If you’re like most people, you’re busy, and you may have trouble finding the time to prepare eating plans or make dinner. But going through the drive-thru or eating out every night is not good for the budget or the body.
Fortunately, several sites will not only help you find the best deals on groceries, but they will also provide family meal planning menus and recipes for weekly meals. One well known site is E-mealz, which is endorsed by Dave Ramsey. I love E-mealz, but I also like a newer site called Food on the Table. While Food on the Table offers many of the same benefits as E-Mealz, it also offers more flexibility, which is particularly good if you have a picky eater in the family. Moreover, it’s free at the basic subscription level.
Food on the Table was started by Manuel Rosso, a busy father of four who was looking for a more efficient way to feed his family. With help from his wife, he launched Food on the Table in August 2009. Since its launch, it has grown to over 250,000 members.
Food on the Table has several goals for its users:
- To help you create tasty weekly meal plans
- To offer fast dinner recipes for kids
- To assist in maximizing savings at your grocery store
- To create your grocery list for you
- To reduce the stress of making dinner
How It Works
1. Pick Your Grocery Store
After you create an account, enter your zip code to find grocery stores in your area. They list a wide variety of supermarkets to suit every shopper including discount stores like Food4Less, big box retailers like Super Target, and health food stores like Whole Foods.
Food on the Table also displays how many people have signed up for that particular store and how much all those people have saved in the last 30 days.
2. Choose What Is Important to You This Week
Next, you will be asked what is most important to you right now: saving time, saving money, finding ways to eat healthy on a budget, or making familiar meals. Food on the Table will then generate your menu suggestions based on your choice.
For instance, if you choose “saving time,” you will get recipes that are quick to make and rely more on convenience items, such as frozen vegetables, instead of ones you have to clean and cut yourself. “Eating healthy” recipes, on the other hand, use very few processed foods, but may be more time-consuming to prepare.
3. Select “Meat” or “Vegetarian”
Choose between “meat” or “vegetarian.” Then, if relevant, choose the types of meat you would like to use for the week. Food on the Table shows you what meats are on sale based on the store you previously selected. You can select the meat that is on sale as well as the regularly priced meats – the choice is yours.
Next, Food on the Table will generate two main meal recipes for each meat option you choose. They use a little yellow “sale” tag to show you which recipes use sale ingredients to maximize your savings even further.
4. Choose the Recipes
Look through the recipes Food on the Table offers based on your criteria, and read recipe reviews to narrow down your choices. Then, simply select which particular recipes you would like to prepare that week.
Another nice feature is that you can upload your favorite family recipes and Food on the Table will try to select ones with ingredients that are currently on sale. If you don’t like the recipes Food on the Table chooses, click “See All Recipes” to choose any recipe from their database.
5. Print Your Grocery List
After you choose your recipes, Food on the Table will generate a list of ingredients that is organized by grocery department. The list will tell you the quantity you need to buy, but not the price, unless the store you chose has that item on sale. In that case, the brand on sale, the size, the sale price, and how much you are saving will all be listed in italics near the ingredient. Food on the Table focuses on just one store, so you do not need to waste time traveling to multiple stores.
Cost & Pricing
Food on the Table is free at the basic subscription level. At this level, you will be able to choose three recipes for the week based on the criteria you entered, or you can choose from Food on the Table’s recipe database.
Food on the Table will generate a grocery list for those three meals, but no more. You are on your own to plan the rest of your meals for the week, make a grocery list, and find ingredients on sale. But if you are new to Food on the Table, this is a great way to try out their service.
There are a variety of paid subscription options, but each subscription is the same – it allows you to plan seven meals for the week and have a grocery list generated for all those meals. Subscription pricing is as follows:
- Monthly – $9.95
- Quarterly – $26.95 (save $1.07 per month off a monthly subscription)
- Semiyearly – $47.95 (save $1.96 per month off a monthly subscription)
- Yearly – $69.95 (save $4.12 per month off a monthly subscription)
1. Monetary Savings
The level of your savings depends on your current eating and shopping habits. But if you regularly rely on fast food and take out, Food on the Table can save you money by making planning and shopping for meals relatively easy.
For instance, if your family of four eats two fast food meals a week, you may spend $40 total for those two meals. However, if you replace them with meals you make at home, you may only spend $15 to $20 on ingredients for both meals, which would save you $20 a week. Over a year, that’s a savings of $1,100! And your grocery savings could be even higher if you favor recipes that incorporate ingredients that are on sale.
2. Time Savings
For health reasons, my family can’t eat anything with dairy. Nonetheless, it took me less than 10 minutes to choose my store, create my meal plan, and print my grocery list. I always choose the healthy meals option, and even these are not that labor intensive; I usually only spend about 15 minutes of hands-on cooking time.
3. Boredom Buster
My family purchases beef in bulk each year, but I’m not that creative with preparing roasts and steaks. However, Food on the Table offers a variety of recipes for many different types and cuts of meat.
For example, when I recently chose sirloin steak as a meat for the week, I was given the choice between Honey Mustard Steak and Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry. While I have had honey mustard chicken before, I never thought to try it on steak. It was quite good.
4. Tasty Meals
I have tried several weeks’ worth of meals from Food on the Table, and so far they have all been delicious. My favorite is the Bacon Wrapped Turkey Burger. This burger has a decadent taste, much like a restaurant meal. Because the burger is wrapped in bacon, it stays moist, while most turkey burgers do not.
To save money, we also choose meatless meals several times a week, and they are very good as well. For instance, we made the Vegetarian Chili which was filling and full of healthy ingredients, such as beans and vegetables. It was so good, in fact, that all three of my kids ate it without complaint.
1. No Way to Narrow Your Search
If you would like to avoid certain ingredients, there is no way to exclude recipes with those ingredients. You must go through recipes one-by-one to determine if the ingredient list is acceptable or not.
2. Slow Site
Food on the Table has experienced rapid growth, and at times, the site can be slow, especially during the weekend. One way to minimize this issue is to find time during the day or later in the evening to plan your meals.
3. Can’t Search Sale Ingredients at Multiple Stores
While the site lets you select from several stores to shop at, Food on the Table only looks for sale ingredients at the one you choose. If you are someone who likes to cherry-pick the deals at each store, Food on the Table cannot help you do this.
Food on the Table helps you save money by searching for sale ingredients and by eliminating the need to eat takeout, fast food, and frozen meals for dinner. Even if you only use it at the free subscription level, the savings can be significant and it will help provide your family with healthy, home-cooked meal. What is there to lose?
Have you tried a menu planning service before? What are you thoughts on Food on the Table?