4 Reasons to Avoid Meal Plan Services

I know, I know, you’ve seen the ads on various other blogs with the promise of a simplified dinner routine. No more scouring cookbooks or compiling long shopping lists. No more frantic nights wondering what’s for dinner. They promise easy meals and stress-free nights, but I’m here to tell you, “Save your money!” 

4 Reasons to Avoid Meal Plan Services

I purchased a meal plan service this past December. It was the height of the Christmas rush, my ceramics business was booming, and I needed help. Since hiring a personal chef is not currently an option (darn it!), and my husband’s not keen on the idea of a sister-wife, a meal planning service seemed like the next best option.

The first e-mail came with a week’s worth of meals and a grocery list. Perfect. Compared to the time I’d usually spend figuring out our meals and compiling a list, this was a piece of cake. Then I looked over the menu, and that’s when I realized I’d never really be able to escape this weekly grind.

Here are 4 reasons you should save your money and not bother with a meal plan service:

1. You won’t like every meal they send you.

I guess a meal plan service could be great if you like every single meal on the menu, but seriously, what are the chances of that? We aren’t a big seafood family, and each week seems to have at least one seafood meal. This means that not only do I have to find a substitute, but I have to work my way through the grocery list and try to eliminate the ingredients we don’t actually need. That’s a pain.

Furthermore, only a couple of the meals and sides we’ve made from this service have actually been good. Quite a few meals have been huge disappointments. That’s par for the course when trying new recipes, but night after night of mediocre or gross food is a huge let down. I’d rather plan my meals and know we’re going to enjoy what we’re eating and try the gamble of a new dish here and there instead of trying new meal after new meal every night with such disappointing results.

2. It’s nothing more than a glorified cookbook.

These weekly meal plans are really just glorified cookbooks. Yes, the grocery list feature is nice (if #1 isn’t an issue), but ultimately, no service is going to be able to choose meals to fit our lives as well as I can. Some weeks I need a lot of crock pot meals, others I need a lot of fast meals or want to make something fancy and time consuming. A weekly menu can’t predict what meals will work well with our schedules week to week, and if we end up going through the meals from the service to compile a weekly meal plan we might as well save our money and rely on great cookbooks, websites, or pinterest instead.

3. The predicted time required to prepare is usually not very accurate.

There have been a couple nights when I needed to make a quick meal so I chose one that promised to be “super fast.” Unfortuantely, they ended up being anything but quick. I was usually still frantically trying to prepare dinner an hour or so after I thought we’d be eating while my kids begged for snacks. That didn’t make for an easy or stress-free meal.

4. If you decide to try it, don’t prepay!

I love a good deal as much as the next person, but where the meal plan is concerned I shouldn’t have prepaid for a year.
I decided I wanted to cancel the service after only a month, and that’s when I was informed that the plan would expire in December of 2014. Fabulous, only 48 weeks of crappy recipes to go! Instead, I wish I’d purchased only one month so see how I liked it, but I’ll admit that I was swayed by seeing these advertised on blog after blog after blog. If this many people are raving about them they must be great, right? I love these blogs, and they love these plans so I’m going to give them a shot. My mistake. :( I still love those blogs, but I can do without the meal plans, which I now suspect they advertise just for the kickbacks from the affiliate programs. Disappointing.

In my humble opinion, the best meal plan service (that either doesn’t exist or I just don’t know about yet) would be one that allows us to import our favorite recipes and ingredients and makes a shopping list for us with those meals so every dinner doesn’t feel like a game of Russian roulette.

I’d love to hear how you handle meal time. Have you ever tried a meal plan service? Any tips or tricks for easy meal planning?

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  1. says

    I currently use eMeals, and although my husband and I don’t like every single meal, we’ve found some pretty good ones, and it’s so nice to have a list already printed for me rather than searching through my cookbooks to find something to make. I totally understand your points, and would agree if I tried to use a meal plan exclusively. However, I use it as a supplement to my regular meal planning, and even if I don’t use their exact recipe, they give me inspiration for a similar recipe that I already have. It just takes so much of the “thinking” out of it!

    • Emily says

      I’m glad to hear it’s working well for you. I totally bought the “it completely replaces your meal planning” line and was disappointed when it was only a supplement in our house as well. For us, it’s just not worth the monthly fee. :(

  2. says

    Yeah… I definitely don’t utilize my meal plan as much as I should… and by that I mean I’ve cooked 1 meal from the plan in the two months I’ve had it. (Now the one meal I got it my new favorite!! – so I am super pleased about that)

    I find I can actually find stuff cheaper on my own. Or I am looking at the sales to plan what I should do for the week…

    I hope to use it more in the future as I also prepaid for the year :) Where was your post 2 months ago lol

    • Emily says

      Trust me, I wish I’d read this before I signed up too. Given so many people are talking about how great they are, and that wasn’t my experience, I thought I’d better let people know that not everyone loves them. (Though I desperately wish I did! It really would make things easier.)

  3. Sara says

    I totally understand your frustration! I am a pretty boring person that could eat the same exact thing nearly every meal of every day, so subscribed to one for the sole purpose of forcing some variety to our dinner routine. I have extremely picky eaters for kids, and a husband that is dying for good home-cooked meals so thought it could be a good idea?? Not so much….. Since it didn’t work out, I decided to not consider it a waste of money but instead a ” year-long learn to like what is prepared for you or learn to cook for yourself” lesson for my kids and a “get some variety in your life” lesson for myself!

    • Emily says

      I’m glad it didn’t scare you away from variety; that’s a good thing! We have that same rule in our house, “This is what’s for dinner, and that’s that.” I indulged my daughter’s picky ways for too long when she was a toddler. Now that two more kiddos have come along (4 total) I don’t have the time, energy, or interest in making something different for everyone, and I’m happy to report she’s still eating and growing! (My old self might have been shocked by that lol).

  4. Kirsty says

    We have previously written a 5 week menu plan but our family tastes have changed now my girls are in their mid-late teens and we have drifted out of using it and back in to eating the same meals far too often!
    I like the idea of “Make 5 Dinners in 1 Hour” and have tried a few meals from their free sample menu. I am thinking of buying the E-books rather than subscribing to the menu plans for all the reasons you mention!

  5. says

    I thought I was the only one with meal planning services issues. 😉 I have a subscription to eMeals and I spend more time modifying the recipes they send each week. We do have a few faves and sometimes I use their meals as a springboard for something else. But, we have had many new recipes that were complete flops and my family is still hungry afterward because, the kids would not eat more than two bites. My husband and I usually will eat it but, just add the recipe to another “won’t make that again” list. You have motivated me to cancel our subscription and get better about having a meal rotation like I had years ago.

    • Emily says

      This has been our experience 100%. Some of the meals have been wonderful surprises. Unfortunately, most end up on that horrible, “Don’t make again” list, which is a total bummer. I received a great fb comment on this post yesterday, and it’s inspired me to give a meal rotation a try too. (I’m sure I’ll post about it when I finally figure it out.) :) Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone, Alicia!

  6. says

    “which I now suspect they advertise just for the kickbacks from the affiliate programs”

    That is incredibly disappointing. I understand the desire to make money from their blogs, but their readership should ALWAYS come first.

    And good to know about the meal plans! Seems like it only caused you more trouble than if you had just stuck with your regular routine. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Emily says

      Some people probably do genuinely like their plans and feel that they’re recommending something great for their readers, but sadly, that hasn’t been my experience. I’ve since learned that a lot of bloggers get the meal plans for free for promoting them so maybe that’s why they aren’t as bothered by them; they aren’t losing anything. I don’t know. All I know is that even if I received them for free I wouldn’t encourage my readers to buy them because I’ve been so unimpressed. :(

  7. says

    This is why I love PlantoEat.com. I pick out the meals I want to eat from all of the internet (mainly Pinterest) and save them to it with a couple clicks, then I use their drag & drop planner to decide what to eat when, and export the shopping list into OutofMilkapp.com or just print the list. I love meal plan services, but kept running into those same issues – especially when one needed an ingredient I couldn’t find locally & then I had to guess what other ingredients went with that recipe or just deal with buying things I didn’t need. PTE has a key that shows which ingredients go to each recipe.

    • Emily says

      I agree! That’s what we do, and it works well. I wish I hadn’t bought into the hype of “it solves your dinner problems” because it most definitely does not. :/

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