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Does figuring out what to cook every week give you anxiety? Do you dread making grocery lists? Or maybe you skip grocery lists and you end up buying food every week that goes bad because you don’t have a plan for how to cook it? Now… what if you had a completely stress-free process for meal planning?
Time opens up in your schedule. Money is no longer wasted. “What’s for dinner?” is no longer a question you fear.
Here’s how I stumbled into this stress-free meal planning process:
I used to keep my recipes in a giant three-ring binder. I had a lot of cookbooks, too. Before I had kids, I subscribed to cooking magazines and tried new recipes weekly. I actually enjoyed cooking. My giant binder overflowed so that I had to get a second one. And I started realizing how inefficient my system was. (And how much clutter it made in my kitchen.)
I’d go to do my meal planning for the week and find myself spending way too much time flipping through the binders, the cookbooks, and the magazines. I needed an easier way to organize my recipes and plan my meals. And I stumbled upon my DREAM meal planning system, Plan to Eat.
It’s an app (and website) that allows me to organize my recipes all in one place, add them to my calendar each week for planning. It even helps generate a grocery list if I want it to. And I adore it.
Let’s Count the Reasons I Love This App
- Accessible from my phone (makes it easy for cooking but also if I’m at the grocery store and need to see the ingredients for a particular recipe)
- Quick scroll lets me see images of all my recipes
- Filters and tags let me easily find specific cuisines or recipes with specific ingredients
- I can import recipes from the web with a couple of clicks
- I can add notes to the recipe or edit on the fly if I am making modifications
- Shareable with friends and family
- Super easy to plan the week’s meals and then use that week’s plan for future planning
- Can rate meals to note which are favorites (and tag based on family member preferences)
- Very affordable subscription fee
- Can add my own image if desired
- No need for the bulky binders taking up space in my kitchen!
- Easy to scale the recipe up or down
If it sounds like I want you to buy a subscription it’s because I do. I’ve been using it every week for over four years now, and it has made planning and cooking immensely easier for me. (Also, they offer a free 30-day trial so you can fall in love with it for yourself. Sign up for one now. And yes, if you use my link here, I get a small commission that helps me keep my blog running. It costs you nothing extra.)
Getting started is as easy as downloading the app and creating your free account. I had around 400 recipes in my binders, so it took me a little while to get them all in the app. But soooo worth it. I was able to find most of the recipes online and therefore was able to use the easy import function. For the ones I couldn’t find online, I used the dictation function on my smartphone to speak the recipe into the editor.
I made sure to add tags to my recipes as I entered them, noting which ones were favorites, one-pot, or quick to cook, etc. And another bonus of importing your recipes from the web: The import process adds in all the pertinent information, nutrition facts, and cook times automatically.
Once your recipes are added into the database, you’re ready for the stress-free meal planning to commence! Having images of the recipes makes it super easy to scroll through and choose what you want to cook. Again, web imports automatically pull an image (if there is one). And if there isn’t a photo, you can snap a shot with your phone the next time you cook the recipe and easily add it to the app.
I make a plan for the week every Sunday, and we usually get groceries on Monday. I make my plan based on an assessment of what’s left in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. And of course what I have a craving for. If it’s going to be a busy week, I look for meals that will give a lot of leftovers. If I want to make a double batch of something, I can simply double the servings within the recipe entry, and it automatically doubles the amounts for all the ingredients.
I can choose a recipe and add it to the planner, or I can go into the “Plan” tab to choose a day and then add the recipe from there. But I usually scroll through and browse the recipes first to see which meals I haven’t cooked in a while.
Make the List
Once you’ve decided on what to cook for the week, it’s time to make a grocery list. Full disclosure: I haven’t really used the “Shop” feature on the app (which is what generates the grocery list for you). But I just opened it to try it out so I could write about it right now. If I’ve chosen and scheduled a recipe for each day of the week, I can simply make sure those dates are selected and the app automatically puts all the ingredients for each recipe on my list, categorized. Of course, many of the items you may already have on hand, so you would manually delete from the list what you don’t need from the store.
As I test it out, it actually seems like a pretty cool feature. I can even click on the list item and it tells me which recipe it’s needed for, which could be handy for some last-minute adjustments while you’re at the store. But even if you don’t use this feature, the recipe storing and meal planning portion alone is priceless!
Stress-Free Meal Planning at Your Fingertips
I plan my meals each week because I waste less food, save more money, and don’t have to put thought into what to cook during the week. If that sounds lovely to you, too, then I think you’re going to LOVE the Plan to Eat app. (Sign up here.)
If you found this post helpful, please pin or share it with your social media. And I’d love to hear what your favorite stress-free meal is in the comments below!