Four weeks ago I started using a menu planning website called Plan to Eat (my referral link). I would describe it as an incredible combination of ultimate digital recipe box, Pinterest, drag and drop menu planning, and instant shopping list. It is extremely versatile and easy to use. Recipes are imported from the web, can be pasted if you have them digital already, or typed in with bulk input if you have favorite cookbook recipes. As I have been using it, I keep discovering more features and it has blown me away. How has this been around so long and I’ve never heard of it? It must be shared with everyone I know. And because I want to rave about it’s amazing features…I decided a rare blog post was in order.
First things first, how much does it cost? This is always my first question, anyway. A monthly subscription costs $4.95 and a year is a bargain at $39. Not sure? You can try a month for free and you don’t have to give them your credit card so there is no obligation to continue after the trial. I can’t even imagine that you wouldn’t want to keep it up! If for some reason you decided to stop using it, all of your recipes can be exported.
I learned about Plan to Eat while reading the online resources that came with the book Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating by Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin. In short, it’s a brilliant book. If you have struggled even with “picky” eaters that aren’t extreme it is a must read. I could write much about picky eating, but for now I will just say that because the authors highly recommend Family Meals as Step #3 we are working on our meal planning. For some reason, I haven’t ever been consistent with meal planning and this is changing, thanks to Plan to Eat.
Now to the good stuff…what makes Plan to Eat so great?
- Recipes all in one place, easy to find. No more going to Pinterest, then to the blog and scrolling through the dozen photos before getting to the recipe.
- Recipes can be shared with friends.
- Recipes can be categorized, rated (1-5 star), tagged, sorted and searched.
- Drag and Drop Recipes onto the day you want to make them.
- Last week was really awesome…so you can copy and paste the entire menu plan from a specified date range to a new date range with just a couple clicks. What a time saver!
- Food in the Freezer? Either you made extra and froze some, or you tend to make freezer meals. Click on your recipe to “Add to your freezer” (you can even select how many servings). Next time you are planning, you can drag a freezer meal a drop it right into your plan. The name of the item shows up with a little snowflake next to it so you know it is a freezer meal!
- If you need to add just one item, like dinner rolls, to your meal. Click the + on that meal and you can either add an item and it will show up on your shopping list or add notes that will show up on your menu but not on your list.
- Space for planning snacks and notes
- Changes in the middle of the week? No problem, just drag meals to a different day any time!
- Want to make only half of a recipe or double a recipe? You can change the number of servings for the recipe on your calendar and your shopping list will be adjusted accordingly.
- Plan for a week, plan for 2 weeks, plan for a month. I recently realized that my life was much easier if my shopping falls during the week so last week I planned for 8 days and just like that I am avoiding shopping on the weekend.
- Shopping List! All the ingredients show up in your shopping list. You can specify stores and many other things that I haven’t fully explored yet. Put you Plan to Eat account as a shortcut on your phone and any time you are out shopping just tap it to bring up your shopping list and you can check items off the list. No signal in the store? No problem, your list will still be there!
- If you think of something else you need (even non food items) you can add an item to your list any time.
- As long as the ingredient names are the same, your list will merge all of the recipes that need a particular item into a total count.
- The categories for groceries can be edited and stores can be customized. This particular area, I haven’t explored or adjusted yet. I think if I made some adjustments here, the shopping list could be even better (but it’s already fabulous as it is!).
- Cookie View!!! This is so convenient…from your plan you open the recipe that you are going to make and there is a button off to the side for “Cooking View” and the screen will show your ingredients and the steps AND it won’t let your phone or ipad screen lock! This is such a time and frustration saver. I can’t begin to think of all the times my hands were dirty while cooking and the screen locked and I had to wash my hands to unlock so that I could see my recipe. I love this feature!
After such a short time, mealtimes feel amazing. What are we having tonight, Mom? I check the menu and tell them and they are learning that they can look at it to find out. No more of that, “what will we have?” when it is already late. I already feel like I am wasting less food. I haven’t done this long enough to estimate the effect on budget yet, but you could potentially save money. There is a tag already set up called “Cheap” so you could search for your recipes that are cheap and make those all week long!
They have many instructional videos on the various features of the website so they make it very user friendly. If you are worried about trying to enter dozens of your recipes, don’t. They suggest starting out with just a few…like what you are making for the first week. As weeks go on and as you might find time to add a couple here and there, your collection will grow. I’m still adding, but it doesn’t seem overwhelming as I just add a few new recipes each week. If you decide to sign up, I will be able to share all of my recipes with you. Keep me posted on how it is going, I would love to have more Plan to Eat friends!