This is the fourth installment of this series.  You can view the first three segments here:

Part One:  Cook Once a Week

Part Two:  Make Meal Components

Part Three:  Freezer Cooking

If you are struggling nightly to get dinner on the table for your family, it is okay to rely on some help.  I have done so several times during especially busy periods in my life. 

There are quite a few excellent, low cost meal planning services that can ease your burden by creating not only meal plans for you but also grocery lists.  (Now if only someone else would do the grocery shopping too!)  Here are a few that I have tried:

Food on the Table.  Food on the Table is free to use for planning up to three meals a week.  If you would like to plan an entire week’s worth of menus, there is a fee of $9.95 a month. 

Food on the Table allows you to choose your preferred grocery store and what main ingredients you would like to tailor your recipes to.  So, if you have a freezer full of chicken, or chicken is on sale this week, you can choose that as your main ingredient.  If you don’t like the meals that it comes up with, you are free to choose different meals.  In addition, you can further select which types of meals you prefer:  Save Time, Healthy Meals, Familiar Meals.

Food on the Table generates your grocery list and gives you a recipe for each of the chosen meals.  My family thoroughly enjoyed the meals we tried, especially Pepsi Baked T-Bone Steaks and Bacon Wrapped Turkey Burgers

E-Mealz.  We used E-Mealz last year when I was pregnant and working full-time, and after our third child was born.  We loved it!  When you sign up for E-Mealz, you can choose between several different menu plans including plans based on grocery stores and plans based on diet preference. 

The grocery stores included are Kroger, Publix, Wal-Mart, any store, Aldi and Ralph’s.  E-Mealz will generate a meal plan for you based on the store that you pick and what is on sale that week.  In addition to creating a varied meal plan, it will also give you a detailed grocery list.  It doesn’t get any easier than that!

The special diet plans include Gluten Free, Low Carb, Low Fat, Portion Control, and Vegetarian.  All of the special diet plans allow you to choose between Wal-Mart as your store or any store.

E-Mealz costs $15 for 3 months, averaging out to $1.25 per week.  They aim to keep the grocery costs for the grocery list they generate at less than $75 week (before coupons, if you use them regularly).  Trust me, if you are in a very busy season of life, it may well be worth the $1.25 per week to avoid the burden of making a menu plan and grocery list weekly.  Plus, you will be saving by not going out to eat when time is short.

In addition to meal planning services, you can also make your life easier with grocery delivery services.  My family has used PeaPod several times.  (See my full review of our PeaPod experience here.)

It’s okay to admit that you can’t do it all.  During particularly busy times in life, you may want to try out some of these services.  You don’t have to subscribe forever, but subscribing for awhile can make life just a little bit easier and allow you to focus your time where it needs to be.

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