Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meal Planning Simplified

I have seen so many posts lately on meal planning.
Honestly, I'm a little jealous.
I have never really been able to organize my life that way.
I mean, it's great.  I would love to have everything laid out like that.
But it just never happens.

Ron and I were discussing recently about how we need to be more intentional about different things in our life - making small improvements which, over time, will improve our family life.
One area of improvement is in the kitchen - making sure that we are cooking more meals at home, and then eating together as a family at the table.  Sadly, that doesn't always happen because of everyone's different schedules.  I miss it when we don't.  That's not how I grew up.  It is how Ron did.  So, we're trying to get back to how things should be.

Ron found a great tool for helping us in the cooking department.  It's really important to us to be on a strict budget right now, so eating out all the time isn't an option - even though take out is so much easier sometimes!!  But the concept of meal planning just isn't working for me.  I am absolutely, totally, thoroughly exhausted beyond belief most days and to have to think about what to cook - especially in advance - just boggles my mind.

Enter E-mealz.

Have you ever heard of E-mealz??
I hadn't.  Not until a couple weeks ago!

Go to their website and take a look around.
Essentially, it gives you a variety of menu plans to choose from:
regular family menus {7 meals for 3-6 people}
regular menus for 2 {5 meals for 1-2 people}
specialty family menus {i.e. gluten free, low carb, etc.; 7 meals for 3-6 people}
specialty menus for 2 {5 meals for 1-2 people}

You decide which menu plan is what you'd need and then you select the grocery store.
{kind of limited: Kroger, Publix, Ralphs, Aldi, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and the generic "any other store"}

You sign up for a plan which winds up costing about $1.25/week.
{but you don't pay by the week}

For whichever store and plan you selected, when you log in to your account, you will be able to view Last Week's Menu and This Week's Menu.  You click on the one you want to see, and it pulls up a pdf file.

What E-mealz does is take all the legwork out of meal planning for you.  They go by the sales flier for that store for that week and they devise a meal plan for the week based on what's on sale.  No coupons needed - strictly sale items.  So if you don't have time to coupon, at least you know they're pointing you towards what's on sale.

The first page of the pdf file will be the menu plan.  We have the Regular Family Menu {7 meals} plan for Publix.  They have a chart showing Meals 1 - 7 in the first column, all the ingredients for each recipe in the second column, and the directions in the third column.  For example, last week we had "Meal 3", which was E-Z BBQ Chicken Slaw and Corn Muffins for the crock pot.  It outlined everything you'd need and then all the cooking instructions.  Easy!  Each meal has a main entree, side and veggie.

The second page of the pdf file is the grocery list.  It itemizes by grocery store department.  In the left-hand column, it states which meal number that item is for.  Then it gives you the price for the item.  Each menu plan is said to be about $80-$90 worth of grocery items.  Note, it's the main ingredients only.  They do, however, list {by meal number} which staples you will need to have on hand.  These are listed below the grocery shopping list and are not priced out.

This way of doing things has made it - so far - very easy to price out our meals and find the best deals.  You aren't tied to the brands they put on the shopping list.  If you see something cheaper, by all means, get it!  Or if you have brand loyalties and don't want the specific sale item mentioned, get what your family likes.  This is just a guideline.  It just really simplifies the meal planning, one week at a time.

So why pay for this{even if it only costs about $1.25 a week}??
Because I don't have time these days to do couponing like I used to.
Because we don't get a newspaper.
Because going through the sale fliers takes time.
Everything is right at my fingertips on the two pages of that pdf file.

All we have to do now is to pick out which of the 7 meals on the list that week we really want to cook.  You see, we will only have to purchase the groceries for the items we want to make, not the entire list.  So that will cut the $80-$90 worth of groceries down further.  The recipes so far have been pretty good.  We had a brown sugar meatloaf the other night which will be in our cooking repertoire from now on!

No one asked me or paid me to do a review of E-mealz.
I simply wanted to share this new thing that we had found in case it might benefit you and your family!
Make Time For Family - E-Mealz Blog
p.s. Since I posted this THIS MORNING, it is now E-Meals {with an "s", not a "z"!!}  So when you go to their site and see the "s", don't be thinking I'm a dummy for using a "z" throughout my blog! :)

p.s.s. if you're wondering where all the linky parties i had listed on the left side bar went to, i have consolidated a lot of stuff on the "daily reads" tab {top right}.  there you will find buttons for some of the various blogs i enjoy, series that other bloggers are doing, and daily linky parties that i enjoy.  check it out!  if you would like me to put your linky party on that page, let me know!

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