We live in a go, go, go world and it seems slowing down to get dinner on the table can be a challenge for many families. It's often easier to grab something quick.
Many families said the hardest part is planning ahead.
Busy mom Kate Hartman said, “A lot of times it's easier to cook the same thing over and over because I know the kids will eat it but that gets a little boring.”
Another busy mother, Jessica Estes, said, “It doesn't matter what plan we have, it usually ends in Chelino's.”
The struggle to get a home-cooked meal on the table has sparked dozens of websites all of which do the planning for you.
We wondered if it's really worth the time and money so we chose three meal planning sites and had three Oklahoma families put them to the test.
Now meet our testers.
Kate Hartman is a work-from-home mom with three boys.
Holly Campbell is a stay-at-home mom also with three kids.
Morgan and Jessica Estes both work full time and take care their 1-year-old, Joanna.
One thing all three testers said they liked was that each site offered full grocery lists for the meals.
They said it took a little stress out of the weekly process.
Jessica said, “I could go to the store and in less than an hour, come out and say, ‘OK, I have a plan for the week.’”
Our testers reviewed each site and decided Emeals was the winner.
5dinner-in-1hour: The company claims you can make a week’s worth of meals in just one hour.
- Two of our testers said their families did enjoy the taste these meals.
- They were easy to make.
- It really did only take one hour to do all the prep for the whole week.
- One of our testers said these meals were bland.
- The same tester said they felt like the instructions were harder to follow compared to the other sites.
- Jessica said, “I thought, is it really going to work to chop this up on Sunday and it still taste good on Friday and it did. I was pleasantly surprised!”
The Six O’Clock Scramble: the site claims to help you get a meal on the table in under 30 minutes. They say even picky eaters will enjoy the food.
- This site allowed testers to pick and choose meals and would alter their grocery list.
- One of our testers said she found the food a little bland; however, her kids LOVED the food from this site.
- One of our couples found this site hard to navigate.
- One tester, who claims she is a picky eater, said she struggled to find something on this site she would want to eat.
Emeals: The site all three testers said was their favorite. The site claims to be meal planning made simple.
- The website was easy to navigate and there was a companion app which testers loved.
- Testers said the meals were all great.
- Testers said they liked that they could choose a grocery store and the site would even show them accurate prices for items they needed.
- Meals sounded like something even the picky tester would not be afraid to eat.
- One tester said they liked that this site offered a variety of meals each week that included crock pot meals, grilled meals and casseroles.
- One tester felt like the ingredients were not as fresh as she had hoped they would be.
- One testers kids thought the meals had a little too much seasoning.
Overall the testers said the web sites helped them to try new things.
They were also challenged a little by each site to try new spices.
They did enjoy the option of trying something new.
However, they said it did cost a little more than they expected at first because they had to buy staple items they had not used before.
As for the cost, subscribing to one of these sites will cost anywhere from $3 to $7 a month.
It’s a cost our testers said could actually help them save money.
Jessica said, “I think we would come out ahead because we wouldn't be going out as much as we do.”
Holly said, “It's really simple meals. I think anyone could do it.”
They also said they felt having this option would help them to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with their families.
Kate said, “I think it takes a lot of the frustration of trying to plan a dinner out of it and then you just have the time to sit with your family.”
Holly said, “I would encourage everyone to do it, especially if you're scared of cooking.”
The sites offer a variety of menus to choose from including clean eating, gluten-free and traditional menus.
A couple of them even offered menus for those on a paleo diet or those who wanted a vegetarian diet.
Each site did provide our testers with at least a week's worth of meal plans for free so that we could do this experiment.