No matter how much you love to cook, time can be a struggle. And if you don’t love to cook (like my husband), you want to spend as little time as possible doing so, right?
My go-to answer for any problem is… Get organized and keep it simple!
And so it is with recipes and meal planning. I have tried a few methods over the years. I had a binder with my favorite recipes in it. I would copy recipes I wanted to try and stick those in a binder. It was OK, but the problem was I had to sift through so much information in order find what I needed. And I had to re-read most of the new recipes just to try to figure out what I was going to make. I was not trying as many new recipes as I would have liked.
Next came an adorable recipe box that my best friend gave me. I spent hours hand writing each recipe on matching cards and organizing them all. It worked fairly well, except I still had to sift through quite a bit to see what I had and to plan meals. And, all those new recipes to try were still in a pile somewhere else – no sense in writing out a cute recipe card until I knew we liked it. And, it was not super easy to share recipes.
My latest (and hopefully last) solution is to go digital.
I started using Plan To Eat in August and have been really happy with it.
Once your recipes (favorites or ones you want to try) are in your ‘recipe box’, you can use the Plan to Eat Planner to plan out a week (or weeks or months) of recipes by dragging the recipes to the calendar. From there, you can print out a shopping list that has all the ingredients from your menus for that week or whatever time period you specify. The recipes show on the left of your screen (title, photo and rating) and you can filter by keyword, course or type of cuisine, among other filters. You can also put recipes into a queue, and pull from there. This make it easier because you can have a shorter list to pull from.
You can save a certain plan, send the meals to a calendar (like Google Calendar or iCalendar), you can customize it to include breakfast, lunch and dinner (or not) and you can choose which day for your week to start (for example, Sunday vs Monday).
The interface to enter in your recipes is easy to use. You can just import a link if the source is compatible with Plan To Eat’s system. Most of my recipes were from Taste of Home, Martha Stewart, Cooking Light (which uses all recipes) and Tasty Kitchen/The Pioneer Woman, and all of these interfaced well with Plan To Eat. In those cases, I would just copy the link to the recipe and click import – and like magic, the whole recipe (including photo and link to the website) was ready to be saved. This is especially slick if you like to try new recipes and use the internet (or magazines) to find new recipes. Most magazines post their recipes on their website, so it is easy to just import those, rather than having a pile of magazines to sort through every time you plan meals.
For those sites (usually blogs) that did not import well, I simply uploaded a photo, added the link to the recipe and bulk imported (copy and paste) the ingredients and directions. It was a quick process, if not as slick as just directly importing them. The longest recipes to add were those that were not online. For those, I had to type in the ingredients and directions. I have been adding photos as I make the items.
In all, it took me 10 hours to import all 300 of the recipes I had when I started. Since then, I have added 173 recipes and planned five months of menus and spent another 9 hours on the site. (On the account page there is a handy log of all your time.)
In order to keep the untried recipes separate from my favorites, I use the star rating on recipes I have made (and like enough to remake) and leave it blank and add ‘To Try’ in the description of the recipes that I want to try. If I try a recipe and don’t like it, I delete it.
Because the system is web based, I can use my phone to look up a recipe (and ingredients) at the store, I can pull up the recipe on my iPad when I am in the kitchen and I can plan menus at home or work. I like the flexibility of the system, I like not having a bunch of paper to keep track of in order to plan menus. I also like that I can just print off the recipe if someone asks for a copy. You can also email a recipe.
You can search any public recipes in the system (all users) and you can link up to friend accounts by invitation. You can also mark your recipe as private if you are working on the world’s best fudge or something and want to keep it under wraps.
The regular price is $4.95 per month or $39.00 per year, so you definitely have to think about how well you will really use the system. I decided it was worth it for us, and it has been because we use it daily and either my husband or I can pull up the recipes easily when it is time to make dinner If it saves us from going out to eat even once (and it has), then we save the whole $39 right there (eating out with six people is not cheap – even for crappy food!).
I also love that the site was developed and is maintained by a husband and wife team who are managing their own busy household with four kids.
See a tour of the site here.
There is a free, 30-day trial if you want to try before you buy.
Disclaimer: I just tried this out on someone else’s referral – I was not given a subscription or any thing else for this review. I am just a satisfied customer. This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more information.