something good every day, or something.
  • Although it was simple to use – it could have usefully included a quick tutorial for the terminally distracted, rather than just leaving you to figure out how it works.
  • The translation of the recipe quantities didn’t always quite work. (For instance, one of my picks was guacamole, and the shopping list said one avocado, but the recipe called for two.)

Overall, a valiant little app – but after more than a week, two at the outside, there would have been no more recipes left to try. And I think that’s OK – after all, the point of it is to get you into the zone and, from that point of view, it worked a treat.

In other news. (Aha!)

First, a moment. My drive home from work today. I was on the edge of a hailstorm – sometimes in the thick of extreme precipitation, sometimes in full sun on dry roads. The road ran, for a while, parallel to the storm. Glancing left, I could see torrential rain only a field or so away. On the outside of a storm, looking in. I wanted someone else to see it (you’ll do, vicariously). Lightning flickered in the corner of one eye, a poltergeist of a rainbow – while I held up a hand to the other eye, to shield it from the brightness of sun.

And then: it’s officially summer! OFFICIALLY!!
I know it hailed today and all that. This is not important. IT’S SUMMER!

I was nearly persuaded to plant out some tiny half-hardened little cucumber plants at the weekend. It is mid-May after all, and the sun was shining. But my instincts were against it and I resisted. Secretly, it was because I hadn’t seen the may – the may being a necessary prerequisite round here to planting anything tender. Ne’er cast a clout and all that.

Smugly, therefore, I drove home from work today in that hailstorm thinking how lucky those cucumbers were to have had such a narrow escape.

BUT. The may is out now – it really is – hailstorm or no – I saw it in the hedgerows even as the hail precipitated on me. The may is out! (I swear it wasn’t there yesterday. For certain.) And now it is, I pronounce that this vile, clinging, everlasting April is finally over. And summer is icumen in. For which I say hooray. Hooray!

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