I'm going to be honest with you. I hate meal planning.
Not long ago, we were deeply in debt living on a low, varialble income. I started reading blogs about being frugal. I went to the library and checked out every book I could on how to save money.
I learned a lot but the one thing that people kept saying over and over again? Make a meal plan and stick to it!
I didn't know where to find meals to cook. I hated dragging out cookbooks to find recipes. It took forever! Plus, I would get all stressed out about what to serve with these meals. Does broccoli go with baked chicken? Should I add some rice with that? Okay, I quit. We're going out to eat.
I heard about Emeals on the radio and immediately tried it. Keep in mind, we didn't have much money then but I knew this would be a great investment. For a few bucks a week, I got a meal plan (WITH SIDE DISHES!!!) sent to me that was on budget and specific to my local store.
The recipes are family-friendly and easy to cook. The best part? I can make a meal plan with Emeals in under 5 minutes. It is so easy.
First things first, set up your Emeals account. It's super easy. Pick your store and/or dietary preferences. Emeals has low carb, paleo, slow cooker, kid free, budget-friendly meal plans and so much more!
You can also pick your meal plan based on your store preference. Each meal plan is based on the current sales and offerings of the store you choose. They have Aldi, Kroger, Publix, Walmart, and Whole Food meal plans available too.
Currently, we have the Aldi Family plan. Each week we get 7 new dinner ideas, plus a shopping list and recipes. The best part? All seven meals cost around $80 a week! The meals are delicious and healthy.
Are you ready to see how I meal plan in 5 minutes? Set your timer. 5 minutes is all you need.
Ready. Set. Go.
1. OPEN UP YOUR EMEALS APP
I get a new meal plan for the week every Wednesday. I simply click on the week and see what options are available. Each new meal plan has seven new dinner options with side dishes!
Like I said before, we have the Aldi family plan. I have switched to other diet-specific plans a few times over the years but I always come back to the Aldi family plan. As my kids age and their appetites grow, I appreciate how much food I can buy at Aldi for low prices. The quality is fantastic. This meal plan is our secret weapon for staying on budget!
Simply click on the week and the app will open up the meals offered this week!
2. SELECT THE MEALS YOU WANT TO COOK THIS WEEK
I always go through each recipe and see if it is something we would enjoy. I think about what meat we may already have in the freezer. Often times, I will buy chicken and beef in bulk on sale and freeze it. If I already have the protein frozen, I am 99% likely to make the meal.
I also take our weekly calendar into consideration. I rarely purchase groceries for all seven meals. For instance, this week I only need 5 dinners. We have pizza one night and are eating with friends another night.
I glance through the meals and I select the 5 dinners that look good. Once I select these meals, you simply click "ADD TO SHOPPING LIST". The app automatically adds all those ingredients into my shopping list in the app!
As you can see in the previous pictures above, I also have the lunch plan as well. It is not Aldi specific, but I usually select one or 2 lunches from that plan and add those ingredients to my cart. It all goes into ONE shopping cart. You don't have to worry about switching between shopping carts in the app!
3. EDIT YOUR SHOPPING LIST
Always be sure to edit your list BEFORE you go to the store. Simply go back to the home screen and click "SHOPPING LIST."
One of the biggest way to save BIG money on your grocery bill each week is to only buy what you need. This takes time and practice, but is worth the work! Don't buy another can of tomato sauce, if you already have 4 cans in the pantry!
I take my shopping list to my pantry and check to see what I have on hand. If I have an item, I check it off the shopping list within the app. It takes me less than a minute to do this.
I also take a few seconds to add to my shopping list any other needs we might need to buy. For instance, I usually add milk, yogurt, and oatmeal. Your shopping list is customizable for your family.
4. SEE YOUR TOTAL COST
One of the things I love the most about the Emeals app is the running total at the end of your shopping list. I can go into Aldi each week and know what my groceries will cost me.
If you are new to budgeting or trying a cash wallet envelope system, this meal planning app is great. You know exactly how much cash you will need to take to the store. I find the grocery store is the ONE place I overspend. If you are like me, Emeals might be a great tool for you!
Finally, the last thing I love about this meal planning system is the "COOK MODE" (see above). Simply click this mode when you start cooking. It opens the recipe into a bigger screen. You can swipe as you cook making it easy to cook and manage homework!
Saving money doesn't have to be complicated. We know you are busy. We all need simple tools to help us save money while caring for our families. The Emeals team does that for me and so much more!
Emeals offers a free 14-day trial so you have nothing to loose! Give it a try and see what you think!