Today I had 4 people in the grocery store admire my organization. This is not something I hear very often, but I suppose if you saw the list I was walking around with today, you’d have thought the same thing.
As important as eating well has always been to our family, I have never had a very good meal plan. Every week usually consists of 4 or 5 trips to our local natural foods store, one trip to the farmers market, a delivery from our CSA, and lots of inevitable last minute trips for a last minute ingredient. That worked fine for us as a couple, and then it was still ok when we had one child, though it really wasn’t very cost effective and prompted lots of repeat meals and take-out. I know how valuable variety is, and how unhealthy restaurant food can be, so this was obviously not the ideal situation. Throw in having another baby, and it was clear we needed a new strategy.
First I tried to do a monthly plan.That proved to be too overwhelming. Then I tried to make every night of the week a different theme, so I could make a plan around that. Didn’t work. I couldn’t remember what night I had designated what theme and was always confused.
Then I came across eMeals- “a simple system with easy meals based on delicious recipes and a consistent grocery budget.” When I saw I had to pay for the service, I almost just closed the website to look for something else. But then on the sidebar I saw they had a specific plan for Whole Foods. I looked at the sample, and realized this was for me.
Each week’s plan consists of two pages- one is the menu, ingredients, and recipes (all on one page!), and the other is the grocery list. The first time I did my “big shop” the size of my list felt daunting. I followed it completely, and it took me about an hour. I piled in the produce and asked the butcher for things I had never purchased. I got home and unpacked my loot.
Finding places in the pantry and refrigerator for all of those groceries was challenging, but after that, life seemed calmer around here. The recipes are straight forward, quick and easy to follow, and all have been tasty. Something as little as having a meal plan has taken a big burden off of my shoulders that I didn’t even realize I was carrying.
Every day I look forward to what I’ll be cooking that night (I suppose the old “it’s four o’clock- what do we feel like for dinner?” routine was a little stressful), and it’s been fun anticipating the new week’s menu.
I asked my husband how he felt about eMeals, and his response? “I’m just worried it’s going to stop.”
Don’t worry, honey. It won’t stop anytime soon. We are four weeks in, and with practice I have streamlined my shopping trip and realized how easy it is to make a few tweaks based on ingredients I already have or need to use. I’ve even purchased a few items in bulk- such as organic diced tomatoes and chicken broth.
One huge advantage of the food on the eMeals plan is how basic it is. This means less time in the kitchen and more time visiting with my family at the dinner table. With meals like turkey patty melts, chicken enchiladas and black bean soup, there is something for everyone. There are sophisticated dishes too-like the bacon wrapped pork tenderloin I made last week. But it was surprisingly easy to make and super quick!
And perhaps the true test of the usefulness of eMeals is whether or not the kids will like it. Score! My three year old son has eaten and enjoyed every meal we have had. I’ve left out the jalapeños and chili powder of some things to make sure he could eat them.
If you decide to sign up, reorganize the menu to make sure you eat things that will go bad the fastest (i.e. for the last few weeks “french bread” has been on day 7…I’ve had to use the baguette I bought 6 days earlier as bread crumbs!)
eMeals has been great for our family. They offer plans for many specific stores and also specialty diets such as gluten free, vegetarian, portion control and natural & organic. I’m hooked. Give it a try and let me know what you think!