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In the spirit of my theme for January, I wanted to start something NEW, and I’m going to start with Meal Planning. This year, one of my goals is to plan my meals so I can accomplish 2 things; number one, getting more protein in my diet and number 2, to save money on food. Last year I wrote an article about the importance of eating breakfast and being sure to include a protein source to start your day off right, http://designingforplenty.com/breakfast-dont-skip-it-get-your-day-off-to-a-healthy-happy-start/. I made some progress with putting this plan into action, but this year I want to step it up a notch. So I started researching ways to accomplish meal planning to help make sure I’m getting a variety of protein sources throughout the day, but especially at breakfast. I didn’t want to eat the same thing day after day (which is what I find myself doing now) but I also want to save money by buying more than a single serving that I can use throughout the week.
I started by doing some meal planning with good old pen and paper. I started a notebook and listed out some meals that I make the most often and tried to put them in a schedule. That worked out ok, but I was back to eating the same meals over and over and over. Boring!
So I checked out some apps that were available by doing a search for “meal planning”. I was happy to discover that there were a lot of options, so I downloaded a few and checked them out ready to report back for this article. Most apps were free to download, but then they required a subscription to move forward. Given that one of my goals was to save money, I was really careful to read the fine print and make a good decision that I could live with for the year. It turns out that there were a clear winner for me, so I’m gong to forgo doing an article on apps and doing a compare and contrast of each of them. Instead I will let you know where I landed, and let you take a try as well.
Hands down, my recommendation is an app called “Plan to Eat” http://www.plantoeat.com. Here are some reasons that I feel really good about this company:
Plan to Eat
- Free 30 day trial – And when I say free, I mean FREE! They don’t require any financial information to get your free trial. No credit card, no bank account, you just start the app or website and try out the product.
- No need to cancel – Because they don’t require a payment option up front, you don’t run any risk of a surprise charge if you choose to cancel. What a relief in today’s “free trial” world where you have to keep a calendar to make sure you take the decline option in time.
- Account Saved – They don’t delete your account information, so if you try it now and can’t sign up until next month, you don’t have to start all over. Everything you put in so far will be available to you.
- Import recipes from websites – This is the thing that really sold me. You can import recipes from other sources to add to your recipe box. All you have to do is import that url and it goes to work for you – even including a picture of the recipe if it is available. Other apps that claimed to do this – gave me really mixed results. During my try out I imported more than 45 recipes from a range of url’s and only 1 of them gave me a message that there might have been a problem. So I checked it over carefully and I’m happy to say that everything (ingredients, photo, directions, quantities) came through perfectly. I had imported recipes from allrecipes.com, the food network, and lots and lots of options that I found on pinterest. You simply click through to the original blog and copy/paste that url and it works like a dream.
- Subscription – Yes, Plan to Eat is also a subscription based plan but it’s rates are really reasonable for all the bells and whistles that are offered. They have a monthly plan for $4.95/month or a yearly plan for $39.00 (that’s $3.25 per month). They have directions on how you can change from a monthly to a yearly if you decide to make a change.
- Cook/Plan/Shop – 3 easy ways to use this app/website. Cook – choose a recipe and you can see the entire page for the recipe. You can print the recipe as well. Plan – put the recipe you want into your calendar and your meal planning is done quick and easy. Shop – all the ingredients are selected and put into a shopping list.
The only thing about this program that I am trying to find a good solution to, is the shopping list. After reading the FAQ’s I like their decision, but it means that you have to think through your shopping list. They have decided (rightfully I believe) to include all ingredients on the shopping list, even if the majority of people have them in a normal pantry or home situation. So for example, if someone lists “water” as an ingredient they include that on the shopping list. The first time I opened the shopping list for 1 week I saw so many things to buy I thought, there is no way that I can afford all this. But I quickly found that if I ran through the list and either hand wrote my own shopping list based on things that I didn’t have, or I used the strike out method on the app to remove the ingredient it worked out just fine. The other thing I came across was people using different “units” for the same ingredient. So say for example, one recipe calls for 8 ounces of cream cheese and another one calls for 1 box of cream cheese. They are both asking for the same thing, but it will come up 2 times on your shopping list. That great thing is that if you use a recipe a lot your can go in and edit it to be consistent in units so your shopping list gets easier in the future.
If one of your goals in 2019 is meal planning, I invite you to take a look at Plan to Eat for yourself. They even have a video that gives you a rundown of all your options. Click on any of the graphics above or you can click this link https://www.plantoeat.com/ref/1f5a8f713b
You can also give gift subscriptions if you are looking for an option that someone special to you can use for the entire year.
Now, I’m off to add some more recipes and start planning for next week!