Aug 26, 2008

E-Mealz - Works for Me Wednesday

What is your routine for planning meals each week? Do you have a systematic way of providing a variable, affordable, ambrosial feast for your family? Do you find yourself, as I did, running to the store more than once (or twice) a week filling in the dinner gaps? Do you ever find yourself glaring inside the refrigerator at 4:00 p.m. thinking, "What am I going to make for dinner???"

For me, this is what meal planning used to look like:

  1. Look through newspaper store circulars to get some ideas for dinners and try to narrow it down to only ONE store to venture.

  2. Spend time looking for a few coupons to cut down expenses. Go through old coupons and throw away things I never did use (most of them). Note: this practice went down the drain many, many months ago. This added nearly an hour to this already arduous task.

  3. Pull out cookbooks, recipe card box, miscellaneous recipes in folders, etc.

  4. Thumb through said recipes trying to decide if it's been long enough since I made it last time to make it again this week. Attempt to come up with at least 5 meals to make a grocery trip worthwhile...without pulling hair out.

  5. Develop a mealtime grocery list using all recipe cards/cookbooks pulled. Add everything else that's been written on scattered pieces of paper that need to be picked up. Peruse pantry, frig and freezer, bathroom, and cleaners to determine what else might be left off list.

  6. A minimum of two hours later, (and that's only if I haven't gotten up 142 times to beat my head against the wall), head out to the store. For the first time of the week.
Mealtime planning used to be so laborious for me. I love to cook, and I even love to plan meals...when I have some variety to pull from. After almost 12 years of marriage, my meals had gotten mundane. At least for me.

THEN I found out about e-mealz. I'm trying really hard to not sound like an info-mercial here, but hear me out! You will not believe the difference this tiny investment has made for me!

What it is:

Two sisters from the southeastern United States have started a business taking grocery store circulars and planning meals around the sales in our local stores. They post 7 new dinners for my plan each week, including the recipes, and the corresponding grocery list (broken down by store sections for easy shopping!) You can save and print the meals and grocery lists for the store you have chosen each week!

They offer plans for WalMart, Kroger, Publix, Aldi, and Ralph's. If you don't shop at any of those stores, then you can use the "Any Store" plan! Most meals serve 4-6 people, with the exception of the Dinner for Two option, for obvious reasons.

That leads me to the other options for certain stores (like WalMart): dinner for two, low-fat, low-carb, points system, and vegetarian! I just don't know how they do it!

And I can't understand where they get all these wonderful recipes, but I'm here to tell family is chanting "We love e-mealz!" at almost every meal!

Here's a short list of some of the best mealz we've had from their collection recently:

  • Western Bacon Cheeseburgers, corn on cob
  • Tortellini & Sausage Soup, garlic bread
  • Chicken Parmesan, Italian salad, garlic bread
  • Filled French Toast, bacon, sliced cantaloupe
  • Smokey Orange Chicken, warm potato salad, green beans (this has been my favorite so far!)
  • Foot long BLT, watermelon wedges
  • Gourmet Chicken Quesadillas, Spanish rice

OH, I could SO go on.

I have noticed that most weeks include at least one crock pot meal, something kind of fun and easy (like Hawaiian pizza...oh, man, that was GOOD), and most weeks there is some kind of meat that I cook once, but use it for two meals! Anywhere that I can cook something for two meals at once, it will be mentioned in the recipe. Pure genius.

The total cost of all 7 meals (should I choose to do them all) is always somewhere around $70-80 per feed 5 people! That's an average of $10 per dinner! For 5 people! The reason they are so reasonable is two-fold: 1) I'm buying for meals that were planned around sale prices; and 2) these meals are not weighted with a burdensome ingredient list; there are usually not much more than 5 or so ingredients in each recipe (aside from staples, like salt and pepper, etc.)

The grocery list actually has the prices on it, too, so I can see how much each item currently is at Kroger. This helps me tremendously, because I will take that list to WalMart only twice a month (which is all I can handle of WalMart...sorry, I'm not an avid WalMart shopper!) and I can compare prices! It has saved me tons, I'm sure.

Now, I can already hear some of you out there...yeah, yeah, much is it? Well, I am confident that you will be as elated as I was (being the frugal-minded cheapskate I am) to find out that this exceptional service only costs $5 per month! Yes, that's what I said.

Close your mouth, dear. I know, it's a lot to take in. I was floored, too.

Now, they do ask that you sign up for 3-months at a time, so that's an even $15, but here's the conclusion I came to: each week, I hole-punch my meal/recipe list and mark which ones we had and especially enjoyed. Then I keep that sheet in a small 3-ring notebook (current one on top, so I can readily see my working menu).

What's my point? At the end of 3 months, I will have collected somewhere around 84 recipes...most of which we will have tried! Well, I ask you, how could I go wrong with that?

'Course, I'm pretty sure I'll be renewing my membership when it comes up...if I don't, I just might have a kitchen mutany on my hands!

Plus, my meal planning strategy has taken on a whole new look: print out new e-mealz plan, add to grocery list what's been recorded as being low all week, decide if I'm going to use all 7 meals or if I want to supplement with my own, traditional, "regular" meals! That is so significant to me, my friend. I add my stuff when I want to. Can the world buy such a jewel?

Click on the banner below to learn more and sign up!

It sure works for me...I'll bet it'll work for you, too!



Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

I have never heard of anything like this, but you are pretty convincing, my friend. You described me perfectly... I have TONS of recipes, love to cook, yet you can find me scrambling to find something to make most days at 4:00.

Homesteader in Training said...

Cool. I'm going to go check it out!
Thanks for posting.

mamajil said...

This is pretty cool!!
what we do isn't as fun.....
I have a list of 14 meals for b'fast, Lunch, and dinner. So I know what ever we eat on week one of the month we will eat again on week 3 and week 2 we will eat on week 4 of the month.....

I have the grocery ad pages book marked and so on Wed. afternoons over coffee I make a list of all the specials that I am interested in then either I go or I send my DH or Teen driver to the store for me :)

I do keep a kitchen notebook with plastic protector pages where I slip in recipes that catch my eye and we sometimes venture out live on the edge and cook something not on the list of "14 meals"
Your way sounds like they do it all for you....I may have to look into that!
Thanks for sharing!!
BTW thanks for stopping in on my blog!
Have a great day!

Greg C said...

I heard of it but never knew what it was. My meal planning consists of Monday: Mc'ds. Tuesday, Pizza hut, Wed, Subway. Man I am in a rut. I need to check this out.

Meg in Tally said...

Hey, Greg's plan sounds pretty good!

I've never heard of this, but sounds like I need to check it out. It sure would stop that 4:00 thing around here!

Great post!

BTW, we're trying to send Fay up to you! She just likes us so much she doesn't want to leave...she's stopped by twice!!!! FAY! Go AWAY!

Wani said...

I think a friend of mine uses emeals. I might have to check it out! Thanks!

Stacie@HobbitDoor said...

Wow! Aren't they smart women?! I may have to look into that.

Jodie said...

Wow Chel, this looks really awesome. I've been checking out the site and I'm def. interested. The price is so low that it's worth a shot. Really, I have nothing to lose. We spend that amt on food anyway - this would just cut out the time of thinking of (stressing over) what to cook. And you're right, when you sit down w/ cookbooks, coupons, sale papers, etc. it takes for.e.ver to compile a list - only to get back home from the store and realize I forgot something. GGGRRRRRRRRRR!
Thanks for sharing this. I've never heard of it before and I'll def. talk to my hubby about it. :)
You, my girl, are a diamond in the rust. ;) [just for clarity's sake, i know that the real expression is diamond in the rough, but i heard a dumb girl on tv say 'rust' and i fell in love with that silly expression.]

Audra Krell said...

HI Chel- How did you get in my head and write down exactly how I feel about meal planning? Then I give up and we eat foods that aren't so great for us. Thanks for the details on a new plan that sounds like it really works.

Elle said...

Well - I might have to check it out
looks interesting

Chel - An Abiding Branch said...

I love you!!

Michele W. said...

This is great information. My daughter and I shop the adds and coupons as well. For the most part, if it is not on sale, we don't buy it. I'm sure we could save much more. You ladies are so organized! Wow! I wish I had all this help years ago when I was raising a family.
Thanks for sharing this information.

SarahHub said...

This looks awesome! Thanks for sharing!

Heather said...

Oh. My. Goodness.

I am like you. I sit down once a week. Decide what to cook, make list against what is on hand. Shop. It has saved us money. This is going to be so much fun to try!

Lisa@BlessedwithGrace said...

Wow, this sounds like a good a good plan. I have just recently started meal planning. Very cool!

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

I gave up on the coupons years ago, but the rest of your routine sounds just like mine. Truly, this is an informative post, Chel. I'm going to check it out.

The Happy Housewife said...

I don't like Walmart either. I never shop there, although I might be heading there next week because their prices on dried beans beats the commissary. If I go I will stock up because I don't want to go back for at least 6 months.

Admin said...

Hummm... this could be good! Going to check out the site now. Anything to make life easier! And I love that it's only $5 bucks a month (hubby will like that too)! Thanks so much for the suggestion!!