It seems gadgets and gimmicks abound to make our lives easier these days.

None are as ubiquitous as those designed to help us plan and prepare meals. You can order pre-made meals, with ingredients precisely measured, to be delivered to your door.

You can subscribe to a service that plans your meals and makes shopping lists for you, while you do your own preparing.

You can get someone to do your grocery shopping for you, or you can order online from your grocery store and they’ll bag it up and have it ready for you to come get it.

For the more well-to-do, there are personal chef services. Not only will the groceries be purchased, the meals will be prepared for you.

Because nearly all of this originates with a computer or smartphone, it all seems new and modern. But the truth is many of these products and services are updated versions of some that have been around for years.

In the small town where I grew up, we had a local grocery store that not only took phone orders, but also made deliveries. My family did not participate in this service (which I’m sure was due to a cost my parents did not wish to pay), but I knew families that routinely ordered groceries and either picked them up or had them delivered.

I remember milk from the local dairy being delivered to our door in bottles. The bottles would be left on the doorstep (by “the milkman”) and empties would be retrieved there. This was before recycling was even a thing.

And, of course, there were folks (not us) who had housekeepers who cooked as part of their duties.

When I married and started my own family, there were plenty of other avenues for helping busy families put food on the table.

I wrote last year about a meal co-op we participated in when our children were young, when my wife and I were trying to keep what seemed like a bazillion plates in the air. That lasted two days after everyone got sick after the second meal and one of the participating families bailed.

There was another popular meal prep system going around at the time, based on the concept of preparing a month’s worth of dinners in a weekend. The idea was to involve the entire family in the process. For obvious reasons, you needed ample freezer space.

There was a family who used this system that I will never forget. They had four children, and they dedicated a weekend a month to preparing meals for the next 30 days. I would say at the time they did this, their children were all under 10.

I was not at their house when this took place, but I can’t believe it was not chaotic.

We only had three children, with a seven-year span from oldest to youngest, and I well remember the confusion that ensued when we undertook projects as simple as decorating a Christmas tree. It would never have occurred to me to put any of my three in close proximity to a knife or any other cutting instrument necessary for the preparation of food.

I knew these folks from church and I sang in the choir with the mom and dad. When we were to sing in the 9 a.m. Sunday service, we would arrive at 8 a.m. to rehearse.

Because they were both choir members, mom and dad would bring all the kids with them when they came for the 8 a.m. rehearsal. (I greatly admired their dedication, getting all those little ones awake and dressed and there by 8 on Sunday morning).

On one of these Sunday mornings, there was a distinct and unmistakable smell of onions in the worship center as we rehearsed. We choir members began to look at each other with questioning eyes, wondering if perhaps a fellow parishioner might have prepared breakfast for us as an act of service.

We then realized we had started smelling onions when the couple with the four children had arrived. Ultimately, they confessed it was their meal preparing weekend. Saturday had been spent with the entire family helping, a big part of which obviously involved onions. The aromatic scent permeated church that morning.

You just can’t get stories like this from the modern meal services.

It’s over, and I was right

Three weeks ago, I started telling you about the dispute between Nexstar Media and the AT&T television service providers, resulting in AT&T U-verse and DirecTV not broadcasting programming from the local ABC affiliate since early July.

I predicted that, with football season soon starting, and the seriousness with which people take that sport around these parts, the disagreement between these companies would be settled by the time the college season began. Otherwise AT&T could prepare for losing some customers, and not an insignificant amount.

In last week’s installment I said I was backing off from that after my wife’s most recent discussion with AT&T in which they had offered little encouragement. Since we’re U-verse customers, she was trying to decide what to do about watching the Auburn game scheduled to air on ABC Saturday night.

But this past Thursday, scarcely 48 hours from game time, what do you know? She punched in the ABC number and there it was.

A brief story posted on The Tennessean website confirmed that “Nexstar reached an agreement Thursday with DirecTV, AT&T TV and AT&T U-verse for immediate distribution, ending the local outage of WKRN (Channel 2, and the Nashville ABC affiliate) for those subscribers.”

Thanks to readers who offered helpful suggestions of how we would be able to watch the weekend’s games on ABC if the impasse had continued. A couple of you suggested going “off air” and using an antenna, and one of you even explained how I could rig one up myself with a paper clip.

Another, who is also a friend, said she and her husband would be out of town over the weekend, but offered to let us watch at their house and help ourselves to anything in the refrigerator.

As I come up on deadline on Friday, I’m wondering if she knows the matter has been settled. I mean, if she has gone to the trouble of providing food and drink for us, it would be rude to reject her hospitality.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at









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