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What’s for Dinner?

I think that, no matter if you’re a 25-year-old with no kids or a mom of four, the idea of putting together a delicious and healthy dinner at the end of the day can be a bit of an annoyance. It’s certainly not something I looked forward to, even when I was single living by myself in an apartment! I KNEW that I should be putting together better, less-processed meals, but a lot of the time I would end up making a box of mac and cheese…

Then, sometime last year I found something that had the potential to truly turn my idea of dinner around (this is starting to sound like an infomercial…I promise you that this is a true testimony. Oh and it’s definitely not motivated by perks – The managers of this product have no idea I’m blogging about it).

It’s called Emealz! Some of you may already be aware of this little gem of a service – If you are, then you probably know just how AWESOME it is!!

I first came upon it during a health kick I was having at the time, perusing websites for quality recipes that would make me feel better about myself. There was a little banner ad to the side of one recipe website and you’ll NEVER guess what drew me in…

That’s right, friends – Their logo is an owl:)This little guy used to be a little more prominent on their website, but they recently revamped and he’s not QUITE as visible anymore ::sad face:: But their marketing ploy at the time worked like a charm, because I was all over their website within seconds. What I found was something that actually interested me though and I ended up grabbing my wallet for credit card info.

Here’s the low down: First you choose your meal plan. They have several options from 5 meals to 7 meals per week, recipes that serve 1 to 2 people or 4 to 6 people. You can even choose an option that gives you recipes that are low in fat, low in carbs, portion controlled or gluten-free! You also specify your grocery store – I chose Wal-Mart because they have good prices on groceries, but you can do Publix, Kroger or “Any Store” depending on where you shop.

Here’s a screen image from the website of the plan variety (or you can click here and check out the website yourself)

The reason you choose your grocery store is because the service will plan certain menus around the store’s specials for the week, saving you some moolah.

Speaking of money, how much does this cost…? Well it’s only $5 a month (I get charged $15 every three months) – For that price, members can log into the Emealz website and download/print off a weekly meal plan menu and corresponding shopping list each Friday.

Below is a sample of what these look like (feel free to click here to see it loaded up from the website):

(the image above is cut off since it’s just a sample from their website – The meal plan you print out will list all 5 [or 7] of your weekly recipes depending on what meal plan you choose)

And here’s the shopping list that corresponds to the daily recipes. As you can see, it’s oh-so-conveniently organized by aisle and you can see which meal it links to by checking out the number in the far left column. It does that for you so that if you don’t like a certain meal in the list, you can just cross off those ingredients from your list.

The staples are listed at the bottom to show you what you’ll need for the meals but that you probably already have in your pantry. If you DON’T happen to have bread crumbs or sour cream though, you can simply write it in under the “Other Items I Need” notes section. Oh, and did you check out the projected total cost for all of that stuff? $38.44!!! For a whole week’s worth of dinners!! Not too bad at all…They help you keep costs down by listing shopping items that are generic and don’t cost as much – For example, all the items that have a “GV” next to them mean “Great Value”, which is Wal-Mart’s generic brand. MUCH cheaper than the name brand stuff.

But here’s how it works for us in REAL life.

I print out the menu on Friday afternoon when they post them on the website. Then, sometime over the weekend (we like to do it on Sunday morning over coffee at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble), we go through the recipe list crossing off the ones we aren’t interested in. I tend to cross of the seafood ones and John crosses off the ones that are high in creamy ingredients. We probably cross off one or two from the list each week but we are kind of picky – You might not have to cross ANY off! Then we take the shopping list out and cross off the ingredients we won’t need based on the meals we rejected. We fill up the “Other Items I Need” section with, you guessed it – All of the other stuff we need for the upcoming week (ex. tooth paste, toilet paper, lunch meat for lunches, etc.). From there we hit Wal-Mart and get it all done!

It’s always a little bit over the approximated total cost just because we have lunch/breakfast stuff to get too, but our total cost for weekly groceries for two people usually comes in around $60-70. It probably wouldn’t be that much if I refrained from wandering over to the “Home” section where there are pretty candles and picture frames…

You saw last week where we keep our meal list:

It’s front and center in a kitchen cabinet so that we can access it at any time to plan ahead (ex. take chicken out of freezer to thaw on Monday night).

John and I started to really buckle down and use this together two weeks ago and I think it’s going really well! The meals are DELICIOUS and they are home cooked, which always makes things taste better…They are EASY to make too!!! I mean, if you can fit five recipes onto one sheet of regular-size copy paper, you know the steps are going to be pretty simple, short and sweet. But that definitely doesn’t make them any less worthy of your efforts. Seriously, just try a sample week and see for yourself!

I was going to take some photos of our meals for you, but there’s something about photographing food that is beyond me. It never looks like the delicious pictures restaurants have on their menus or websites…But here’s one to tempt your taste buds!

It was a Salisbury Steak recipe with baked potato and fresh green beans on the side. Yummmmmm…I gobbled that meal up in about 5 minutes flat.

So I just thought I’d share one of the ways that we have simplified our life without skrimping on the good stuff. For all the information you could ever want on this service, definitely check out their website. We loooooovveeee it!!!

Have a great weekend:)

(Photo credit for owl logo: here; All other images from the Emealz website: here)

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