Monday Reviews: eMeals

I was single for 10 years before meeting my now husband, Christian. During that decade I developed the perfect “single girl” dinner: bowl of popcorn, sliced up apple, cheese or peanut butter, and crackers. Mmmm. So good. Occasionally I would cook a “real meal” but more often than not I would do something simple and easy. Then I got married, and suddenly needed to make “real meals” all the time. Like, every night!

Although I enjoy cooking, I discovered that I was really bad at coming up with things to make. We would go through 5 or 6 basic menus every week – tacos, spaghetti or italian, stir fry, some kind of meat and veggies, or eating out. Sometimes I would get fancy and make salmon, soup, or a big salad with meat on it. Am I the only one who has this problem of repeating meals? Maybe so, but I am guessing I am not alone.

We had our first son 18 months after getting married, and having a newborn only makes coming up with recipes and cooking harder, not easier. I knew I needed help in the creative and easy meals department. I heard about eMeals and decided to give it a try after hearing some great recommendations. We found a Groupon deal for 6 months of weekly dinner plans for $35 from eMeals, which is $20 off the website price, and almost instantly my cooking improved. Meal planning made easy!

What I like about it: Variety! Options! Easy to follow recipes! There are over 16 different meal plan options to choose between, from Clean Eating, to Budget Friendly, to Paleo, to Mediterranean, to Kid friendly, to Quick and Healthy, and many more. They give you the ability to change meal plans whenever you want, so we were able to try a bunch of different meal plan types which gave us a wide variety of recipes each week.

There is an app, and you can select which meals you want to make (we found that we made 4-5 of the 7 they give you each week), and it creates a shopping list for you. If you have additional things to get, you can also add those to the list. Having this list made it easier to stick to our grocery budget and we found that we made less impluse and unnecessary purchases while using eMeals.

Most Favorite Elements:

  • 14 day free trial – we did this, and liked it enough to get the 6 month dinner plan through Groupon. You can also preview all of the different menu types.
  • Flexibility – we could change the meal plan we had each week, which gave us so many different recipes!
  • The meal plans are delivered via email with the recipes included as a pdf, so you have them forever. It is not a deal where you only get the recipes that week – they are yours to keep. This was one of the main highlights for us.
  • You can choose recipes for either 2-3 people or 4-6 people, and your shopping list is created according to how much you will need.
  • The food was delicious and creative – we only found a couple that we would not make again, and overall liked everything we tried.
  • The recipes were easy to follow, and most take 45 minutes or less to make
  • You have the option of connecting your shopping list to a grocery store and doing grocery pick-up. Genius.

Things I Would Change:

  • The app. There is an eMeals app that is pretty good, but occassionally did not work well. Ideally, it gives you your meal plans on your phone, with your shopping list, favorite recipes saved, recipe directions, etc. It worked most of the time, but sometimes I would open the app and nothing would be there. I would have to close out of it and restart the app, sometimes multiple times. The recipes come by email as mentioned, so the app is a bonus and not necessary to make eMeals work, but it would be nice if it worked all the time.
  • The new meal plans are sent out on Wednesdays. This was the only thing I really did not like about eMeals. I used to do meals from Sun-Sat, or Mon-Sun, but with eMeals I had to plan meals for Thurs-Wed, with shopping on Thursdays each week after the new plan came out. Not a huge deal, but just annoying to have to start the new meal plan in the middle of the week.

Cost: Varies by plan. The 6 month weekly dinner plan is $55 on the website, or $35 on Groupon. They also have options for adding breakfast, lunch, or all three that are more expensive.

Where you can get it: eMeals.com

Summary: We found eMeals easy to use, delcious, and helpful in varying our dinner menus. I now feel more confident in my meal planning, and have 6 months’ worth of recipes that I can refer back to over and over without having to go searching for ideas. For us it was definitely a good investment of $35 and worth it for the 6 months, and would recommend it to anyone looking to improve your meal planning and dinner menu.

Monday Review – Hello Baby book

Welcome back for another Monday review! This week we are talking about baby books. I love the classic pen and paper method for keeping memories, so when I got pregnant I knew I wanted an actual baby book. However, I saw so many that had pages on pages of information to fill out, ones that were daily, weekly, etc, ones that were cheesy, ones that were over-the-top…you get the idea. Life with a baby is chaotic enough (part of the reason most baby books end up half empty), and, I wanted to find a physical book that I would actually use.

The answer: say hello to the Hello Baby memory book from Sticky Bellies!

Hello baby

What I like about it: It is short, sweet, and to the point. There is an intro page, some blank memory pages for hospital/birth memorabilia, birth story page, photo pages, etc. The milestone pages are done by month, and each one has space for one photo and three boxes to fill in for the baby – What You Love, What You Don’t Love, and I Never Want To Forget…super fast and easy. It takes me 5 minutes per month to fill out the page. The pages are also coordinated with well baby checkups, so there is height and weight on the months that you go to the pediatrician, and then fun stats on other months like sleeping, foods, teeth, etc.

Favorite Elements:

  • It tracks birth through five, with two page updates for each year starting at age 1.
  • The book captures the highlights without being overwhelming – I can even see doing one for each of my kids because it is so simple!
  • The pages are made of high quality cardstock. This may be weird, but I notice paper texture and weight, and appreciate when a memory book like this one is created with durable paper.
  • I love supporting small businesses, and this is a great one!

Cost: $29.99, comes in two color schemes

Where you can get it: stickybellies.com (there are tons of great products besides the memory books!)

Summary: Baby books are not for everyone, but if you like them, definitely check out the Hello Baby book. Our son is only 10 months old, and I already love looking through his book to see how much he has grown and changed. This is keepsake quality, and a book we will treasure for many years to come!

Monday Review – I Dream of You

In my first 10 months of motherhood I have discovered many new companies and products that have been so helpful and awesome, so I have decided to start a weekly review post where I share one of my finds! These are not ads; I am not getting paid by anyone to share this information, they are simply my reviews on items I have found and want you to know about. They will not always be baby or kid related either, so these reviews are for everyone! Come back each Monday for a new item, and if you have found something awesome that makes life easier/better, please share it with me. I would love to post guest reviews so we can all learn and share together!

First up: I Dream of You, by JJ Heller

JJ Heller - I dream of you

It is no secret that JJ Heller is one of my favorite music artists. Her soft voice, melodic sound and beautiful writing draw you in and make your day better. So, when I learned that she was creating a lullaby cd, it was the first thing that went on our baby registry and one of my favorite things we received.

We started playing it while I was still pregnant, and had it playing in the delivery room as our son was born. What I did not realize at the time is that it is magic. But I know that now. Two weeks after our baby was born he was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot. Because of this condition, it was vital that we keep him as calm as possible until his surgery to repair the hole in his heart.

So, anytime he started getting too riled up, we turned on I Dream of You. And like magic, he calmed instantly. Every time. It worked before his surgery, it worked in the hospital when he started getting agitated with all the cords and wires, and it still works on car trips and when he wakes up in the night crying. It is amazing how quickly it calms him down, and I recommend it to anyone having a baby.

What I like about it: It is not annoying. So many lullaby songs are cheesy and boring. These songs are beautiful, written for both parents and baby. The songs provide encouragement on nights that seem to go on forever, and give hope to weary moms and dads. They remind you that this baby is a gift, and that everything is going to be ok. It is an album that I can listen to over and over – we’ve had it going for ten months so far and I am not tired of it yet.

Favorite tracks:

  • The Sun will Rise
  • Big World, Baby
  • I Get to Be the One

Cost: $8.99, or free to stream on some sites

Where you can get it:  iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, or her website jjheller.com.

Summary: Get it. If you are having a baby, you will not regret it. If you have a baby in the hospital, definitely get it. I wish every NICU and PICU in the world could have a copy of it to play for the babies. It makes that much of a difference.