Meal Planning Tools

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to EatI’ve been planning my family’s weekly meals consistently for over a year. It used to involve sitting with cookbooks and my recipe binder for a few hours on a Sunday and making recipe decisions for a few weeks at a time. No matter how diligent I was though, I eventually got to a point where all this planning the same meals became a bit boring. Sure, I’d buy a new cookbook here or there but mostly I got tired of the same choices and I’d hit a kind of cooking writer’s block where nothing inspired me anymore and we’d be back to salads and boxed mac and cheese. Pitiful right?

Then a few websites and apps came into my view and changed the way I meal planned-making it almost fun.

The first is Foodily. Standing for Food I Love You, this site is simply put, a giant clearinghouse of web-based recipes. My favorite feature is the search bar. Type in “butternut squash” and get tons of recipes with the click of a mouse. This has saved my life multiple times when the food co-op box arrives and there are veggies in it that I have no idea what to do with. I have made pumpkin muffins, collards/sausage soup and roasted turnips that we’ve all loved but I would have never known of without Foodily. 

The next site I’ve come to rely on is Plan to Eat. At PTE, you can collect all your favorite recipes, drag and drop them into a calendar every week, then print out a grocery list based on the recipes you have in your calendar. Genius right? The best part is that you can download a tool for your brower’s toolbar that allows you to add recipes to your collection right from the website. So, when I see a delicious vegetable lasagna recipe on Foodily, I can click on my PTE tool and boom, it’s right in my recipe box so I can add it to next week’s calendar. Amazing! I loved PTE instantly because they allow you to sign up for a 30 day free trial so you can really see if you’re going to utilize the site. Since my stats showed that in the first two weeks I spent over three hours on the site, I figured it was worth the roughly $35 for the yearly subscription. The printed out grocery lists alone are worth my dough! If you decide to try, I’m there and most of my recipes are public so you can add them to your collection.

Ziplist is an app on iPhone that helps keep track of your grocery list, but is so much more than just a list maker. Ziplist also has a collection of recipes that you can scroll through and add to your recipe box. When you choose a recipe for the week, you can automatically upload the ingredients into your shopping list. Genius right? Then, as you shop you can check things off and empty your basket as you go. That way, if you miss an item it stays as an alert on your phone until you empty your basket. So, you’re never without cumin on taco night again!
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Finally, Pinterest has become a site I visit daily and not for the addictive reasons so many others do. Believe me, I can see the allure of late night “pinning” but so far I’ve been able ot avoid the temptation. Pinterest is essentially  your on-line bulletin board for ideas. The beauty of it is that there are billions of other boards there that you can look to for inspiration. For me, I have one home projects board but the rest are all food. When I come across recipes online that I may like I quickly pin them to check out later. This way, I’m not adding every single thing I see to my Plan to Eat menus right away. I add something to Pinterest boards if it looks appealing at first site, then I can check back when I have more time to see if it truly fits mine, or my clients’ lifestyle needs. Then I can add to it PTE or share it directly with the client right from Pinterest all with a few clicks of a mouse. If you are interested in Pinterest, contact me and I’ll send you an invitation.

The key to healthy eating is often planning to eat healthy. I hope these tools help with that as much as they’ve helped me. Do you have any other suggestions or tips you can offer? We’d love to hear them below.

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