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Thursday, October 20, 2011

E-Mealz = Easy Meals = Happy Mom

I got a chance to get some help planning our meals courtesy of E-mealz and The Old Schoolhouse (TOS).

E-Mealz is a meal planning service that describes itself as "easy dinner menus for busy and frugal people."  That describes me.  I am busy and I am definitely frugal.  I mean, I don't shop at the Frugal Hoosier or anything,(that was for all you The Middle fans out there!) but, I have been known to be interested in pinching a penny or two....or three.....or four hundred!

You can customize the meal plan for the size of your family, the store you shop in, and even if you have certain dietary needs (low fat, gluten free, low carb, vegetarian).

For me, I chose the Kroger meal plan.  It was a tough choice between Kroger and Aldi, but the Kroger is closer to our house, so I picked that one.   Honestly, I sort of thought I would try the Kroger plan for a while and then switch to the Aldi plan and try that one....but, if I did make that change, it would be permanent,
which I wasn't ready to commit to. 

I also chose the "feeds 4-6 people" option.  Now, there are actually 8 people in my, I was curious to see if the plan would actually feed us all.  I hoped it would, since three of them are 6 and under. 

It did. 

We didn't have a lot of leftovers....but it did feed us.  Although, at almost every meal......there would be a  chorus around the table of things like:

 "Is that it?" 

"How is that going to be enough for all of us?" 

Then, almost every time, at the end of the meal everyone would be full.....and sometimes there would actually be a little leftover....not very often....but sometimes!  So, I think it is probably also helping all of us a bit with portion control.

I had every intention of showing you beautifully photographed meals.....but we were always so excited to eat them....that I didn't remember to take any pictures.  Not any.  Ooops. 

What I Liked:  Really and truly, I liked everything.  They give you a weekly meal plan with meals....but, they also give you a grocery list based on the sales flyers for your store.  The grocery list is organized by section and lists what meal it is for as well as its price. 

The prices I found were not always 100% accurate....some were higher and some were, it probably balanced out in the end.  My meals for each week averaged around $80 or so. 

E-mealz gave me 7 meals for the week.  I think there was only one week that I made all 7 meals.  I usually take Sundays off and we have popcorn or cereal for dinner.  I know, I can just write my name on the Supermom ballot right is spelled K-a-y-l-a!

There were other times that because we had other things going on,  I just didn't cook, but most weeks, I still bought the ingredients for meals that I knew we would like....then I knew I would have everything I needed when I got around to cooking them.  Although I learned quickly that I had to label the food I needed....or threaten the people in my household with bodily harm if they ate stuff that was slated to be used in an upcoming E-mealz recipe!  It took a bit of training, but now they will ask me if they can have "insert food here" or if it is for a meal.

The meal plans also tell you what "staples" you should have on hand.  Honestly, some of the things they considered staples, I didn' I learned to check the list carefully and make sure that I circled it or made note of it somewhere else so I wouldn't forget to pick it up.  Things like flour, salt, pepper and vegetable oil I consider staples.  But, Julia Child that I am, I do not have on hand things like balsamic vinegar, olive oil, creole seasoning (not a spice that you see a lot in my Minnesota blood, hotdish makin' Scandinavian cooking repertoire), and something called Old Bay seasoning.    Well, I take that back....I now have these things on hand, so I guess you can call me "Julia"...that is spelled J-u-l-i-a.

The meal plans had me trying new things.  For some reason, I have always been afraid to cook fish....but Tilapia has been on the menu a few times now, and I am no longer afraid! 

The meals also include side dish plans.  I used most of their recommendations, but if I already had something on hand, fresh vegies or a bag of frozen vegies, lots of times I just substituted what I had.  But, it was nice to have the recommendations.

What I Didn't Like:  The only thing I didn't like was having the self realization that even though planning meals and making grocery lists is something that a competent, grown up should be able to do on their own.....I haven't been able to successfully do it on my own without E-mealz.  Grrr....but, God bless sisters Jane and Jenny for coming up with this idea for grown ups that lack that skill....or are just too busy to do it on their own!

Honestly, I think one of the best aspects of E-mealz is that I didn't have to think. 

I didn't have to think....unless I wanted to.  Rainman could call me from work and I knew what was for dinner.  I didn't have to get annoyed with him for asking.  I didn't have to rummage through the freezer in the middle of our school day, hoping that we had something besides frozen pizza to feed everyone.

All I had to do was check my list....sometimes the night before....but usually with my morning coffee, so if I had to thaw anything, I just pulled it out before school started.

The kids liked helping me too.  We all liked voting on our favorites (there were a lot).  We sat down together and lit candles.  Yes, candles.  The meals felt that special.  None of the meals were hard to make - all 7 recipes and their instructions  fit on one they have to be easy.

This super program costs $15 for 3 months of meal plans. 

Go ahead and take a look for yourself at E-mealz Frequently Asked Questions, in case I have left you with more questions than answers. 

If you want to take a look at an example of a weekly meal plan and grocery list, just click here.  Choose what plan you want to take a look at and click.

If you want to see what other TOS crew members had to say about E-mealz, go take a look.

I received 3 months of meal plans free from E-mealz in exchange for an honest review of their product.