[Full disclosure: I am an affiliate for eMeals and earn a small commission if you choose to try out eMeals through the links on this page. I am only an affiliate for products that I personally use, love, and stand behind 100% as both a registered dietitian nutritionist and a budget-conscious individual.]
Meal planning is one key to saving money (on groceries and by avoiding restaurant meals) as well as eating a balanced diet. It’s also supposed to save time.
If you’re like me, meal planning is not always a walk in the park. You’ve been overwhelmed by planning dinners at home week after week. You might have even felt guilty that you’re not doing it well enough.
When I fail to plan our meals, we either end up having the same uninspired meals over and over or we end up spending more money than we budgeted on eating out - simply because I’m too tired and have no idea what to make.
As a soon-to-be-married woman last summer, I knew that meal planning was going to be daunting - even though I love to cook and was excited about the idea. I just needed a little help.
Emeals was - and continues to be - the exact help that I needed! We’re going into our second year using it! I’m so excited to tell you about eMeals today because it has truly made meal planning one of the easiest parts of my week! (This is coming from a person who cooked maybe once a week before I got married a year ago.)
What Is eMeals?
Emeals is a meal planning subscription recommended by Dave Ramsey (who Jeremy and I are fans of!) and a budget-conscious registered dietitian and newbie to meal planning - me! ;)
It’s similar to other meal planning subscriptions (like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh), except that you don’t get the food delivered to you, so it’s waaaay cheaper. In fact, eMeals has been shown to save their customers an average of $200 a month!
Emeals is honestly one of the main reasons we are personally able to stick to a grocery budget of less than $80 per week/$360 per month for the two of us!
If you get the main plan that eMeals offers, you will receive a straightforward and simple 7-meal dinner plan (including sides) in your email inbox every week. You can also access your plan using their app - more on that later.
What It Includes
The dinner plan comes with 7 dinner recipes and corresponding side dishes each week. There are also breakfast, lunch, and special occasions plans you can add, but we haven’t tried these.
There are so many different meal plan options! You can always see the recipes on other plans and switch whenever you want via the app or the website! We've tried the Classic, Quick and Healthy, Budget Friendly, Slow Cooker, and Mediterranean plans, and are currently using the 30-Minute plan. It's amazing and so easy!
Options, Options, Options
Here are all of the different meal plan options (as of 2018):
30-Minute (our favorite!)
Quick and Healthy
Budget Friendly (another favorite)
Mediterranean (more on this below:))
Better Homes and Gardens
Here's a list of some of the entrees from a few different plans this week:
Lemon Grilled Salmon and Asparagus (30-Minute)
Shrimp Po' Boys (Classic)
Chicken with Creamy Basil Sauce (Budget Friendly)
Grilled Veggie Pasta Toss (Mediterranean)
Ginger-Miso Flank Steak (Quick and Healthy)
How it works
First, choose your plan from the options above, then choose whether you want the family plan for 4-6 people or the smaller plan for 2-3 people.
There are 7 recipes on each weekly menu. Each menu includes a huge amount of variety, which is one of my favorite things about eMeals.
Meals include a side that pairs with it well (for example, spicy roasted broccoli to go with chicken in a creamy cilantro sauce) - I usually add a second vegetable (or two vegetables if the paired side is a starchy food like rice or potatoes). This is where frozen steamer bags and ready-to-go salad kits really come in handy!
There are two ways to access your plan for the week:
1) a PDF delivered weekly via email or 2) the eMeals app (available for iPhones and Android phones).
Weekly Emailed Meal Plan
I typically print the meal plan PDF from my weekly email and hang it on my fridge. I don’t typically print the shopping list page because I use the Out of Milk shopping list app on my phone instead, but here’s what it looks like:
The items on the shopping list are numbered based on the meal number, so it’s easy to pick out the ones that you need if you’re making, say, three meals from the plan that week. The staples section is a nice reminder to stock up on typical pantry items, like olive oil and salt, if you’re running low.
The app is pretty awesome, because you can choose the meals you’re going to make and add the foods for that meal automatically to a grocery list in the app. You also have the ability to send your grocery list directly from the app to Walmart for curbside pick-up or Shipt or Instacart for delivery!!
Side note: Walmart grocery pickup is currently FREE if you spend over $30! They shop for your list, you pull up to the store, and they bring your groceries out. So handy!
Another cool thing about the app is that if you don’t want to print out the recipes, you can make them using “Cook Mode” on the app. All you do is swipe right after you're done with each step and it takes you to the next one.
There’s also a Favorites feature. When you come across a new family favorite, you can click a little heart button at the top of the recipe and it’s added to your personal favorites collection within the app. This is an awesome feature, but I don’t use it that much because I like to write on recipes (I modify 99% of recipes I make - eMeals or otherwise. Is anybody else like me in this??). Since I print out the PDF of my meals, I just write my notes on the page and put the in a page protector in a 3-ring binder where I keep our favorite recipes.
Now that you get the idea of how we use eMeals, I want to share what I love about it most!
Our Favorite things about Emeals
The first reason we love eMeals is that it adds a ton of variety to our weekly dinners. The first year we used eMeals, I had the goal of making 3 or 4 eMeals per week out of the 7 they sent us in our meal plan. This gave us the flexibility of choosing the meals that looked best to us and also helped us try a TON of new recipes. Some of them became favorites that I added to my recipe binder.
This year, I only have a goal of making at least 1 or 2 recipes from our eMeals plan each week. Sometimes we make more (like this week!), but often the rest of our meals are favorites that we like having often, simply because we now have so many favorites! Some of our favorite staples are tacos, homemade pizza, pasta with meat sauce, salmon burgers, and bibimbap from Budget Bytes.
It may not sound like a lot to make only 1 or 2 recipes out of the 7 we get from eMeals each week, but by the end of the year we will have tried 50 to 100 new recipes! This is far more new recipes than I would normally try - even if I bought 2 new cookbooks a year (the equivalent of the cost of eMeals).
2. It helps us avoid recipe overwhelm from multiple food blogs & cookbooks.
This one is huge. One of my personal weaknesses is that I sometimes struggle with making small, insignificant decisions - especially at the end of the day or when I’m really tired. In fact, I’ve learned that if I’m spending 5-10 minutes going back and forth over a minor decision (like whether we should watch another episode on Netflix or which energy ball recipe to make), it’s a strong indicator that I’m tired.
So now that you know one of my weak points, you’ll understand why I love eMeals so much! Getting an email every week with only 7 seasonal dinner recipes to choose from instead of thousands in cookbooks and on food blogs is incredibly freeing for me! I simply look through my limited - but seasonally appropriate - options and choose my favorite ones. Crisis averted. :)
3. It saves me tons of time planning!
Aside from avoiding the decision fatigue from looking through cookbooks and scrolling through blogs, using eMeals to try new recipes saves time! This saves me buckets of time that I would normally spend leafing through cookbooks or scrolling through food blogs looking for the perfect seasonal recipes for the week.
I still love reading food blogs and cookbooks, but they take a backseat to eMeals simply because of the time factor. I plan our meals for the week in this order: 1-2 eMeals (unless I don't want to look through cookbooks or make any favorites that week and want to make more eMeals), 2-3 favorites (see above), then a recipe or two from a blog or cookbook only if I have time and feel like it.
This way, I don’t feel like I’m locked in to only using eMeals for every dinner recipe, but it’s a consistent source of inspiration and variety for my meal plan each week.
4. The meals are quick to prepare - using the 30-minute meals plan.
Another thing I love about eMeals - their 30-minute plan in particular - is how fast and easy the meals are to prepare! We switched to the 30-minute meals plan a couple of weeks ago and I’m extremely impressed!
The 30-minute meals are easy to put together without being basic and boring at all. The fact that the meals only take 30 minutes is a huge motivating factor for me when I come home and the thought of spending an hour in the kitchen creates a sense of dread in me. Instead, I know that the meals will be quick and well worth my time.
Plus, Jeremy and I have more time for Netflix and chill after dinner. :)
5. The opportunity for me to try it out for free first!
Emeals offers a free two-week trial to see if the product is a good fit for you. I love this!
I did a two-week free trial of eMeals over a year ago and decided that eMeals was PERFECT for me!
While I am a HUGE fan of eMeals and this is my second year of using it, it does have a few drawbacks to consider.
1. Not all meals are necessarily Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean eMeals plan aligns most closely with my preferred Mediterranean way of eating, but a lot of the recipes on the Mediterranean plan take longer than I'd like (typically more like 45 minutes to an hour). For this reason, we don’t use the Mediterranean plan, but we are still able to easily follow a Mediterranean diet using any plan we choose.
We do this by:
Choosing meals with a fish or chicken main dish instead of beef or pork (there are typically only 1 or 2 red meat recipes per week anyway)
Swapping in whole grains whenever possible (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain buns, etc.)
Using olive oil in place of butter and other oils
Adding an extra side or two of vegetables (Yay for salad kits and frozen steamer bags!).
All it takes are these simple little tweaks, and you have a very Mediterranean-friendly meal. :)
If you resonated with my sense of overwhelm about planning to prepare almost all of our meals at home every week, you run out of ideas for what to make for dinner on a regular basis (like me), or your grocery shopping sometimes gets a little out of control and you spend way more than you expected, you might consider the eMeals two-week free trial to see if it’s a good fit for you!
I appreciate the transparency of a company that allows me to not just see sample meals, but actually jump in and give the program a try for two weeks before deciding if it's a good fit! I’m so glad I tried eMeals over a year ago. It has been a total game-changer for Jeremy and me. :)
Have you tried eMeals already? What was your favorite plan?