Three Easy Meal Planning Tools That Could Save You Money

Are you dining out more often than you'd like because you didn't plan ahead? It might be time to try a meal plan. Here are three great places to start.

There’s no doubt that effective meal planning saves time and money. Thankfully, there are tons of companies that have sprung up in the past few years to help busy moms do just that. We took a look at many different meal planning services and choose three that stood out as our top picks to break down for you.

The three services we chose are The Fresh 20®, eMeals®and Once a Month Meals®. Each is awesome in their own way, but one size does not fit all. Read about each of the three services and choose for yourself. Which do you think will benefit your family the most?

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The Similarities

All three services have a few things core things in common. They all provide groups of recipes in the form on menus. They all include aggregate shopping lists and prep instructions. Another tidbit to note is that they all base their serving sizes on an adult portion, so keep that in mind if you have small children.

Most importantly, they all help your family try new recipes and break away from the same old dinner rotations. Not eating out and making meals at home saves money, period.

Now let’s look at the unique features of each service:



  • You start by selecting your menu type (we love 30-minute meals) and your serving size, but you can change these at any time
  • You’ll get seven meals/recipes each week, with new meals sent out on Wednesday
  • There is a favorites list where you can add meals you love and go back to at any time
  • There are both desktop and app versions of the site
  • There is a “cook mode” on the app that gives you step-by-step prep and cook instructions
  • Each meal includes a side dish
  • The food is very tasty with a good variety
  • Serving size is accurate, rarely left overs
  • Depending on where you live, you may be able to connect directly to online shopping (and even delivery!) for your entire grocery list


  • There’s not always a photo of the meal
  • You don’t always get nutrition facts/calories
  • You can’t change your subscription type or menu type from the App
  • Add-on menu items like desserts or breakfast items cost extra

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  • The main difference is that you pre-prep all the meals on Sunday, which saves you time later
  • Meals post every Friday
  • Shopping organic is encouraged, meals use fresh ingredients
  • You can access all archived menus
  • You get the nutrition facts for all meals


  • You cannot switch between menus
  • You’ll only get five meals each week (they take into account eating out), which doesn’t give you a lot of wiggle room if you don’t like a few of the meals
  • There is only one serving size for four people
  • There is no mobile app

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Once a Month Meals


  • You can choose any amount of meals (15 is recommended); the menu tool will double each recipe so that you eat each recipe twice in one month
  • You can change your serving size to any amount
  • Comes with prefilled menus to choose from or build your own from scratch; swap out any meals you want easily with their excellent search tool within a huge recipe library
  • Featured monthly recipes are often seasonally themed
  • Choose from stove top, programmable pressure cooker, or slow cooker instruction for many recipes
  • All prep work is done ahead of time; you’ll freeze all of your meals and pull them out to cook when ready


  • Amounts are based on ounces, not cans or packages, which means you’ll need to do a little math and rounding up or down while shopping
  • Prepping all your meals for the month is a TON of work, and can easily take you an entire day (but it also has a huge pay-off in time saved for the rest of the month)
  • Cooking once a month front-loads the cost of paying for your meals all at once

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Meal Plans At-a-Glance

Wish you could get a quick breakdown of the costs and features of these three plans? Here you go!



Monthly Price Vegetarian Gluten Free Have a Mobile App Nutrition Facts Niche  
eMeals $59 $10 Yes Yes Yes No Ease of use with mobile app and lots of flexibility  
Fresh20 $74 $14 Yes Yes No Yes Fresh Ingredient, Organic, Prep on Sundays  
Once a Month Meals $170


$16 Yes Yes No Some Cook all your meals for a month in one day