Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: E-Mealz

In the category of 'best review product I didn't know I needed' I need to nominate E-Mealz...

Oh, my.  This is amazing, and I'll be finding the $15 every three months to continue my subscription.

So what is E-Mealz? Basically, it is a weekly meal plan, including pricing information (for most of the plans) and a grocery list.  The menu is on a single page and the shopping list is on a single page as well.

But that doesn't do it justice.

When I found out that E-Mealz was to be a Crew vendor this year, I knew a lot of people would be excited.  They are highly recommended by Dave Ramsey, and I hear about them fairly often in my online circles.  But I was fairly ambivalent.  I mean, I looked at some of the things they said about themselves and didn't think it was really going to be a worthwhile service for me.

Why didn't I think it would work?
  1. the meal plans are for either 4-6 people, and we have 7... including two teen boys (well, William will be a teen next month) so I'd need to be constantly adjusting things. (They also have meal plans for 1-2 people, by the way.)
  2. More important, though, the regular meal plans are set up so that they will cost roughly $75-85 per week.  That's dinner only, and that is based on serving 4-6 people.  Ummm... that is more than my weekly budget for everything... dinner and breakfast, lunch and snacks, and stuff like toilet paper too.  I can't spend this much.  
So I was interested, but quite skeptical.

Decided I was going to give it a serious try though... and oh, am I ever glad I did.

First off, there is no reason that I have to treat these recipes any differently than I do other recipes... which means when it calls for cream of something soup, I feel free to make my own.  Or when it wants me to buy hoagie rolls, I use the bread machine to get dough going and do my own thing.  If it calls for pre-cooked bacon, I cook up my own.

Plus, for side dishes, I substitute or make from scratch... so instead of a box of scalloped potatoes, I used real potatoes and made some.  Or when it called for corn on the cob, I ended up using a can of corn (well, two cans) because I had that on hand.  Or I substitute the veggies from my Bountiful Baskets instead of what they suggest.

In order to make this work for my family, the other thing I do is to usually only plan for about 5 of the 7 dinners... so in this week's plan, for instance (which I'm not using as I'm not home!) I would skip the Grilled London Broil... it calls for a $9 cut of meat that definitely wouldn't feed us all.  Another week, I skipped the meal that called for shrimp.  Most weeks (but not all) there is one meal that is definitely more expensive, and cutting that makes a big difference.

I also find that I don't usually need to seriously increase the recipes.  Add some bread, or a salad, or extra pasta, or add some more vegetables... but I rarely have to increase the meat.

And taste?  I think of all the e-mealz recipes I made over the past six weeks, there was ONE that didn't have anyone begging me to make it again.  Almost all of them had multiple people telling me "this one is a keeper" or "every day and twice on Sunday!"
I don't even remember which recipe this was... but here is the ham I diced up myself, and instead of using a can of diced tomatoes, I chopped up a couple and use a jar of the chunky tomato sauce I had canned.  Added extra onions, more pasta than called for, and added frozen peas.

Stretched the meal and it cost less than indicated.

So if I am making all of these changes, why do I love this?

Stress.  Specifically, the lack of it.  Every Thursday, I print off two pages of a menu plan, figure out which ones I'm going to make, pencil in a couple other things... and I have my grocery list for the week.

I don't have to plan, or really even think.

And we actually end up with food on the table at night.  A meal I did not stress out about all day long.  I didn't have to.  I already knew what we'd be eating.  I still can play with it.  I still can change it up. But the basic outline of a weekly plan is EASY.  This graphic sums it up:
We're eating a wider variety of food this way -- pork, steak, fish, chicken, beans, eggs...  and I'm remembering to make side dishes.  We aren't eating the same few meals every week.

It may not be saving me money... I'm spending pretty much the same money I was before.  But it is saving me the constant every day drip drip drip of that whole "what's for dinner?" dilemma.

And 90% of the meals have been a complete hit with every single member of the family.  The other 10% have had opinions that ranged from "it's okay" to "this is GREAT."  Like I said, only one of the roughly 30 E-Mealz meals has been a "flop" (and by flop, in this case, I mean only that everyone ate it without complaint but nobody insisted that I make it again.)

One incredible thing has been that when I'm in the kitchen making dinner, instead of "what's for dinner?" my kids are asking, "Is it an e-mealz night?"  And when I say yes, they say, "YES!  Then I know it will be good."

While I was using the low-fat Wal-Mart plan, there are lot of other choices available.  Gluten-free, vegetarian, low-carb, portion control... and there are plans designed around the sales in certain stores (none in my region).

Check it out.  Really.  I'm incredibly impressed with how easy this has been to implement, and I'm not sure I'm willing to give it up.

You can read what other TOS Crew Members have to say about various e-mealz options here:

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Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive a three-month subscription to e-mealz in exchange for my review of the product.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

7 comments:

Cristi said...

I'm glad it worked so well for your family! I'm not sure we had any meals that we're hits with my family and some of the dishes are now favorites that they request.

Milk and Honey Mommy said...

Debra,

I also found that I like the service more than I thought I would. I'm also a "scratch girl" and made adjustments when necessary for items that were called for on the menu. I'll be cooking meals this weekend and won't have to worry about wondering what is for dinner.

Debbie said...

This is a very interesting concept! I didn't sign up for this review because I also knew it would cost me more than my budget would allow, so I enjoyed reading how you made simple changes to lower the cost!

tikvah73 said...

I'm feeling pretty skeptical even after yours and Cristi's review, but I might have to try it.

Erika@RaisingLeafs said...

I also made my own sides and changed things to make it cheaper. It's nice that it's versatile.

Diane Allen said...

I too have liked the plan reduction aspects of the plan even though I've had to shift and adjust quite a bit. I am working now to fill my freezer with basic meats bought on sale which I can use when the menu calls for them. For instance - I just bought two of those London Broils at buy one get one prices. That will come around again or I can substitute this meal for a different one.

Anonymous said...

Now if they would just deliver the groceries, I might just try it. And I'm not being sarcastic.