It’s a Tuesday night. You’re staring into the fridge wondering what to make for supper in the midst of work schedules, practices and homework. You just went to the grocery store but you’re at a loss for ideas while searching for something different to prepare. What should I make?
Jane Delaney found herself in that situation more often that she would have liked and decided to do something about it. In 2003, Delaney created E-mealz, an online meal-planning service for families. The concept behind E-mealz is to get families back around the dinner table and spend time together over a meal — something that was important in her own family growing up. Delaney grew up with four siblings, and as a daughter of a pastor. Delaney describes her family mealtime as, “it happened every night except Sunday night, because we went to church. Our family was big and busy. Had it not been for that regular pocket of time at dinner, we would have not had regular family time together.”
Today, Delaney is the wife of a pastor with four kids of her own, living in Birmingham. After struggling for years planning and preparing meals for her family and trying to find the time to make it happen, Delaney realized there had to be an easier way. Delaney began to see the potential that an online meal-planning service would have to help other families that deal with the same issue. “We started collecting recipes from other friends and families, as well as church cook books and sifted through them to get the most practical ones.” From there, she and her sister, Jenny Cochran, opened a business account and carefully grew E-mealz into a booming and successful meal-planning service that has helped thousands of families create a delicious meal, spend time together, and do it all on a tight budget.
Delaney’s desire to help families spend time together over a meal is centered around the idea that, “the dinner hour is the most logical, predictable time of day where families will likely connect, eye to eye, face to face, for any quality length of time. So making dinner happen, to us, means making family happen.” E-mealz offers its members a variety of meal plans including: Regular, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Portion Control, and Vegetarian Meals. Meal plans are based off of grocery stores and the foods that are on sale that week in the store. For $1.25 per week, members receive dinner meal plans with a corresponding grocery list. Another bonus of becoming an E-mealz member is the ability to use it when you need it. Some weeks, schedules may work so that no one will be home around dinnertime. But when schedules allow family members to be at home, E-mealz is there and ready to use. It’s as easy as printing out the meal plans and making a quick trip to the grocery store.
E-mealz has a team of recipe writers that work to make each recipe fit in the budget. Delaney discusses how most of the meals make enough to have left-overs and that “you have a lot of food for less money. Before your feet hit the grocery store floor, you know what you’re going to spend,” explains Delaney.
Delaney is encouraged as her team hears from members every day about how E-mealz makes a huge difference. “We have a team of women dedicated to answering e-mails every day. It’s an 8-hour job.” The team reads emails of how E-mealz has saved families time and money and that they are eating dinner as a family again.
Delaney stays busy as E-mealz continues to grow but she balances her time operating her business with her family. “My family comes first. E-mealz second. So I weave E-mealz in and out of my life in a way that does not put my family at jeopardy. E-mealz has grown at a very steady and slow pace because of that, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!”
In her blog, Delaney expands upon the importance of consistent meals together and how it can seemingly not be affective, but it is years of those small times that make such an impact on families. “No matter what the situation, every time you make family time happen around the dinner table it will be a bite-size deposit that will go into the reservoir of love and connection needed by each of your children. I assure you with many other resounding voices from our E-mealz community, it will be one of the best tools and worthwhile habits you’ll ever enforce. Don’t let the days turn to years. Do it now. Keep doing it. Don’t lose heart. Rally your family, regularly, for dinner – at home. You don’t need candles or cloth napkins. Just you, your table, and a simple meal. It’s a date and a family waiting to happen.”