I love to meal plan. I like to sit down and plan out two weeks’ worth of meals at a time (goes with my grocery shopping which we do every two weeks to correspond with our pay periods.) We also have certain themes we follow. For instance, in the winter time it is typically baked potatoes on Tuesday.
I was intrigued when the opportunity to review E-Mealz came up. Something that does the meal planning for me? Perhaps save me some time? I wondered if it would work for our family. You see, I am allergic to sulfite. It is in a lot of stuff. It is a preservative and mold inhibitor. It is found in tons of prepackaged foods, tortillas (haven’t been able to find a bought tortilla in this town in months so I’ve had to learn to make them myself) wines, Dijon mustard, seafood and tons of bought cracker varieties. So, to avoid avoidable trips to the ER, I do a lot of cooking from scratch.
E-Mealz is set up so you pay for a subscription (or purchase a gift subscription for someone else. Subscriptions are $15.00 for three months) and they have available for you to print off a meal plan of seven meals (supper or large lunches) and a corresponding grocery list. The list is based off the store of your choice (I went with Wal-Mart since that was the only store I have left in town available to me. Until Aldi reopens this coming Saturday and no clue when our Kroger affiliate store will be rebuilding) and they build menus off of what is on sale that week to help cut costs. The average grocery list for my area costs about $80.
So, I downloaded the menu and read through it the first week. Realized there were at least three meals out of seven that I would have to tweak to avert an allergic reaction or really end up having to hunt for sulfite free alternatives. I was also concerned with the amount of prepackaged, pre-prepared foods on the list. I don’t buy store French bread, already rotisseried chickens or anything like that. I make my own bread, I have a rotisserie function in the toaster oven that I use, and I refuse to buy prepackaged salads as it is cheaper to buy it separate and make yourself a huge bowl for a week.
The second week wasn’t any better for us with having to find substitutions for items that commonly contain sulfites. For me, it got to to the point where I dreaded downloading the next menu to see what else I would have to substitute ingredient wise.
Another important aspect for me when I cook supper is that there are left overs for my husband to take to work the next day, or to have enough to make another meal out of it later in the week (like if we have chili on one day, a few days later, I’ll make my Chili con Papas casserole) We were on the menu plan that is supposed to feed 4-6 people. My husband comes home from work starving as a lot of times he’s out on emergency service calls or is making a sales call over lunch and he then forgets to eat. There wasn’t enough food for him for lunch the next day out of any of the meals we tried (mainly due to the fact on those days he didn’t have a chance to eat lunch). So we then had to scramble for something for him to take to work (I’m so sorry to his coworkers that had to suffer through him eating a can of sardines at his desk during this review. He loves the things… apparently he’s the only one aside from the Bugs who does…)
I also had an issue with how much the groceries cost. Eighty dollars for seven meals for my family of four is twice what I spend for two full weeks (14 meals) of food, including personal care items. Before you jump on me for not feeding my family healthy food, let me explain. I cook nearly everything from scratch. Including soaking beans, baking our own bread and I even make a version of homemade poptarts and graham crackers. We do eat a wide variety of foods that are healthy, they just take a lot more planning and preparation than a lot of people are used to. We also operate out of a stockpile system for our food management in our home. That really saves us money. (also, only going grocery shopping every two weeks helps out immensely too. I shop in accordance with my husband’s pay periods at work like a lot of people do and so we shop in two week intervals.)
E-Mealz didn’t work for us, for the above reasons. I could overlook the need to find substitutes for so many ingredients if the recipes would make enough for plenty of left overs perhaps. However, the biggest deal for me was how much the meals cost to prepare. I can’t more than double our grocery budget (considering I would still need food for breakfast, lunch and snacks) at all right now. Even if we had more money I’m not sure that I would. However, if you don’t like to meal plan, like being handed a list and can spend about $120 or so a week on food for all of your meals, then this may be a great service for you. I could see this being handy as a gift for a new mother or someone who is caring for a sick relative in their home to take some of the burden off of their crazy season in life. I would like it better if the meal plans were available for a month at a time for those who do their shopping in longer intervals than one week. I would also love to see a meal plan for freezer meals (something I’ve been dying to try) for those who like to cook up a bunch of meals in advance on a weekend and pop them in the freezer to pull out later. That would be great.
I will say that the E-Mealz website was very well laid out and easy on the eyes. It explains everything you need to know about signing up in detail so you know what you are in for.
To see what other’s had to say about E-Mealz, go visit the Crew’s Blog.
I was given a free three month trial of E-Mealz as a part of The Old Schoolhouse’s Crew. All opinions are mine and mine alone, no other compensation was received..
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