Meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking can sometimes be overwhelming on top of work and other responsibilities. If you can relate, you may benefit from our eMeals review. Find out if this service can help make mealtime more enjoyable for you.
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According to Gallup, 61% of Americans report eating out at a restaurant at least once in a past week. And a whole 16% ate dinner out three or more times per week. And that’s just for dinner!
Clearly if you fall into one of these groups, one way to save money would be to cook at home more often, rather than dining out. But with hectic weeknights and a blase meal plan, you might find you lack ideas, time, and motivation to cook regularly.
Enter eMeals. This meal planning service can help you save money, learn new recipes, and overall enjoy cooking at home more often. With myriad meal plan options and flexible terms, eMeals is a great option to try.
To get started, you’ll need to sign up for an account with eMeals. You can use a free trial for 14 days, but they’ll ask for your credit card number so they can start 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!)
You’ll get access to the weekly meal plan, and eMeals will send you an email when that week’s plan is available. The plan will come with the 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 to one of the eMeals partners for delivery. Currently, they partner with Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, Instacart, and Shipt. Some of these services deliver groceries to your door. Others pull your groceries together for you so that you can pick them up all at once without going through the aisles.
Then, you just cook the meals each night. You can see in the recipe list just how long the recipe takes to prep, so you can choose which one makes the most sense for your schedule. They also label some with different markers to help you plan. For instance, they might label a recipe a “Crowd-Pleaser” and one “On the Grill.”
Perhaps the thing people love most about eMeals is the many, many options they have 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.
Right now, the options include:
- Clean Eating
- Quick and Healthy
- Low Carb
- Low Calorie
- Heart Healthy
- Budget Friendly
- 30 Minute
- Kid Friendly
- Slow Cooker
- Gluten Free
If you like to get your recipes from a particular website, you can also choose meal plan in partnership with one of those websites, including:
- Paula Deen
- Better Homes and Gardens
- Good Housekeeping
With each meal plan, you choose not only the plan style but also 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. So maybe one week you’re super busy, so you can 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. Or just to try different plans!
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dessert 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. The dessert plan adds three dessert recipes for each week.
There is also a special Occasions plan. This can be a great option if you entertain frequently. With this plan, you’ll get a full party, themed, or holiday-related meal plan every other week. You can always 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 plan costs $29.99 for three months (just about $10 per month), or $59.99 for 12 months (just about $5 per month). And, remember, you can also get a free trial with two weeks’ worth of menus before eMeals charges your card.
The lunch and occasions add-on menus cost $4 per month each, and the breakfast and dessert menus cost $3 per month each. So if you add all of them, you could pay up to $199 per year or $67 per three months.
This cost isn’t bad for what eMeals offers, and most of the robust meal planning options online these days do cost at least some 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.
In general, eMeals gets great reviews from the people who love it. However, there are some potential drawbacks, and it isn’t for everyone.
- Easy meal planning: There’s no doubt that eMeals is easy to use. It tells you exactly what groceries you need, and then exactly how to cook the meals. It does a good job of having crossover ingredients between meals so that you don’t waste a lot of food. And it typically uses in-season ingredients when possible to cut down on costs.
- For most people, saves money: 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. Even if you spend $200 a year on all of the plans, you could easily recoup those costs and more just by planning well and eating at home the majority of the time.
- Lots of variety in meals: 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 innovative meal plans 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 add additional 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. Again, if you have a really busy week, you can switch to an easier plan. Or if you want to try a Whole30, switch to the Paleo plan and modify it as needed to be compliant. Then switch back to your previous plan if you want.
- Can add breakfast, lunch, etc: Even people who don’t eat out for dinner often may spend loads of extra money grabbing breakfast on the way to work and dining out for lunch. eMeals can solve that problem cheaply with its additional lunch and breakfast options.
- Makes hosting simple: If you love the idea of throwing dinner parties but have trouble planning them, the eMeals Occasions add-on could be just what you need. With themed and seasonal plans for everything from barbecues to Christmas parties, it’s a fun way to make hosting easier.
- 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. If you’re not used to cooking often, consider ramping up slowly. Get ingredients for only three or four of the week’s meals, and work up slowly to cooking at home every night.
- Difficult to cancel: This is a common complaint with eMeals, and one I’ve struggled with myself. Cancelling 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. And if you have a larger family or are having friends over for dinner, you’ll have to do some work to upsize the meals and grocery list.
- 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. This is to be expected if you’re eating Paleo or another specialized type of diet, of course. But you can eat in these ways on a tight budget if you plan on your own.
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 towards 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. But, 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 new variety if you’d like.
Really, anyone could give eMeals a shot for the fourteen day free trial. (Just remember to call and cancel in time if you decide not to use it long-term!) However, 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 will likely save you time, so it’s worth checking out menus for a couple of weeks to see if it could be helpful for you.
The bottom line here is that eMeals could 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!Topics: Reviews