By Heather Hollands
Back-to-School season has always been my favorite time of year. Not only do I love the new beginnings of the school year, I also love fall-scented candles, caramel apples, mums, and cardigan sweaters.
As a teacher, though, I feel exhausted at the beginning of the school year. I supervise the after-school homework lab, so it is 4:30 at the earliest when I head home. There are papers to grade, lessons to plans, but first … dinner to make. With five of us in the house — including three teenagers — everyone is hungry, and we want to eat now.
Too often, I find myself at the local grocery store after school, trying to figure out something quick and delicious to eat. It doesn’t help that I have picky eaters at home. We have a handful of favorite recipes that we eat week after week, and so we find ourselves stuck in a food rut.
Therefore, I have decided to try something new: Meal planning made simple with eMeals. You start off by choosing a meal plan based on your eating style, your family size, and even your favorite grocery store.
Here are the meal plan options: Classic Meals, Clean Eating, Paleo, 30 Minute Meals, Slow Cooker, Low Fat, Low Carb, Low Calorie, Simple Gourmet, Mediterranean, Kid Friendly, Diabetic, Vegetarian, Portion Control, or Gluten Free. I considered signing up for the new 30 Minute Meals plan, but instead — with my meat-and-potatoes family — I chose Classic Meals.
A membership costs $30 for three months; $48 for six months; or $58 for a year. There also are breakfast, lunch, and dessert plans which can be purchased for an additional cost.
Every week, a customized meal plan arrives in your in-box with seven dinner recipes. This includes entrees and side dishes.
Along with the meal plan, you get a detailed shopping list. This is what I love! The shopping list is coordinated with the sales that week for whichever store you select.
Here are the store choices: Aldi, Costco, Kroger, Publix, Safeway, Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods. Or you can select Other Store, which is not coordinated with the sales.
The down side for me, living in a rural area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is that the only two stores we have on that list are Target and Walmart. I selected Walmart for my plan.
I signed up for eMeals just a few days ago. The first menu came with these seven dinner recipes: Shepherd’s Pie, Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta, Skillet Pork Chops with Mushroom Sauce, Greek Nachos, Grilled Orange-Garlic Chicken, Homestyle Pot Roast, and Open-Faced Roast Beef Sandwiches. Sounds good, right? How about this eMeals Chicken Pot Pie recipe?
Shepherd’s Pie and Homestyle Pot Roast are no-brainers with my family. We love these comfort foods.
Looking over the menu, I’m not sure that my family will love the Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta. For one, it calls for jarred Alfredo Sauce. My family doesn’t like jarred sauces, but I can easily replace my homemade alfredo sauce for that. We also like Buitoni Alfredo Sauce, found in the deli section.
The recipe calls for cooking fresh baby spinach and then adding a can of diced tomatoes with italian seasoning and the alfredo sauce. Hmmm, I’m the only one in my family who likes cooked tomatoes […I did mention that I have picky eaters, right?…]. I’m tempted to make the recipe, though, and see how it goes. If I’m the only one who likes it, I’ll take it to school for my lunches.
I’m also not sure about the Greek Nachos. The recipe sounds delicious to me, and Mikayla will like them because she loves Greek salads. My family will raise some eyebrows, though, if I tell them we are having nachos for dinner. To them, that is an appetizer. I probably will make the nachos for a weekend movie night snack.
This guide comes with 10 recipes to help cooks ease into the school year. It includes power breakfasts, lunchbox ideas, afternoon snacks, weeknight dinners, and a sweet treat. All the recipes look like ones my family will enjoy.
So far, I’ve made a Tex-Mex dip, a trail mix, a grab-and-go breakfast, a crockpot chicken dinner, a casserole, a side salad, and a sinful cookie dough dip. My family raved about all the recipes!
I am so excited about the convenience of eMeals. I will use the recipes as a base for my meal planning for the week, although I am sure that I will be making substitutions based on my family’s tastes.
By the way, I signed up for a family meal plan for 3-6 people. With three teenagers, our family eats more than what is made in the recipes. My plan is to double the batches and have some leftovers for lunch the next day.
If any readers are interested in trying the 30 Minute Meals — which looks like it would be awesome on those busy school nights — you can use the code SCHOOL through the end of September to get a 20 percent discount.
Also, one lucky reader will win a three-month subscription to eMeals! Enter using the Rafflecopter link at the end of this post.
Here are some fun fall snacks, courtesy of eMeals:
4 Cups of Pretzels
4 Cups of Carmel Corn
4 cups of Golden Grahams Cereal
1 9.90 oz bag of White Chocolate Candy Corn M&Ms
12 oz of Candy Corn
12 oz of Mellowcreme Pumpkins
1 bag of Reese Cup Minis (the tiny unwrapped cups)
Mix ingredients together in a decorative bowl and it makes a delicious mix that your guests will LOVE. You can also put in cute bags or containers to send to teachers (hint hint) and neighbors.
Orange Tic Tacs
Black Construction Paper
Computer and Printer
Cut enough black construction paper to cover label on both sides of orange Tic Tac container, fold and glue paper to the label. Make a bow and glue to the container. These make great party favors.
Orange Soda Individual bottled sodas (purchase amount desired)
Black Sharpie Pen
Remove the soda label from the bottle. Wash off with warm water to remove all of the sticky residue from bottle. Dry completely. Decorate your pumpkin face on the front of the bottle and tie a green ribbon at the top.
- 15 oz can pumpkin puree
- 10 oz can evaporated milk
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- ¾ cup melted butter
- ½ cup crushed Graham crackers
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- Ice Cream:
- Half gallon vanilla ice cream
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, evaporated milk, brown sugar, eggs, and pumpkin pie spice. Pour into a 9×13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
- Sprinkle cake mix evenly over the top of the pumpkin mixture, followed by the crushed graham crackers and pecans. Drizzle melted butter evenly over the top.
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until center is set and topping is golden brown.
- Scoop ice cream into a large bowl. Soften at room temperature 5 to 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon, and mix, using a wooden spoon, until evenly combined. Serve over warm cake.
If desired, scoop leftover ice cream into an airtight container, and freeze until ready to use.
* I was given a free eMeals subscription. All opinions are my own.
Click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter to win a three-month eMeals dinner subscription.