My summer semester is finally winding down to an end . . . just in time for fall semester to begin. In a strange twist of scheduling, my fall responsibilities begin before my summer semester responsibilities end. Summer is by far my busiest semester, nearly doubling the load of other semesters, and it always seems to fly by without much time for anything else except for a few stolen minutes blogging, a few hours for a Saturday outing, and going to church.
Ken has done a great job adjusting to my summer schedule, and does the vast majority of housework. The only thing I really try very hard to still do is cook. I’m not especially great about it in the summer, but the rest of the year, I do much better.
I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the worst feelings is driving home after a long day at work, not knowing what I’m going to make for dinner. Mentally searching through my freezer and my pantry, trying to think of creative combinations– or most often just quick combinations– is stressful! Too often, it’s a bowl of cereal or a frozen skillet meal that makes it to the table, or even worse: eating out. That’s a budget-buster for sure.
Fortunately, solving the dinnertime dilemma has become much easier. A few years ago, I discovered a menu-planning service called e-mealz. It creates weekly menus, complete with recipes and a grocery shopping list organized by store sections. The recipes are easy and delicious, but also nutritious. The best part is that there are lots of menu options available. You can choose a menu based on diet (portion control, low-fat, gluten-free, vegetarian) or based on a particular store (Publix, Kroger, Aldi, etc.) and what they have on sale that week. (Almost everything on the grocery list is on sale, and they’ve done the hard work of creating a menu around it!) You can even choose options for 1-2 people or for a family of 4-6 people. Because the recipes tend to be a bit better in the larger plan, Ken and I have opted for the family meal plan, and we either cut the recipes down, or freeze the leftovers in meal-size portions to eat for lunches.
Emealz menus have a variety of types of food and meal-prep times. For instance, there is typically a Mexican-inspired dish and/or an Italian style dish, but you’ll never have four Mexican dishes in one week. It will never be all chicken dishes, or all pork dishes, etc. There are also a variety of prep times as well. Each week usually includes one or two crock pot meals, and an easy-prep meal that takes just minutes. The recipes rarely repeat, and when they do, it’s because they’re very popular. The recipes are written by moms, so they’re all kid-friendly, which will be important for us in the next year!
If there’s a meal we don’t like, we can easily cross that meal off the list, and cross out the corresponding ingredients. Or if we know we’re going to be going out to eat someplace — like Chick Fil A on a Wednesday night– we can eliminate meals from the list as well.
But what about couponing? As most of you know, I’m a pretty enthusiastic couponer. Typically, I continue to use coupons to stockpile ingredients that we commonly use in emealz recipes, and I shop my stockpile in my basement pantry storage before going to the store. In the end, I typically end up only buying produce, dairy, a few odd ingredients for the emealz plan. Then I also buy what is on fabulous sale that I have a coupon for (saving at least 50%). If that makes your head spin because it’s complicated, skip stockpiling!
Overall, we’ve loved using emealz most of the last three and a half years. It’s definitely solved the dinnertime dilemma, and encouraged us to try new recipes and cooking styles that we wouldn’t ordinarily try. It’s very rare that we don’t like a recipe, and more often than not we LOVE their recipes. The recipes I’m most known for are pretty much all e-mealz recipes. (Shhhh. Don’t tell.) Best of all, it has improved the nutrition of our meals, and has significantly reduced our grocery bill! Not only are we purchasing on-sale items almost exclusively, we’re no longer as tempted to eat out when we know we have an easy-to-make and delicious food waiting at home.
If dinnertime planning and grocery budgeting could use some help in your home, I highly recommend e-mealz! A three-month subscription is $15, making it only $1.25 per week. You’ll save MUCH more than that by eating out less, and by buying on-sale ingredients. And if you order by clicking on our link, a portion of your order will be go to support our adoption! It’s a win-win for your family, and for ours!
4 thoughts on “Solving the Dinnertime Dilemma”
What a blessing this entry has been for me! Thanks so much for sharing. We need to cook. Period. And we dread it exactly for the reasons you stated.
Great! I know it really helped us get our act together when it comes to meal times. And they JUST added a Kroger menu plan that is specifically for the Nashville region (which is actually part of the Kentucky region). It’s the Kroger Region 2 plan. If you like Publix better, they even include links for printable coupons to go with the menu plan. Or, there’s always Aldi. You don’t have to worry about finding what’s on sale at Aldi, because they don’t do sales. I know some who’ve done a three month subscription to Aldi, and then didn’t renew, and just used the same three month plan all year. You only repeat recipes four times, which is still much better than what I usually do!
Fabulous re: regional Kroger! We used to shop Aldi all the time in St. Louis but there were none when we first moved here. I am Kroger inclined simply because I grew up with it. Glad that there are Aldis here now, though.
I went to Aldi last week for the first time in a long time, and I was PLEASANTLY surprised by the changes! Their coffee creamer is the best I’ve ever had — and I’m kind of a coffee snob! I may switch from Kroger to Aldi and I definitely would if they were closer.