Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Things I Love: eMeals

(This is the second in a somewhat sporadic series, a series so sporadic that the first of the series was back in October 2010 and I didn't even call it Things I Love. Back then the series was called What's On My Porch, and definitely did not include all things that I loved. But it occurs to me that as I watch others make huge fortunes out of their blogs and I reap only the satisfaction of gradually filling up the internet, that I should not be deterred from telling you about things that make my life easier. Back in the day, Soap.com was one of those. Now that we no longer buy toilet paper at the rate of a six-person family [and if we did, I certainly would not be telling you about it] my appreciation of Soap.com has diminished from WOW!-It's-The-Greatest-Thing-Ever! to Meh. Today's product has survived the Great Child Exodus and continues to be one of my favorite things.)

I have never been a particularly good cook, but I have cooked a lot over the past 26 years. A. Lot. I discovered during the course of putting out three meals a day, plus snacks, plus the unlimited grazing fare that kept four Boys from completely wasting away, that the worst part about cooking was deciding what to cook. The second worst thing about cooking was shopping. The least worst thing about cooking was, well, cooking.

So a couple of years ago, when Husband heard an ad for eMealz (sic) and suggested I check it out, I fired up the computer. Almost immediately I heard shimmery angel music playing in my imagination, as I discovered that for a fairly minimal amount of money (and for me to say it's minimal, it's really, really minimal), the good folks at eMealz would plan my main meals, and provide a shopping list. All I had to do was go to the store and buy the ingredients, then slap them together and call it food. At that point the shimmery angel music crescendoed and the heavens opened and I may have seen paradise.

(Disclaimer: I almost didn't subscribe to the service because of the pretentiously oh-so-cool "z" in the original name. It's a measure of my dislike of planning and shopping that I plunked down my credit card number anyway. But the eMealz people finally saw the magnitude of their naming misstep earlier this year, and now they're a perfectly respectable eMeals.)

Folks, I love this thing. All of the meals are either make-able during the hour between when I get home from work and when supper needs to be on the table, or they go in the slow cooker before I leave for work. The menus include fresh vegetables, and I'm much more likely to use produce before it turns slimy and grey if the menu is right there on the refrigerator telling me to serve that spinach TODAY, please.

Is it gourmet cooking? It is not. Very few of the recipes have more than half a dozen ingredients, and back when the Boys were still at home the recipes intended to serve six were sometimes a little skimpy for teenage appetites. The main dishes usually are pretty good, though, and the very few that have been disastrous have been disastrous on an epic level (ask us about Cheesy Shrimp Grits, which now have the place of honor as the worst thing I've ever asked my family to eat).

Do I use eMealz/s recipes every day? I do not. In fact, a one-week menu lasts about two weeks because we either have evening activities, or I have an itch to cook something else, or we go out.

But does it make my life easier? Oh, holy cow, does it ever. Our meals together don't automatically rotate spaghetti-tacos-meat loaf-rinse-lather-repeat. I don't start dreading the dinner preps every day at 3 p.m., or at all. I go home, check the menu, and cook. The dinner-time stress level has lowered from red alert to a nice cheery green. And when I've had questions about my account (switching menus from the meals-for-six to the meals-for-two or to the low-fat options, for example) the customer service folks were nice and helpful.

Two thumbs and eight wiggling fingers up for eMeals.  I love this thing.

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