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eMeals.com can save money, ensure healthy eating

Budgeting monthly expenses can be daunting.

One big part of where my husband and I’s money goes is food. A few months ago, as we tried to come up with a solid plan to stick to a budget each month, we realized that for a household of two, we were spending hundreds of dollars at the grocery store each month. That was including couponing, price matching and buying sale items.

What we realized is that we didn’t have a plan.

In researching meal-planning options to maximize our grocery trips and avoid wasting food that would go unused in the fridge, we found eMeals.com. So far, so good.

1. What is it?

eMeals gives you a weekly menu with a list of ingredients for your weekly grocery shopping. You first pick your plan based on your food preferences (low carb, low fat, gluten free, etc). Next you select your family size (amount of servings, for example). Finally, you can pick a store you like to shop at.

2. Are there a lot of recipes?

Recipes galore. Through the eMeals website or their app, you download weekly menus. Each week is different. We are on the low-carb plan. Meals vary, from slow cooker recipes to meatless to classic cooking. Signing up for a year means you’ll get a different recipe for each day of the year.

3. How do I know what to buy?

Along with each weekly plan comes an ingredient list. It’s broken up by produce, meat and seafood, refrigerated, frozen, canned and packaged and bakery and deli. It’s easy to find the items you need in each section of the supermarket. It also comes with a necessary staples list, so you know you should always have certain spices and ingredients on hand at all times. You can also select a preferred store and the ingredients list will come with a price value next to each item and a total for the entire weekly menu. That way, you know exactly where each penny goes.

4. Are the meals any good?

Pretty good. One of the main reasons we decided to try it is for variety. Cooking chicken every day only takes us so far. The recipes we have been cooking range from seafood to pork and beef and even vegetarian. They are filling and easy to cook. Each recipe comes with a main dish and a side, prepping and cooking time.

5. What’s the catch?

Well, the only thing better than following a meal plan is not having to cook it. Unfortunately with eMeals, you cook the meals but if you don’t mind spending some time in the kitchen each day, this is a great plan. Not all recipes are great. Obviously it depends on your taste and preferences. The plan itself can be expensive. A yearly plan for dinners-only is about $60. You can add weekday lunches and healthy breakfast menus for about $3 to $4 per month each. Of course, you still have to buy the ingredients on top of that. Tip: Watch out for reduced prices for memberships on sites like Groupon.

6. What are the benefits?

All you have to do is buy the ingredients and cook it. You’ll know exactly how much of each food you need so nothing goes to waste. By giving you a pricing list for a preferred store, you can use that as a basis for price matching. I like to hunt for deals at other grocery stores and then price match them at Walmart for cheaper. I normally cut down the grocery bill almost 50 percent each week from the total listed in the meal plan. Finally: variety is great!

7. How do I know it’s healthy?

This is perhaps another setback if you’re hoping to count calories or keep track of what you eat. However, the variety of meal plans is great. You can select from low carb/fat, classic cooking, clean eating, portion control, gluten free, natural and organic, paleo, simple gourmet, slow cooker classic, slow cooker clean eating or vegetarian. If you get sick of a plan, just switch. That easy.

8. What did you think of it?

My husband and I give it four out of five stars. It’s easy to follow, most of the meals taste great and it’s a good way to keep a budget.

Overall, if you want to keep track of money spent on food, this is a great plan. If you’re a kitchen lover, even better.