Jane DeLaney enjoys eating dinner at home with her husband and four children. She doesn't enjoy stressing out about what to make for dinner.
"I don't mind cooking I just need someone to tell me what to cook," she said in a recent phone interview.
Nine years ago the Birmingham, Ala., mom founded eMeals, an online menu planning program, to help take the stress out of dinnertime.
"The idea was to create budget and family friendly complete menus based on what's on sale at the grocery. I was just a busy parent with a limited budget and not a lot of time. I knew there were a lot of parents in my situation," she said.
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A team of cooks including DeLaney's sister, Jenny Cochran, create and taste the recipes used for each eMeal menu plan. Recipes are designed to be kid-friendly and use commonly found ingredients.
Subscribers to eMeals pay about $5 to $7 a month to access their menus online. Subscribers receive a family-friendly, organized seven-day dinner meal plan with simple, easy-to-follow recipes and a grocery list.
Over 35 menu options exist including low fat, low carb, gluten-free, clean living and vegetarian. Weekly grocery bills are estimated to cost $75-85 per week for families and $60 per week for two-person plans.
Each week, a new menu plan is released online featuring new recipes. Recipes aren't repeated for six months.
"When you have a plan that's half the battle," DeLaney said.
She said avoiding that 5 p.m. panic of what to make for dinner is a relief.
"I don't have to make another decision today because I've already made 20. My brain is tired. It's such a relief to have that one thing to not worry about," she said.
DeLaney, who is married to an associate pastor, thinks family mealtime is important.
"We're coming and going all the time but guess what? When dinner's on the table we're all there. We have family time," she said.
Parents of picky eaters need not worry, DeLaney said. The recipes used for eMeals are basic.
"There's something for everyone. We don't use weird ingredients," she said.
Also key to the success of the plans is making recipes easy to make and simple to follow.
"I like practical and doable," she said.
She's not a fan of many cooking gadgets.
"I like simple things. My sister is the gadget queen. She would probably say she couldn't live without her garlic press. I would just buy the jar of garlic," she said.
Check out these recipes, courtesy of eMeals. A Low Country Boil is perfect for feeding a crowd and a Father's Day breakfast casserole will certainly get dad's day off to a delicious start.
FATHER'S DAY BRUNCH MENU
This is a special bonus menu with recipes for eMeals subscribers.
Papa's Egg Bake
5 cups frozen shredded hash browns
(Cooking spray, dash salt and pepper)
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound fully cooked ham
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread hash browns in bottom of dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix eggs, milk, salt and mustard in a bowl. Remove dish from oven and alternate cheese and ham in two layers each. Pour egg mixture over the cheese and ham and bake for 1 hour.
CLEAN EATING PLAN
The Clean Eating Plan features recipes that use the freshest, least processed foods possible and few ingredients.
Black Bean, Avocado, & Brown Rice Burritos with Fresh Salsa
1 cup brown rice, cooked
Whole wheat tortillas
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 avocados, chopped
1/8 cup Mexican cheese
Cilantro, to taste
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 fresh lime, juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil
Cook brown rice according to package directions. Spread a thin strip of brown rice down center of flat tortilla. Top with black beans, avocados, cheese and cilantro. Fold up bottom of tortilla and then fold in sides to make burrito. Mix together tomatoes, onion and garlic. Toss tomato mixture with cilantro, lime juice, olive oil and salt. Garnish the top of burrito with salsa.
Mixed Berry Salad with Fresh Herbs
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1/4 cup chopped mint
Mix together strawberries and blackberries. Season lightly with mint, olive oil and salt to taste.
The Vacation Menu is a bonus menu with recipes good for feeding a crowd while on a family vacation. It's a freebie for subscribers.
Low Country Boil
5 pound bag red potatoes, washed
3 Vidalia onions, cut into quarters
2 16-ounce packages kielbasa, cut into two pieces
1 packet shrimp/crab boil seasonings
6 ears fresh corn on the cob, shucked, cut in half
3 pounds fresh shrimp, with shells
In a very deep stock-pot, fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes and onion. Boil for 15 minutes. Add kielbasa, crab/shrimp seasoning packet and corn on the cob. Continue boiling for 10 more minutes. Just before serving, toss in the raw shrimp and boil for 3-5 minutes. Don't overcook the shrimp! Drain out all the water. Dump contents of pot in a large pan OR on a picnic table covered in butcher paper. Discard the season packet.
All recipes courtesy of eMeals
Dawn Minty, features editor, can be reached at email@example.com.