Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: e-mealz

Here's my friend, Mary Jo, sharing her experience with e-mealz. This coming week I will have another review of e-mealz, as well as a review of a different meal planning program, Relish!  If anyone has done 30 Day Gourmet or a similar freezer menu plan, please contact me! I am putting together a chart of the pros and cons of each program.
Hello Quick Fix Readers!
My name is Mary Jo and the following is a journal of my initial e-mealz experience. is site to which you can subscribe and receive a weekly shopping list and meal plan for a small fee of $1.25 each week,

Day 1 - Grocery Shopping and Elegant Chicken and Pasta
Day one. Armed with my "Any Store Family Meal" grocery list from e-mealz, I went to conquer purchasing groceries for week one. The trip to the grocery store was a family event. My youngest went to the Eagle's Nest (the grocery store childcare center), while my husband, older son, daughter and I took the trip around the store gathering the items on the list--outer edges of the store first, innards last.

The items on the list were grouped conveniently and the shopping clipped along nicely. By the end the troops were a bit weary, but the food items had been gathered easily. The bill was slightly higher than I had hoped for a menu of solely dinners, but in our parts Giant Eagle is known more for convenience and gas points than low prices.

Once home I had to muster up the energy to make dinner for night one. I was motivated to finish what I started and give this whole e-mealz thing a good try.

First up was to cut the chicken. I confess I didn't do this exactly as instructed. I was suppose to cut the boneless chicken breasts in half and beat them to a certain thickness. Instead I cut the chicken into medium size squares and beat them down until they seemed...flatter.

Remembering how my mom used to flour chicken, I floured the chicken on both sides as instructed and browned each side in a skillet.

(Okay, I browned the chicken in my red wok not a skillet. I enjoy cooking in my bright red wok.)

After adding the whipping cream and shredded Parmesan cheese, the chicken was fully prepared for baking. I placed the chicken in the 350 degree oven--or so I thought. My oven has gas issues (don't laugh), and after 30 minutes I found the oven was never the appropriate temperature! Into the oven again the chicken went, only to find 30 minutes later the oven was still not the appropriate temperature. Into the oven again the chicken went, and this time I could tell the oven temperature was correct.


Sometime between all the chicken baking I cooked the pasta. I set out the lettuce. I also set out bowls of almonds, mandarin oranges and dried cranberries. I opened a bottle of Italian dressing. Once baked, the chicken went over the pasta.

My kids were very kind to their mother. Even though the chicken and pasta meal was not exactly to their liking, they found nice things to say. The oranges made the salad a favorite with my children. A miracle!
So the key word of the night was persistence, without which I would have given up. The plan is
to buy a new oven as soon as possible. I liked the chicken and pasta more than the salad made with packaged lettuce. My kids preferred the salad. The boys were big fans of the canned mandarin oranges.
Mission to start e-mealz accomplished.
Day 2 - Swedish Meatballs.
Ground beef, onions, bread crumbs, All Spice, eggs, and milk--the stuff of which meatballs are made. The meatballs were pretty easy to make. If I let my mind search back I can remember my grandpa making his meatloaf in a similar fashion, but without the All Spice.

I didn't want to use the full cup of onions required because I envisioned my boys refusing to give the meatballs a try if they were chock-full of onions. So instead I used...less onions.

By mistake I poured the instant gravy package into a sauce pan instead of the instructed onion soup mix.
(Okay, I poured the gravy mix into my red wok, not a sauce pan. Did I mention I like my wok?)

I was suppose to make the sauce from the onion soup mix with milk and flour. I remembered my children didn't like the white sauce made with flour and so decided to stick with the brown gravy mix I started by mistake. I finished the brown gravy mix and used the brown gravy to pour over the meatballs.

Noodles, check. Green beans, check. Dinner buns, double check...those dinner rolls from our store's bakery were awesome!

The result? Thumbs up all from all three kiddos for Swedish meatballs and noodles with green beans and dinner rolls. Nice.

Day 3 - Cheesy Baked Fish
Today's recipe was tilapia fish topped with a bread crumb mixture including basil, nutmeg and cheese. The side potatoes were a refrigerated pre-made variety. The side asparagus was fresh and sauteed.

Reviews on this were not favorable. My youngest child's evaluation of what he liked was,"nothing." My older boy negotiated eating two pieces of fish so he would not have to eat the potatoes. My daughter liked the fish and potatoes. Her only complaint was that the asparagus had a funny aftertaste.

I thought the meal was okay. I wasn't crazy about the bread crumb topping. I think I went a little heavy on the bread crumbs. The bread crumbs were suppose to be the Italian seasoned variety, not the plain variety I used, so perhaps plain bread crumbs were too poor a substitute. I don't think I cooked the asparagus appropriately as it was a poor consistency.

The refrigerated potatoes did not cook the way I expected them to cook. (Perhaps this because I browned the potatoes in my beautiful bright red wok.)

We are looking forward to tomorrow's Baked Apple French Toast. Breakfast for dinner sounds good, especially on a Saturday.

Day 4 - Baked Apple French Toast
The Baked Apple French Toast recipe was a overnight recipe. I prepared the bread the night before, as instructed. I then realized I did not have the necessary milk to finish the task. The next day I decided put off making the Baked Apple French Toast meal until the following day. The following day I decided to put off making the Baked Apple French Toast until the day after. Thus an overnight recipe became the bump that knocked me off my e-mealz track entirely! I hope to get back on track soon!

E-mealz is an excellent and versatile tool (be sure to look over the different budget, family size and diet plans in the meal examples on the site), but the meal plans require commitment and perseverance despite plan hiccups and/or a few bad family reviews.

The main lesson I learned in my e-mealz experience so far is this: To stay on target with any meal plan I must push through all the major and minor inconveniences threatening to throw me off course.
Best wishes in your quest to better feed your families!
Off Track?
Thanks MJ! Here's a question for all of you: What derails you from following your menu, meal plan, or commitment to nightly dinner with the fam? Is it time? Ideas? Picky people? Vent it here!