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You’ve likely heard all about the hype surrounding meal delivery kits services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh… how they conveniently deliver pre-packaged, pre-measured ingredients straight to your door – based on the recipes you hand select.
I’d also wager you’ve heard of the trending meal planning apps… like Yummly, Mealime and Big Oven.
Face it… meal planning is a big part of our lives. In fact, it’s as important as getting dressed in the morning or planning your kids’ after school activities.
The question, “What’s for dinner?”, is one we have all asked.
Whether you are looking to lose weight, just eat healthy, or save money by avoiding take out… having a meal plan is the way to go.
eMeals is not just a meal planning app, but also a grocery shopping assistant.
Sounds good, right?
But you’re probably wondering, like I was, what makes eMeals different from the other apps out there?
Well, I’ll tell you.
In a word… partnerships!
Then keep reading.
What You Will Learn
Getting Started with eMeals
eMeals offers a 14-day free trial to get you hooked.
I highly recommend it.
I also recommend creating a separate email account just for free trials and special offers.
And, sending yourself a calendar reminder 1-2 days before the no-risk cancellation period ends.
Just some advice from little ol’ me.
Once you’re ready, simply start the free trial by providing a bit of info:
- Family size
- For 2 (1-2 servings)
- Family (3-6 servings)
- Food style (there are 18 to choose from)
- Create a password
And, voila! You are on your way.
The selection of meal plans via eMeals is impressive… more so than most other services.
Seriously, there is a meal selection for almost everyone and every palate.
You can also switch your selection at any time… so maybe you want to go with Slow Cooker meals in the winter, then switch it up to Kid Friendly over the summer?
You can also switch week to week.
Once you’ve decided to give it a go, you will be brought to the screen to start your trial.
There, you’ll find pricing that goes into effect once your trial ends.
So How Much Does it Cost?
Currently, only 3 and 12 month options are offered.
The 3-month plan costs $9.99 per month, billed quarterly at $29.99.
The 12-month plan costs $4.99 per month, billed annually at $59.99.
The latter is the way to go if you’re happy after the free trial… not that I’m a mathematical wizard, but the numbers don’t add up for the 3-month plan unless you’re really not sold on it.
Don’t believe me?
Then ask Dave Ramsey, renowned finance expert and brain behind the cash envelope system. He’s a big proponent of eMeals… claiming that it really does save your family precious time and money!
You do have to put a credit card in before starting the free trial… but eMeals guarantees you won’t be charged a penny unless you decide to continue.
So, yeah, you’ll have to check your skepticism at the door and go ahead and give eMeals a credit card number to get started.
Trimming Through the Fat to Get Started
Meals meaning breakfasts, lunches, desserts and “occasions”.
This is, of course, for a fee.
C’mon! Nothing is ever really free.
But if if makes you feel any better, it’s a nominal fee.
An extra $3.33 per month gets you the following perks:
- 5 transportable weekday lunches for up to 4 people
- 5 quick and easy breakfast ideas for up to 4 people
- 3 dessert recipes
- Occasions plans, offering fresh ideas bi-weekly
And you can try this out as part of your 14-day free trial… which is a bonus.
Once you’ve made your decision on the add-ons, you’re presented with another offer.
I’m not going to lie, this annoyed me a tad.
But remember when I mentioned partnerships?
Daily Burn is an online fitness video service, similar to Grokker.
I opted out of this one and moved on.
Or so I thought…
A server crashed resulted in my having to shut down and log back in.
It’s Meal Selection Time
So the login page displays your Current Subscriptions (in my case, Kid Friendly).
Fresh plans are posted every Wednesday, so I was given the option to either:
- Download the current week’s plan
- Download the prior week’s plan
- Do both!
You are also able to click a link and switch to a new plan at any time.
In my case, maybe the kids will be at the grandparents for a few days and I want to switch things up for some bolder selections.
Once you select a plan to download, eMeals really pushes their app.
It’s part of the whole “easy” experience.
There’s always a but…
Herein lies the problem… if you choose to print the recipes, which does include the shopping list of ingredients, you are forcing yourself to do all of the work.
As such, you’ve now lost the ability to automatically have your groceries either shipped or ready for pickup in a local store.
Which brings me to our next topic.
Thanks for the layup, non-smartphone users!
An “App”etite for Success
Now that you’ve downloaded the app, it’s time to view your recipes.
Note: plan type cannot be changed via the app. I tried. You’ll need to log on via a computer to do that.
Simply click on one and you’re brought to your menu choices.
A photo of each recipe is beautifully displayed, along with its subcategory, such as:
The list of ingredients
If you decide to go ahead with the dish, just click the shopping cart icon and all of the requirement ingredients will automatically appear on your shopping list.
So you’ll know which recipe to use the pecan halves for.
The grocery list also has an option that allows you to add other items you may need (such as paper towels, shampoo or laundry detergent)… and assign them a category.
Once you’re through making any edits, you can take the list directly to the store and go to town…
Depending on which partner you select, the items will either be delivered to your doorstep… or allow you to have them ready for pickup (typically same day).
Some stores, like Walmart, will even load them into your car.
But keep in mind, utilizing the grocery pickup or delivery service requires a third party contract… and is an additional expense.
This service is not included in your eMeals monthly subscription.
The app also features a “favorites button” (heart shaped), so you can easily save any recipes for use again at a later date.
The “chefs hat” icon puts the app into cooking mode, allowing you to easily swipe through and view each step of the recipe on your smartphone or tablet while in the kitchen.
Bells & Whistles Q&A
Now, unlike the more expensive meal delivery kits (Blue Apron, Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, Marley Spoon, etc…), cooking with eMeals takes a bit more effort.
For lack of a better expression, eMeals doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that those guys do.
How, you ask?
Well, for starters…
Those meal-in-a-box businesses include delivery fees in the monthly subscription price.
Additionally, they deliver everything to your front door prepackaged and premeasured… eMeals requires you actually own a measuring cup, chopping knife and other such kitchen gadgets.
Still, while the meal prep may tack on a bit of time for you in the kitchen, it is one way for eMeals to keep your costs down.
Other ways eMeals keeps your costs down is by allowing you to select your own brand and quality of ingredients… even ones on sale.
Coupons are accepted as well.
The kits use only high quality, typically organic and non-gmo ingredients in their recipes… which runs up the cost per kit.
That is why you only get 2-4 meals per week, whereas eMeals gives you the option of one meal for every day of the week… at a fraction of the cost.
eMeals also keeps costs down by delivering your recipes online. And there is no customization, everyone who chooses the same meal plan as you has access to the same recipes.
The meal kits ship hard copies of each recipe inside every box.
A Tasty Alternative to Meal Delivery Kits – Summing up eMeals
eMeals makes meal time more convenient… and, ultimately less expensive, if you play your cards right.
There are options, depending on what you’re comfortable spending.
The least expensive?
Pay for the monthly subscription and go shopping yourself… like in the good ol’ days.
Spend an hour or more at the store each week and coupon clip and circular hunt to your heart’s content.
Slightly most expensive?
Pay for the monthly subscription and choose an in-store pickup option.
You’ll likely still get charged a monthly or per order fee for this, but it won’t be nearly as much as grocery delivery.
If money’s no object?
Pay the monthly subscription fee and go with Amazon Fresh (or another in-home grocery delivery service in your area).
Like with most services, there is often a free trial period, so it may be worth checking out if time is money for you.
For me, I enjoy getting away from the kids for a while to go food shopping among grown-ups.
But that’s just me.
There are certainly those moments when there doesn’t feel like enough hours in a day, and I’d give anything to just have my grocery list collected and shipped to me with a smile.
At the end of the day, you have to weigh the costs of what you want and what you need from plans like eMeals.
If what you want is:
… then a simplified meal plan like eMeals may be just what the master chef ordered!
However, if money is no object and you want total convenience, either go with eMeals in-home delivery option… or else try one month of Blue Apron. Or both.
Do a little “taste test”… so to speak.
But, overall, I’d recommend eMeals… especially given you can change your plan at any time, so there is always a better chance of variety throughout the 18 options they offer.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.