Review of Plan to Eat + Meal Planning This Week
Because I am officially a Boring Grown-Up™, I've tried a lot of different meal planning systems. Google Docs, Google Calendars, a dedicated Pinterest board, a journal, various free apps, the whiteboard, plans made by other people... whew. But I was never really happy with them. Some made for a lot of work when it came to make a grocery list. Others made the grocery list easy, but took way too much effort manually inputting every recipe.
No, this isn't an infomercial (picture cookbooks raining down on my hapless head!), so it's not like these systems didn't work at all. But meal planning is a lot easier now that I've found a system I really like.
Plan to Eat (<--that's my referral link btw) is kind of like if Pinterest and Google Calendar and a grocery list app had a baby, except that's weird, it's a website, duh. You install a bookmarklet in your browser bar, so whenever you want to save a recipe, you just click the button and it imports everything automatically. Including photos! So when you look through your recipe box, you see all the pretty photos. Here's a peek at my recipe box:
When you're ready to plan meals, you just switch over to the "Plan" view and it brings up a calendar. Then, you drag and drop recipes from your box onto the days you'd like to make them. (I like this because I can change things easily). Here's what it looks like (and what we're eating this week!):
The auto-generated shopping list pulls ingredients from all the recipes you have planned. I always go through and "shop" in my own kitchen first, ticking off the stuff I already have on hand. My FAVORITE thing is that the list has a key with which ingredient is for which dish, so if I'm at the store and can't find something, or am wondering about a substitution, I can quickly look up what it's for.
I also like that I can add my own recipes (or "recipes"). For example, I have a recipe for "avocado toast." Ingredients: bread, avocado, lemon. It's easy to just drop that on the calendar for a breakfast so I remember to pick up everything at the store—and then remember what breakfast stuff I bought during the week. I also wrote up my famous cantaloupe recipe. (Ingredients: ...cantaloupe.) So it's flexible. I can even add stuff from other meal plans, like the the free weekly ALDI meal plans from Mashup Mom I've been pulling meals from.
Plan to Eat costs $39 per year or $4.95 a month. I am normally VERY OPPOSED to subscription-based programs because I feel like you end up paying for much more than you use, or forgetting to cancel when you're supposed to, or spending money just because you already kinda spent it. I made peace with paying for Plan to Eat for three reasons: one, they offer a free 30-day trial (without requiring a credit card). Two, it does NOT auto-renew. Three, I tested a variety of free trials of various meal planning programs, and this held the most value for me. If I consistently meal plan, that saves our family much more money than Plan to Eat costs.
So that's what I do! (If you're interested in Plan to Eat, you should definitely use my referral link and then I'll take you out for ice cream with the $8 spoils.) Everyone is different, and I'm interested to hear how other people handle meal planning. What works for you?