This review was not sponsored and I received no compensation, including money or free products, for it.
As part of my ‘do a frugal thing each week’ challenge, I did a two week trial of eMeals, to try to help me stay under my $300 a month grocery budget. I love meal planning because it saves me money, but hate the level of creativity and time it takes me, so I often just fly by the seat of my pants… which means we go over the grocery budget, because I don’t have a plan.
My impressions of eMeals
I love their interface and love the fact that they have an iPhone app – that was pretty amazing. You can also download the shopping list as a PDF, which I can see being helpful for keeping in my Menu Planning Binder. I was totally in love with the meals, until I realized half the meals for the first week of the Budget-Friendly plan included pork. Since we don’t eat pork, I was a little frustrated to find that I couldn’t opt out of pork meals. I tried a different menu plan, actually I looked through several of them and found my second biggest issue with eMeals.
Apparently, the only way you can see the estimated cost of your shopping trips for your selected meal plan is to use the Budget-Friendly meal plan. So… here’s my problem with this. At least with an average estimation, I can see how much wiggle room I have. Without any kind of estimation, I could be going to the store to spend $200 for a week’s worth of groceries. How would I know unless I went through and calculated it by hand? That doesn’t work for me. I even emailed their support, and this was the response I got.
Basically, no we don’t help you manage your budget for all meal plans, but here’s some more marketing for our other features. Nice to know, but not helpful for managing my budget.
eMeals Features I Loved
Even though I did end up canceling my account before the free trial was over, there were a lot of great features that I loved. Hands down my favorite feature was the iPhone app. Not having to print out a list, hand write one, or even make it before going to the grocery store is amazing.
The fact that you can switch between meal plans at any time is also really great. My hope was to be able to do things like switch between the Gourmet meal plan for special weeks or occasions, or for things like next month when we will have my in-laws coming in town. (Nothing like the in-laws coming to visit to make you up your game, right?). Of course, this feature was basically useless because almost every meal plan included pork, so I would still have meals to plan in addition to the service, but if pork isn’t an issue for your family, then this would come in handy!
The other thing is the variety of meal plans they have is great, as well as the stores they cater to. When we moved to West Virginia, we finally lived close enough to an Aldi to shop there, and they had a meal plan for Aldi. They also have other stores like Kroger, Walmart and others, so if you are store-loyal like I was when Kroger was the only grocery store I used, it’s awesome!
eMeals is well-designed, their interface is easy to use and there are a lot of choices with the kind of meal plans you can have, but if you’re on a strict budget it may not work so well if you want eMeals to do the calculations for you. If you’re just looking for a ready-made menu plan and don’t have unusual dietary restrictions then it would be a great choice, especially if your family isn’t on a super-tight food budget.