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According to USDA inflation data, the cost of groceries in June 2023 is 4.7% higher than in June 2022. But the cost of dining out is worse, 7.7% higher than dining out the year before.
For many families, eating at home is cheaper than getting take-out or eating at a restaurant. But the cost of groceries is also a concern. It’s more important than ever to buy what you need and not let your groceries go to waste.
Enter eMeals. This meal planning service can help you shop for what you need, save money, learn new recipes, and overall enjoy cooking at home more often. With numerous meal plan options and flexible terms, eMeals is a great option to try.
How eMeals Works
To get started, you’ll need to sign up for an account with eMeals. You can use a free trial for 14 days to sample the eMeals menu. But eMeals will ask for your credit card number to begin charging you at the end of the trial. Once you’re signed up, you can choose your meal plan, which you can change from week to week. We’ll talk about the meal plan options in the next section. (Be prepared! There are a lot!)
eMeals sends you an email when the week’s plan is available. The plan comes with seven dinner recipes for main dishes and sides for the week, as well as a grocery list.
You can pick up the groceries on your own, or send your shopping list an eMeals partner for delivery. Currently, eMeals partners with Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, Instacart, Shipt, H-E-B, Albertsons, and Safeway.
Some of these services deliver groceries to your door. Others pull your groceries together for you so that you can pick them up instead of going through the aisles.
Related: Read our Meal Delivery Comparison
You can see in the recipe list how long the recipe takes to prep and choose which one makes the most sense for your schedule. eMeals also labels recipes with different markers to help you plan. For instance, they might label a recipe a Crowd-Pleaser or On the Grill.
Perhaps what people love most about eMeals are the many, many options available. Whether you want to eat as cheaply as possible, go with a low-carb menu, or even go paleo, you can do it with eMeals.
Currently, the options include:
- Clean Eating
- Quick and Healthy
- Low Carb
- Low Calorie
- Heart Healthy
- Budget Friendly
- 30 Minute
- Kid Friendly
- Slow Cooker
With each meal plan, you choose the plan style and your family size. You can choose either 1-2 servings or 3-6 servings. You may then need to adjust the recipes slightly to get to your family’s exact needs.
One thing to note is that you can change your meal plan and the meal plan size at any given time. Maybe one week you’re super busy, so you switch to the Quick and Healthy plan or the Slow Cooker plan. Or another week you have guests in town with special dietary needs. You can change your meal plan to accommodate those changes and try different plans.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Other Plans
You can add additional plans to your dinner plan, as well. The lunch plan offers five lunches you can pack for the work or school week, and the breakfast plan offers five quick breakfast recipes.
There are also desserts, Special Occasions, and bonus recipe options. This is great if you entertain frequently. You can also save the recipes you like and stash them away until your next party.
You can pay for eMeals either three months at a time or 12 months at a time. The Dinner Meal Plan costs $29.99 for three months (about $10 per month) and $59.99 for 12 months (around $5 per month). And, remember, you can also get a free trial with two weeks’ worth of menus before eMeals charges your card.
You can also bundle the dinner, lunch, and breakfast menus with the All-Day Meal Plan. The All-Day three-month plan is $39.99 and the 12-month All-Day plan is $99.99.
This cost isn’t bad for what eMeals offers, and most of the robust meal planning options online these days do cost money. However, if you’re on a super tight budget, $60 or more per year might seem like a lot. In this case, you might try a free meal planning option to start.
eMeals Pros and Cons
In general, eMeals receives great reviews from users. It has 4.6 out of 5 stars on the Apple App Store and 4.2 out of 5 stars on Google Play. However, there are some drawbacks, and it isn’t for everyone.
- Easy meal planning: It does a good job of having crossover ingredients between meals to avoid wasting food. It also typically uses in-season ingredients when possible to cut down on costs.
- Saves money for most people: If you’re eating out frequently or constantly wasting food because you don’t meal plan well, eMeals could help you save a significant amount of money.
- Recipe variety: My family sometimes gets into a meal planning rut where we have the same thing over and over again. eMeals keeps that from happening with loads of variety within your particular meal style.
- Accommodates most special requirements: Because of all the specialized plans, eMeals accommodates most health or preference requirements you might have. You can also choose from additional meal plans if you need to cook special meals for certain people in your family.
- Easy to switch between plans: You can switch eMeals plans at any time, so it’s easy to swap out plans depending on your needs or mood.
- May require a lot of cooking: This shouldn’t come as a shocker, but if you want to get the most out of eMeals, you’ll have to actually cook. Otherwise, you’ll buy all the ingredients for the week’s meals, and then waste some when you decide to order pizza instead.
- Difficult to cancel: This is a common complaint with eMeals and one I’ve struggled with myself. Canceling eMeals is kind of a pain if you decide it’s no longer for you. Unlike most online subscriptions, you can’t cancel your account online. You have to actually call them to go through with the cancellation.
- Not many meal size options: Figuring out the eMeals portions can be tough. Sometimes the 1-2 portion meals make enough for a couple to have lunch leftovers. Other times, the 3-6 portion meals don’t make enough to be filling for a family of four.
- Specialized plans could require more expensive ingredients: The cheap meal plans from eMeals will work on a tight grocery budget. But the specialized plans may require more expensive ingredients, bumping up your grocery expenses.
Who Is eMeals For?
Just about anyone who wants to cook at home more could benefit from an eMeals subscription, but here are a few people who might benefit from it the most:
Busy parents: eMeals was originally targeted toward busy moms, and it hasn’t lost some of that slant. With more meal plans, it’s accessible to more people than just parents. But the family-friendly meal plans are great for parents, in particular. The quick and kid-friendly meal plans make a busy life easier. However, if you have picky eaters, eMeals may make things more difficult. Of course, you can always feed the kids their standard macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets, and try out an exotic meal plan for yourself and your spouse.
People who eat out often: If you find yourself eating out constantly and want to save money, eMeals could definitely help with that. Again, remember that you’ll have to start setting aside time to learn to cook at home. Still, if you’re eating out often, even one of the specialized meal plans will likely cut your food spending significantly.
Foodies who enjoy cooking but not planning: If you love trying new flavors and cooking techniques but hate spending time meal planning, eMeals is definitely for you. The meals aren’t typically gourmet, but they include fresh ingredients and a wide variety of flavors. Plus, you can easily switch meal plans to find a new variety if you’d like.
Who It’s Not For
Really, anyone could give eMeals a shot for the fourteen-day free trial. But remember to call and cancel in time if you decide not to use it long-term. The people most likely to be disappointed with the service are those who already have meal planning down pat. If you’re feeding a family of five healthy food on a shoestring budget, eMeals may not save you money. However, it can save you time on grocery shopping, so it’s worth checking out menus for a couple of weeks to see if it may be helpful for you.
The bottom line here is that eMeals can be a great service. But like all good planning services, you have to actually follow the plan to get the most out of it. You can take a few weeks off a year. But to get the most out of this paid meal planning service, plan to cook at home most nights a week for most of the year. Your wallet (and maybe even your health!) may thank you!