the problem with get_post_meta is that you have to use it inside the loop (as far as i know)
False. get_post_meta takes a post ID as a parameter, and so can be used anywhere. As long as you specify which post ID you want meta information for.
Similarly, all the other functions like get_post_custom and such, have an optional post id parameter. Specify the post ID and they work outside the Loop too. In the case of these functions, they'll work inside the Loop if you don't specify a specific post, as they'll use the current post ID.
There's no reason to use a plugin that I can see, when the functions are all right there anyway. All that plugin really does is to do the echo'ing of before and after bits for you. And that sorta seems overly complicated to me. Not to mention that the plugin is making its own database calls instead of using the postmeta_cache, which means that the plugin will actually be slower and add more load on the database than the built in code will.