Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Menu Planning

It seems I am frequently asked how I do various tasks. I'm a member of a wonderful online community and have friend who are always willing to share their successes {and failures}. I plan to share a few of the things that work for me over the next few weeks. Most of my ideas are not original creations, they have morphed from places like Pinterest and Facebook. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel and I'm more than willing to share how I made it work for me. If you would like to know how I do something, leave a comment, send an e-mail, etc. I'll be more than happy to work up a post on the topic.

For the last two years or so I've been using a service called Plan to Eat to complete my menu planning. Throughout the year, I've tried lots of different menu planning methods - rotating a set of 5 or 6 weekly menus, making menus using index cards and of course, the make it up as I go plan {NOT recommended ;-)}. Plan to Eat is the first thing that has worked long term.

When signing up for Plan to Eat, each subscriber receives 30 days to try out the program and decide if it is worth it for their family. There is a subscription fee of $5 per month or $39 per year. However, each Black Friday, the yearly subscription is offered at half price. I used the program for about a year as a monthly subscriber. I know that I saved way more than $5 by menu planning. Your recipes (or all those awesome ones you have pinned on Pinterest) and loaded into a database. If the recipe can be found online, it loads even easier. Since I started using the service most recipes found on blogs can now be loaded into your recipe book just by copying the URL.

Screen shot of my recipe book 

Recipes can be placed in to categories such as main dish, side dish, lunch, etc.  Recipes uploaded from the Internet can include pictures. Pictures of your existing recipes can also be uploaded. Once uploaded. recipes can be shared through social media, e-mailed or printed. Then using a simple click, drag and drop motion of the mouse you can place your desired meals in either breakfast, lunch, supper or snack categories.

I plan the same breakfast and lunch meals weekly. We don't always follow it daily but I don't have to think about what's for lunch. I know each Monday I have the ingredients to make 5 lunches for the week.

Recipes also have a rating system. When there are no leftovers, I go in and rate a recipe 5 stars so I'll know {and remember} it was a hit. When we hate something I rate it 1 star. Originally, I would delete it but then I would come across the recipe somewhere else and forget we didn't like it. So now I try to remember to rate meals.

Screen shot of my calendar

After recipes are dropped into the planner they can be accessed anywhere. An ical link is provided to make it easy to plug into any web-based calendar. I use the link on Google calendar and also programmed Kent's phone to load the save feed. Each day I can look at the calendar and see what is planned for the day. When I click on the meal, a link takes me back to the Plan to Eat website where the recipe is located. 

 Screen shot of the shopping list

The best part of the program is the shopping list. Plan to Eat automatically creates a list based on my menu. I can set the list for any specified amount of time I choose, or use the preprogrammed time of one week, two weeks or daily.  The program arranges the ingredients into categories. I do tend to shop in bulk so I look over the list weekly and pick up the things I need. I then add those to the shopping app on my phone (which I'll blog about later). The list can also be printed or e-mailed.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat
Another perk of Plan to Eat is the friends feature. You can link up with friends that are also using the program and share recipes. Love a recipe your friend is famous for? You can link accounts and share!
The links through out this post and the badge on the side bar are affiliate links. Click on them and you can become my Plan to Eat friend. I love sharing recipes and knowing what works and what doesn't.

works for me wednesday at we are that family

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