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Meal Planning Made Simple: A Home Chef & eMeals Review

Meal Planning Made Simple: A Home Chef & eMeals Review

Meal planning is absolutely my weak spot when it comes to taking care of our family.  I really, really don’t like doing it.  It probably has something to do with how much I LOVE bread, pasta, and just carbs in general-but how much I really shouldn’t be eating them-that makes me hate it.  Or maybe it’s because it seems like no matter what I cook, at least one of my kids won’t eat it.  Or that the bigger my kids get, the less we end up with for leftovers and the more meals I have to plan and cook!  Whatever it is, I don’t like it.  So, I decided to try and make this part of life a bit less of a chore and that led me to two different plans of action: 1) A meal delivery service and 2) Online meal planning.  So, here’s how our experiences went with both:

Home Chef: A Meal Delivery Service

By now I’m sure you’ve heard of a meal delivery service; there are so many of them now, that it’s a little bit crazy!  There’s Blue Apron, Green Chef, Plated, HelloFresh, Chef’d, Marley Spoon, (and so many more) and they each offer different types of subscription plans, different pricing options, and differently sourced foods.  Honestly, I chose Home Fresh over all the others because I saw an ad for it on Facebook.  Seriously.  I started reading through the comments on the ad and I saw discussion about whether or not you could choose specific dietary profiles such as vegetarian, low sodium, low carb, etc and that piqued my interest. So, naturally, I wandered over to their website and started comparing what they offered to several other meal delivery services, read a ton of reviews, and ultimately decided to go with it (with the end goal of simplifying the meal planning process). 

Here’s what we liked about it:

  • They send you up to 11 meals to choose from each week (some of the other services don’t offer nearly that kind of selection).
  • You can fill out a “Taste Profile” so that the meal options that are presented to you each week are more likely to be something that you’ll enjoy.  This is where you can tell them your dietary restrictions.
  • You can cancel at any time; there is no commitment.
  • You can deny your delivery on a week by week basis (so if I still have dinners left from last week that I need to make or if we’re going out of town, I can simply say “Don’t bring me food this week”).
  • Having dinner ingredients delivered means a lot less time in the grocery store!
  • Everything arrives cold and in great shape; the produce and meats are top notch.
  • It encourages you to try things you’ve never had or cooked before (we tried beets and bok choy for the first time with Home Chef!).
  • Each meal contains the main entrée and the sides, so you don’t have to think about “what to make with it”; it’s a package deal.
  • The recipes are truly amazing.  We didn’t have a single thing that we didn’t like!

And here’s what we didn’t care for:

  • $9.95 per meal is a bit more than we wanted to spend on a regular basis.  Sure, it’s healthier and cheaper than eating out (which is great), but there are a lot of healthy recipes we can make at home for a whole lot cheaper.
  • The portion sizes were a bit on the small side.  I’m sure that they are TRUE portion sizes (what we should actually be eating), but I often found myself making an extra side or a salad to go along with our meal.
  • The recipes take a lot more time and effort to prepare than what I have available to me with three small kids.  I started prepping ingredients earlier in the day (squeezing lemons, mincing garlic, cutting veggies, etc) and it was still a mad house trying to get it all put together at dinner time.  I found myself wishing I could just use the lemon juice concentrate, pre-minced garlic in a jar, and frozen veggies I already had in the fridge!  I understand fresh is best, but it’s not always easy.
  • No matter how amazing the recipes were, they were different, and my kids still wouldn’t eat it.

So, for us, the cons outweighed the pros and we canceled our subscription.  I think that if your kids are much older, or if they’re more adventurous eaters, or if you don’t have any kids in the house at all, that Home Chef is a fantastic option because the food is really good and it is cheaper than eating out at a restaurant that prepares an equivalent quality of food.  And you just can’t beat the convenience of selecting from a pre-set menu and having it shipped directly to your door!  Also, one thing I will point out is that all of Home Chef’s recipes can be found on their website.  So if you don’t necessarily want to order the food from them, you can still download the recipe cards and cook them anyway!  Amazing!

eMeals: An Online Meal Planning Service

So, when Home Chef didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped, I decided to try eMeals (again, because I saw an ad for it on Facebook!).  The eMeals website has Dave Ramsey’s face allllll over it…it is marketed as a budget-saving tool for families, and I believe it.  This is strictly a meal planning service; you buy your own food and use the eMeals recipes to prepare it.

Here’s what we liked about it:

  • Your first two weeks are free!
  • You can select a specific meal plan such as “low calorie”, “low carb”, “slow cooker”, “kid friendly”, “gluten free”, “30-minute meals”, etc. and you can change it at any time.
  • You simply download the recipes for the week and it’s yours to keep…forever!
  • Each meal contains the main entrée and the sides, so you don’t have to think about “what to make with it”; it’s a package deal.
  • Shopping lists are included.
  • You can send your shopping list directly to Walmart Grocery to order everything online and pick it all up curb-side!
  • The meals are truly budget conscious; it’s good food for the average family.
  • The recipes were simple and delicious!

And here’s what we didn’t care for:

  • I debated between the “low carb” and “diabetic” meal plans and ultimately went with the “low carb”.  The recipes were great, but you don’t get the full nutritional information with this plan that you get with the “diabetic” plan (only net carbs are provided).  Also, there were some sneaky carbs in there (from fruits, sauces, etc.) that some people with true dietary restrictions would have to watch out for.
  • That you have to call to cancel.

That’s it.  That is literally the only two (very minor) complaints that I have for eMeals.  I ONLY called to cancel because I had so many weeks’ worth of meal plans stored on my computer and I hadn’t even made ¼ of the recipes (we don’t cook every day and there are seven recipes for each week!).  When I did call to cancel, I was told that we could put our account on an indefinite hold (rather than cancelling completely) so that when we were ready to start back up, it would be super easy.  And do you know how many spam emails I’ve gotten from them since putting my account on hold?  Zero.  Not a single one pestering me to come back.  Awesome, right?

 This is me with eMeals: so carefree, but still, always just a little bit awkward...

This is me with eMeals: so carefree, but still, always just a little bit awkward...

Out of these two services, the clear winner for us was eMeals.  If you sign up for their service, it becomes cheaper on a per month basis if you select a long-term (one year) plan.  BUT, if you’re like me and don’t cook every night, maybe try it for two or three months on a monthly basis then put your account on hold like we did because there are so.many.recipes.  I can’t imagine having a year’s worth of eMeals recipes stored on my computer.  365??  Really?  It would take me three years to make all of those!  So keep that in mind, be smart about it so you don’t spend more than you have to, and do what works best for you and your family!

Have you used a meal delivery service or online meal planning service?  Which ones did you try and what did/didn’t you like about it?

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