Dear eMeals: I Love You

by Camille on February 27, 2014

Okay, so there are a dozen or so “deep” posts I probably should force myself to write about the chaotic kiddos, spiritual warfare, family drama, etc., but I’m feeling light today, so I’m opting to share a quick “check this out!” instead.

Today, I want to talk about …..eMeals.

I would like to pledge my undying, passionate, puppy-snuggle, chocolate-kissed, sunset-laden, Shakespearean-sonnet-ish, Nicholas Sparks-level sappy LOVE to E-meals. We are tasting real food again, and we are finding it GOOD.

For the past few months, we have lived on cereal, pb&j, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Subway, and a plethora of other completely wholesome and healthy dietary choices.

Apparently, I need near-perfect life circumstances to effectively plan, shop for, and prepare actual meals each night. Hah! So obviously, December, with all that holiday insanity, was completely non-negotiable. Kids, you can have presents and a tree or dinner. Not both.

In January, we packed the entire contents of our lives into boxes and moved to a not-yet-finished new house. When boxes labeled “kitchen” end up buried in the back of the attic for weeks, that is a perfectly acceptable excuse not to cook. Also, cardboard obstacle courses really mess up my culinary mojo. As do mice barbecuing themselves on heating vents. Or construction dust so thick it would flavor the food anyway. So yeah….excuses abounded. Not that I really, um, need an excuse. 

However, near the end of January, with my digestive system system plotting revolt and Ellie no longer recognizing most vegetables, I begrudgingly committed to making a change, and taking the recommendation of a friend, I enrolled in eMeals, an on-line meal-planning service that “takes the stress out of dinner.” First, you pick from 13 different plans including:

  • Classic
  • Clean-Eating
  • Paleo
  • Portion Control
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low Carb
  • Slow-Cooker
  • Gluten-free
  • Natural and Organic
  • Simple Gourmet
  • Mediterranean
  • Vegetarian

I mean, if you can’t find a plan to fit your needs here, you’re probably a vampire. I chose the Classic plan, billed as “meals like Mom used to make – only a bit simpler and more healthy.” I then chose the Family Size (3-6 servings) and picked my grocery store, Kroger. Immediately, I received my first plan, and sparks began to fly.

Here’s a few of the reasons I’m in love:

PLANNING PERFECTION

Turns out, I don’t really hate cooking. I do, however, loathe planning. I mean, you’re supposed to consider food costs, health, preparation and cook time, what’s in season, what’s on sale, what that one kid might actually eat, and for the LOVE, it’s just easier to grab that box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese and go hide under the covers in meal-planning shame. Sister, eMeals can save you from this mental drudgery. They speak organization, one of my primary love languages. A lovely .pdf contains one sheet with seven recipes, including an entree and a side dish.

Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 1.48.48 PM

The second sheet contains a shopping list organized by section and matched with weekly specials and sales at your particular store. If you only need four recipes for the week or know someone won’t eat a certain thing, no sweat. You just cross off that number from your shopping list.

Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 1.48.19 PM

 PLEASING PRACTICALITY

Most recipes take 15-20 minutes of preparation, and each week contains slow cooker options. In my experience thus far, each week generally contains a similar grouping of recipes including a Mexican-themed dish, some variation of baked chicken, a pasta, and a pot roast or pork loin. My absolute favorites thus far have included a ham and corn chowder, enchilada casserole, and a spicy spinach and sausage pasta. The recipes all contain familiar ingredients, and I don’t feel the need to consult Julia Childs in interpreting the directions. Furthermore, eMeals seems to pay special attention to coordinating meals with the season, with lots of warm, hearty stews frequenting my January/February menus. And most importantly, the majority of recipes seem to be both kid and husband-approved, with both going back for seconds on several occasions.

PALATABLE PLENTY

The recipes are supposedly designed for 3-6, but I’m finding portions extremely generous. In most cases, especially with the crock pot stews and casseroles, I’ve had enough for 3-4 adults and a toddler to have ample helpings with plenty remaining for at least one more meal. I’m not even cooking the side dishes (I usually just warm a bag of frozen veggies), and really, with cooking only 3-4 recipes a week, I’ve got enough meals.

Once I fully get back into the swing of this regular cooking thing, I might even try a healthier plan. I mean, unless they come up with a “mostly cheese, chocolate, and red wine option that’s magically also the healthiest thing you can eat” plan.

Do you use eMeals or another meal-planning service? What do you like? What changes would you make? 

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