Wednesday, April 21, 2010
If you're a fan of the Dave Ramsey show (Hubby says I'm addicted), you've no doubt heard the commercial for e-mealz. You know the one that promises to cut your grocery bill by hundreds of dollars a month for only $5 a week. I was tempted by that commercial daily for over a year before I finally couldn't take it anymore and broke down and subscribed for three months. I tried to find reviews of the program before signing up, but didn't have a lot of luck so I decided to share my opinion in case anyone else is out there wondering how it all works.
I'll start by saying e-mealz is a wonderfully convenient service. Each week an e-mail arrives in your inbox with next week's dinner menu all planned out and a shopping list to boot. There are many options available when starting out, such as selecting how many people you need to feed each week, choosing your favorite grocery store (Kroger, Publix, Wal-Mart and Aldi to name a few), and deciding if you'd prefer low-fat or vegetarian dinners.
We started with the basic Kroger menu. Not all menu preferences (low-fat...) are available with every store, otherwise I would have chosen a low fat Kroger menu. I do not cook on weekends. E-mealz plans a meal for every day of the week so I was able to cross out the two least appealing meals from the get-go. After using the program a couple of weeks though, I came to the conclusion there was simply too much meat involved for our family. We usually have 1 or 2 meatless meals a week. With the e-mealz plan, there might be a pork roast on the menu for Monday night, chicken for Tuesday, a rump roast for Wednesday... Honestly, one roast can last us an entire week and we were ending up with a lot of leftovers - some of which never got eaten - so there was simply too much waste going on here. Our family of four includes two kids - one of whom is a very picky eater and rarely wants anything to do with meat that isn't deep fried, so I came to the conclusion we were spending more than necessary on meat with this menu. I also don't cook a lot of weird meat. We pretty much stick to ground beef and chicken around here with an occasional roast. Just because Boston butt is on sale for the week doesn't mean I want to eat it.
A few weeks into my subscription, I switched to the Publix low-fat menu. This did reduce the amount of meat being called for each week, but there were still some issues for me. It didn't take long to figure out low-fat and healthy don't always mean the same thing. I try to stay away from things like canned biscuits and pizza crusts because of all of the preservatives. These were staples with the low-fat menu though and we're included at least once a week, as were a lot of boxed, convenience type foods for side dishes. And there was still a lot of chicken cooking going on - typically twice a week. E-mealz plans your menu based on weekly sales at the store you select. I love this feature, however I prefer to buy organic meats so it didn't really do my pocketbook any good to serve chicken two nights a week because regular chicken was on sale for $0.99 a pound when I was going to be forking over four or five times that much for the organic variety.
While I love the concept of e-mealz, I came to the conclusion it just was not a perfect fit for our family. I tend to be a thrifty shopper anyway so I didn't find I really saved any money with it. E-mealz provides dinner for a family of 4-6 for about $80-90 each week. This is about what I was spending anyway on my regular shopping trips that also included toilet paper, breakfast, lunch, snacks, shoes, Hello Kitty headbands from the Dollar Spot...(There are reasons why you shouldn't grocery shop at Target.)
Even though it didn't work for our family, I do think there are some families out there who could really benefit from the service. Newlyweds who don't have a clue about running a household (like me many moons ago) or new moms who are trying to figure out how to accomplish a thousand new things in a day would probably love the service, as would families in which both parents work and dinner time is always a mad dash. I think it would also be helpful for anyone new to the idea of menu planning to help them get into a groove as well as those families you hear about who spend $700 a month (ACK!) on groceries for their family of four. I admit it was freeing to not have to worry about what I was going to cook for dinner tomorrow night or even next week and the pre-made shopping lists were the best thing since sliced bread. If e-mealz were to come out with a truly healthy/organic menu, I would even be willing to give them another try.
If you've been wondering if e-mealz would work for you, I hope this post gave you some insight!