I have always been a planner… ever since I was a little girl. Even at the tender age of 8 or so I would write lists and draw plans for how to organize my bedroom and the like. When I became a mother, my nesting and organizing skills went into hyperdrive and I was a planning machine. I may have calmed down my supermom side a bit over the years, but the organizer in me still recognizes what a sanity and wallet saver meal planning can be.
I have test driven many variations of “how to make a meal plan” over the years; handwritten cookbooks, printed binders, and recipe cards, scrapbook style folders, excel spreadsheets, laminated index cards, color-coded filing systems- you name it, I have tried it. I would always become entranced by the phenomenal photos that I would see online and they would inspire me to no end, but when it came down to planning day, if I didn’t have those photos in front of me (because I am a very visual person), the recipe titles would mean nothing but confusion. Don’t even get me started on the big Pinterest Boom! I thought that all those pins would be the answer because after all, “now I can group them!!” By ingredient! By meal type! By author! By prep time! I had, at my peak, about 30 different Pinterest food boards. The unfortunate thing was that after the recipe had been pinned, it was like it entered the Pinterest vortex… never to be visited again… ( I am hoping that someone else can relate here…)
I decided that I (once again) needed a better system. For me, that meant pictures of the dish right there- in front of me, at my fingertips, in a nice clean format when it came time to plan. With all the emerging apps that were coming out, I knew there had to be one for food. And boy, was there! Example upon example of glorious recipes and photos, yet still no way to put them, with the picture, into a calendar format. I needed a drag and drop system. I needed to be able to add my own recipes by hand, I needed to be able to clip other recipes from the internet, and I also wanted a self-populating shopping list that I could easily edit and view on my phone. I tried a good number of online meal planners… Cozi, Big Oven, and Pepper Plate to name a few, but none of them had everything I wanted.
I finally found two online meal planners that had everything I needed- Copy Me That and Plan To Eat. Both of these meal planners had photos attached to recipes (that you added by hand or via the internet), a drag and drop calendar, AND a shopping list that I could take on the go. I tested out both for a little while. Copy Me That is free, but Plan To Eat is not. I did the free trial of Plan To Eat and simultaneously planned on Copy Me That to compare. Copy Me That is a powerful tool, but in the end, I decided that I was willing to pay for Plan To Eat because it had a cleaner interface- not to mention the fact that it simplified my life like… whoa.
I plan my weekly meals every Thursday and grocery shop on Friday mornings- making sure to plan the meals with more delicate perishable items for the weekend and the beginning of the week. I was also able to create my own generic “recipe” called “Sunday Morning Breakfast”, for example, which auto-populates basic items that I need every Sunday for our big family breakfast into my shopping list.
What about you? Do you meal plan? What is your preferred method?