You know that perfect mommy blogger whose kids are always dressed to the nines, whose house always looks ready for a magazine spread, and who also cooks wholesome, delicious (and don’t forget beautifully plated) meals for her family while also only spending $25 a week at the grocery store because of her rockstar couponing skills? Okay, maybe you don’t know her in real life. I sure don’t, even though I see her and her equally perfect friends on Instagram a lot. Well I still don’t know how they talk their kids into wearing fancy clothes every day, and it’s beyond me how they keep their house looking great (unless those perfectly dressed and coiffed kids enjoy sitting quietly and reading all day), but thanks to eMeals, I now have an idea how they manage to whip up Insta-worthy dinners every night (with no repeats!). I signed up for a subscription to eMeals, and today I’m sharing my review with you.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means when you click on them, I earn a small commission or referral fee at no cost to you. I am very grateful for your support of my blog. As always, all opinions expressed here are 100% my own. I did sign up and pay for my own eMeals subscription.
Dave told me to try it.
Like any working mom (and a lot of stay-at-home moms based on my experience as a summertime-only stay-at-home mom), I find it hard to get meals on the table for my family every night. Sure, we know it’s better for them (here are a zillion benefits of families eating dinner together from the American College of Pediatricians in case you were curious); and yes, it’s a lot cheaper than eating out. But the problem is, we’re busy! Kids’ activities and homework, our activities and work, trying to squeeze in a little entertainment, and the joys of home cleaning and maintenance and lawn upkeep take so much time it’s hard to catch your breath, let alone plan a menu of weeknight dinners, get the groceries you need to make them, and oh yeah: actually cook them at the end of the day when things are hectic and you’re already tired.
Before now, I had pinned tons of “quick, easy weeknight meals” on my Pinterest recipe board, bought “30 minutes or less” cookbooks, and dipped a toe into those freezer meals places where you can get several weeks’ worth of dinners in big frozen pans. All of those things are great, and if I had a little more time and self-discipline, I probably could come up with menu plans and grocery lists of my own to keep up with it. But I don’t.
I have listened to the Dave Ramsey show for several years, and we do try to follow Dave’s financial principles. Dave’s motto is “Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage is the status symbol of choice.” Since we started listening to Dave, we have paid off all of our debt except for our home mortgage and are trying to cash-flow everything else (our biggest challenge to date will be when our middle son starts college in the fall — wish us luck!). Read Dave’s book Total Money Makeover if you want to get rid of your debt and build up savings. Total game-changer for us!! Anyway, Dave has been a longtime advocate of eMeals, and I guess hearing him talk about how it’s a great way to stay on budget with your food costs while also taking the work out of meal planning, I thought I’d give it a try. I have been using eMeals for about 3 months now.
How does eMeals work?
Basically, you choose a meal plan that works for you and your family (I’ll go into the types of plans below), they send you a week’s worth of recipes and a corresponding shopping list, you shop for the groceries (or if you’re like me and want to save more time and money, order them online at your local grocery store like my favorite, Hy-Vee, or Walmart and save even more time by picking them up curbside or getting them delivered!), and then just follow the directions to make your meals each night. Simple! eMeals has partnerships with stores like Kroger and Walmart and businesses like Instacart so you can even set up your order through your eMeals account or on the app, but you can also shop at your local or independently owned grocery store or farmer’s market just as easily. Your choice.
eMeals estimates that you will save around 2-3 hours per week when you let them do the planning for you. I found that estimate to be accurate in my case. Read more about how eMeals works here.
What are the meal plan choices?
eMeals offers a variety of meal plans for different health concerns, budgets, tastes, and family type and size. You can sign up for recipes that serve 4-6 people or 1-3 people, for example. I get the 4-6 serving recipes and I find that they feed all 5 of us (and the occasional friend eating dinner at our house on any given evening), and we almost always have some leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. Bonus! You can change to a different meal plan anytime you want. I change every few weeks for variety and to accommodate my picky eaters. I’ve listed the plan options below. Click to visit eMeals and view sample menus and recipes for each of these plans, but I’ve linked a few in the list below.
Healthy Meal Plans
- Clean Eating
- Quick & Healthy
Weight Management Meal Plans
- Low Carb
- Low Calorie
- Heart Healthy
Family Inspired Meal Plans
Specialty Meal Plans
Partner Meal Plans
- Paula Deen
- Good Housekeeping
- Better Homes & Gardens
Then eMeals also offers add-on type plans for breakfasts, lunches, desserts, and holidays and special occasions.
What does it cost?
This is the big question, right? You’re already paying for groceries and part of the point of eating at home more is to SAVE money, not spend more on meal plans. But what I found is that by using eMeals, I my weekly grocery costs went down a lot because I wasn’t buying random things or items that just went to waste because they went bad before I could use them (due to lack of organization on my part).
The eMeals website says: “A subscription at eMeals is as low as $5 a month for a 12-month subscription. You also have the option of a 3-month subscription for $10 a month. Not sure if it’s worth the money? Then try it FREE for 14 days to see for yourself!”
I signed up for the 14-day free trial and really liked the service, so when I was offered a coupon code via email from eMeals to sign up for a year, I did! My cost was $58 for a one-year subscription. Your cost will depend on your plan and duration. The 14-day free trial is a great way to try out the plan without risk.
Is it worth it? My review:
My experience with eMeals was great, and I do recommend it if you are looking for meal plans that can save you time and money. Here are things I noticed and experienced with eMeals.
- We saved money: Before eMeals I was spending around $200 per week on groceries for my family of 5, and that was during the school year when the kids ate lunch at school (and we still ended up eating out or having takeout/pizza about around 3 nights per week). Using eMeals the grocery bill went down to around $125 – $160 per week, and we had a lot less waste. I am notorious for buying pretty veggies and then not using them.
- I saved time: Before eMeals I tended to spend about an hour or more preparing dinner on weeknights, partly because I had to look around and see what we had in the cupboards so I could get ideas about what to make. I also spent about 30 minutes throughout the week making a shoddy grocery list that was a bit random and often leaving off things we really did need. Using eMeals I usually spent around 30-40 minutes preparing dinner each night, and I still spent around 30 minutes on the grocery list but it was mainly for toiletries, paper and cleaning products, breakfast and school lunch items, etc. I could simply print the eMeals lists and cross off items I already had in the pantry. I absolutely love not having to worry about what’s for dinner.
- We ate at home more: Before eMeals we’d eat out or order pizza an average of 3 times per week. After, we typically only ate out or ordered pizza 1 night per week, and that was by design and not a result of my failure to plan like in the past.
- My family liked the recipes: With eMeals you get 7 days worth of dinners. My family typically liked 5-6 of these, and of the 5-6 that they liked, they REALLY LOVED at least 1-2. That is saying a lot for my family because we have several picky eaters and a wide variety of preferences. Having the family looking forward to dinnertime again increased the likelihood that everyone, including my husband and two older sons, would be home for dinner rather than asking to eat out or at a friend’s house. That alone is golden.
- I choose my grocery brands and produce: Unlike with a meal kit where they send you the entire meal in a box, I like that I have the freedom to choose my own brands of products (like the beloved Claussen dill pickles I mention below), and I can also pick out my own produce. I’m SUUUUUPER picky about produce.
- I discovered which plans I liked best, and I still change plans frequently: Although I haven’t tried all of the eMeals plans, I switch around quite a bit, often when I check out the next week’s meal plan and I see that there are several meals I know my family won’t like. It’s easy to switch, and you can do it immediately yourself on the website or the app. The ability to switch between plans is CRUCIAL. Without this ability I probably would not want to use eMeals because of my picky eaters (why pay for meal plans you know your family won’t like?). My family’s favorite plans are the Kid Friendly, Budget Friendly, 30 Minute, and the Quick & Healthy plans. I switch back and forth between these plans constantly. Click to view sample menus and recipes from the plans.
One of the coolest things about eMeals is that my family is excited about dinner again! I’m not a terrible cook, but in the past I will admit I was phoning it in, serving the same boring dishes over and over because they were quick and easy and I knew my family would eat them. Cooking is not my favorite pastime. Now there’s something different on the table every night and the kids look forward to asking me, “What’s for supper tonight?” I love having an answer for them other than, “I don’t know…let me look and see what we have.”
Also, once you’ve been doing eMeals for a while like I have, you will have a repertoire of your family’s favorites. My family’s favorites change with the seasons, but this summer their number-one favorite eMeals dinner has been the “Burger-Topped Waffle Fries All The Way,” which was from the Budget Friendly Family Plan. Here are some pictures of this delightful concoction, which is basically a cheeseburger and fries with all the toppings, including special sauce to drizzle over the top, all in one dish. These photos do not really do it justice: for instance, at our house, you do not put sauce on people’s meals — every individual sauces for himself. It’s DELICIOUS!
The recipe makes a whole tray of this yummy meal.
Yes, those are pickles chopped up on there! I used Claussen dills in ours. Mmmmmmmm.
YES, it was worth it for our family.
So all in all, eMeals was definitely worth it for our family in terms of time, money, and family togetherness and enjoyment. If you are more like the Insta-mamas who have it all together, you probably don’t need eMeals. But if you’re more like me, crazy busy, not the most creative and enthusiastic cook, and flying by the seat of your pants half the time, it’s absolutely worth a try.