After my meal train ran it's course and people stopped bringing my family delicious meals after Stephen's birth, I had a real struggle finding time and energy to plan my grocery list, go shopping, and prepare food. Our city has made it so easy for all of that to be unnecessary. You can have your pick of any restaurant, or use a company that prepares the food and you just microwave it like Munchery or Freshly, or you can pay a company to deliver the ingredients for meals that you cook yourself like Blue Apron. Or you can pay for a service to prepare a meal plan and you still do the shopping and cooking.
I had been curious about the last option for a while. Would it really save me time? Would I like the meals? What about my budget, would it cost more in the long run?
I tried two meal plan services this fall. The first was an introductory offer from emeals. I think they gave me three weeks worth of meals, lists and recipes. You can select which type of meals you want such as vegetarian, budget friendly, 30-minute meals, etc. It wasn't as time saving as I would have liked, but that could have been because they didn't have a dairy free option and that's what I needed. So, I couldn't make everything they recommended and had to edit my list/plan after I printed it all out. They also didn't sync up to my grocery store so it wasn't very budget friendly. The meals I did make were tasty and usually something I hadn't made before.
The second service was cooksmarts. They also gave me three weeks of meal plans to test out. This is more tech savvy site, you don't have to print out anything if you don't want to. And you can customize everything. Choose between original, gluten free, or paleo options for each recipe and they automatically change the grocery list and preparation instructions. Each week they send you four meal options of which you can choose as many as you need. They didn't have a dairy-free option so I usually stick with the paleo version unless it's an easy topping to omit myself.
After trying them both, I decided to sign up with cooksmarts. It was reasonable, only $7 a month. That's worth the time I would save preparing my own meal plan and the stress. Now each week, I login to the site, check 3 to 4 meals I want to make, edit the grocery list for things I already have, print and send Chris to the store! (He is amazing, let me tell you!)
The only real downside I've experienced so far is that it isn't budget friendly and doesn't sync up to grocery store sales at all. This would be an amazing perk. The other thing worth noting is that while they are very good at giving you videos to explain cooking methods, the meals take time. But they are delicious. And I've learned a thing or two in making them!
I'm grateful that I tried these services. I've learned a lot. And while I won't be using them for life, they have been great to get me through this season. And no, I wasn't paid to give a review. I just wanted to share what I'm using to keep me inspired to cook meals for my family. Sometimes you just need a change. And some help!