Meal Planning

For years, I have foolishly resisted planning meals ahead of time. My inner three-year-old whined, “but what if I don’t want to have beef stew on Thursday?” Well, too bad for me! Planning out our meals ahead of time has already saved me a lot of time and energy, and it’s allowed us to eat healthier meals – and I’ve only been doing it for a week.

Indeed, I resisted planning our meals until I became a devotee of Mille at Real Food for Less Money. While I’ve been trying to feed The Engineir and myself healthier foods for some time now, I would often run into a time wall where I’d want to make something, but hadn’t planned ahead sufficiently. Prior to this past week, “planning ahead” usually meant “taking the chicken or steak out of the freezer in time to defrost in a bowl of water before it’s 10pm.”

Too, until relatively recently, meal planning websites were frankly a pain in the ass. They were often badly-designed, feature-poor, or overly-complicated. I stopped trying in the early 2000’s, after only very brief forays into the field. “It’s too much work,” I would whine to myself.

Oh silly, silly me.

What I failed to realize was how much time and energy planning ahead would free up, and how much easier it would be to have healthy, nutritious meals at least twice per day.

Enter Plan to Eat.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat
Holy wow, do I ever love this site. I love its retro graphic style, I love the ability to import recipes from websites, I love its easy drag-and-drop meal planner.

Click to see larger version

There is a built-in recipe database housing a multitude of really great recipes, including food-allergy-specific dishes, but I already have a whole suite of go-to recipes myself and from other websites. The site doesn’t force me to enter a complete recipe – I can simply enter a title, save it, and use it in my planner.

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I spent perhaps 45 minutes to an hour importing my most-frequently-used recipes from websites, and then another half an hour (maybe) planning out this week’s menus. It’s even fun to do.

Do I need to soak some grain before I go to bed? I can pull the site up easily and see. Any prep work needed for dinner? Same! Is there a fermented food I want to have later in the week? Why, I’ll just check.

No need to wrack my brain for something interesting to feed us, no worrying about whether we’ve had the dish a lot recently – I can easily check and see. I can also plan on sending leftovers in with The Engineir for lunch.

There is a built-in shopping list feature, which will automatically add ingredients from the recipes which have them entered, making pulling together a shopping list very convenient.

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You can also set up “My Pantry,” an area listing what you already have on-hand. I’m opting not to use this yet, as it’s constantly changing, and getting everything in there would take a substantial amount of time. I largely know what we have, and work from there. They even have a “Cook From My Pantry” button, which will give you a list of recipes for things you already have at home, if you’ve populated your pantry. Neat!

Importing recipes from other websites is usually an easy, one-click deal; however, some sites do not have recipes formatted in a way it can understand, and those may need to be entered by copying and pasting the information.

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They also have a terrific blog, wherein you’ll find recipes of all manner, as well as staff reviews of dishes they have made. You will find no lack of really interesting dishes you’ll want to cook right away (Indonesian Rice for us tomorrow.)

Just about everything on the site is customizable. You can add stores; edit food categories; assign foods to breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack; search for recipes and modify them to your liking; add public or private recipes; add recipes to a queue… are you getting the picture? I’m sure there are tons of features I haven’t uncovered yet, too.

Best of all, they offer a one-month free trial! Seriously. No credit card or payment information is taken at sign-up.

I like this site so well, I purchased a subscription after 6 days; normally, I’m cheap enough to use a free trial until it runs the heck out, but I am sold, man. They did a great job implementing the site. These people deserve the money they’re charging – and it’s a very small amount, too. 

For monthly subscriptions, they charge $4.95; annual subscriptions are $39 ($3.25/month.) Not too stinking shabby, right? Right.

Additionally, I sent in some feedback about the site, and within an hour, the owner responded to my query, asking further information and thanking me for the feedback. Nice!

Stop worrying about what’s for dinner, and know ahead of time. Put your inner three-year-old to rest; you’ve done a good job planning things out. Also, nothing is written in stone – if you don’t feel like Chinese stir-fry on Wednesday, you know what you can do? Not have it! Amazing, the technology these days.

You can easily share recipes from the site: I imported this recipe, which we had for breakfast this morning, from Real Food for Less Money (it’s really delicious,) and Plan to Eat preformatted the HTML code for me to paste here:

Grain-Free Almond Meal Pudding (RFfLM)

Ingredients

1 cup Almond Meal

1/3 cup water

1 teaspoon (more or less) honey

1 egg

Dash of vanilla

Choose a heavy bottom pan. To help prevent scalding, rinse the pan with cold water. Mix almond meal and water in pan. You want a thickish consistency but not too thick. Add more water a teaspoon at a time if too thick (see photo). Add your honey.

Crack your egg(s) in a heat proof bowl and beat to mix well. Once that is done, turn on the heat to your almond/water/honey mixture to medium low. Heat stirring often. When it is hot and beginning to bubble turn to low.

Now you want to temper your eggs. Add a ladle full of the hot almond meal to the eggs and stir well. Add another ladle. The egg temperature should have risen enough that when you add the eggs to the almond meal they won’t curdle. Stir while adding in the tempered eggs.

Turn off the heat and add your vanilla.

Serve as is or topped with butter, cream (or milk) and chopped fresh fruit (if desired).

I love this not just for breakfast, but also as a great snack or even a not too sweet dessert.

Source: realfoodforlessmoney.com

Course: Breakfast

Cuisine: American

View recipe at plantoeat.com

I’m really happy to have found this site, and I hope some of you will find it useful, as well! 
Do you have other sites you use for meal planning?

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6 responses to Meal Planning


  1. nopinkhere

    I LOVE PTE!!!!
    There’s definitely that bit of time while you populate your recipes, but it is so worth spending the time. They make lovely, incremental improvements without changing the site to be unrecognizable. I have also found customer service to be responsive. And I also started paying long before my free trial was up.

  2. Erin D.

    NPH! Hello! Nice to see you. 🙂

    Very cool you’re using the site and are still happy with it – I think they’re just great. Also nice to know they don’t pull radical features, too.

    Hope things are going well for you!

  3. HiErin,

    I’m glad to hear that you are meal planning. I personally think that you can do a lot more with meal planning than just planning your meals. After over 3 years of research I have just launched my meal planning website. It’s different (at least in my opinion!) as we aim to tackle the CORE issues that the home cook faces in the kitchen. Controlling food shopping, Optimising health, Reducing food waste, and Eliminating meal time stress.

    We do this through our ‘Meal plan in colour’ where you plan for 4 Red and 1 Green day. On red days you cook from scratch, and on green days you cook from leftovers. The other two are flexible for our busy modern lifestyles, you can plan in batch, eat out or even get that Saturday night takeaway!

    If you want to know anything else about it, I’m very happy to share it with you and your readers.

    The link is Siansplan.com

    Sorry for the plug, but you can join for free, and as I said, you can use meal planning to do so much more!

    Happy planning either way!

    Thanks,

    Sian.

    • Erin D.

      Hi Sian – Thanks for the link and the information! Your site looks great, too, for sure. I like the color planning and concepts a lot. Since I’m just getting started in meal planning, the PtE site is easier for me since I don’t have requirements for what I have to cook during the week, but I bet your plans save money and reduce waste far better. Neat stuff, thanks for commenting!

  4. My pleasure! I think as long as you are meal planning, you are doing good… Stick at it!

    Sian

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