One of my goals for 2013 is to meal plan weekly. Without it, it’s woefully easy to just decide to go out to eat, or equally probable, eat a bag of chips or a bowl of popcorn for dinner. Neither of which are awesome for the budget or healthy living.
I had made a really pretty menu board, which I thought would help.
It’s cute, and I love the way it looks, but it just wasn’t working for me. I joked with someone that it was more aspirational than anything. I tried to use it a few times, but actually finding recipes and deciding what to cook meant hauling out all my cookbooks, paging through, finding recipes, etc. It was a lot of clutter and enough work that I didn’t really end up doing it very often.
And then over Christmas, as I was wading through days of my google reader feed, I came across Plan to Eat. To be honest, it was the font that caught my eye at first. It looks nice. I hate websites that are functional but ugly, they totally turn me off. And, bonus, it had a free trial.
And a few days later, I am in love. I’m sure I don’t know all the fun tips and tricks yet, but from what I’ve seen it’s perfect for my digital life. The main part of PTE (Plan to Eat) is the planner. It shows you a week or a month, and you can drag and drop recipes from your recipe box on to the calendar. If you want to, you can plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Personally breakfast is pretty predictable (oatmeal, a smoothie, or a breakfast bar), and lunch is almost always leftovers, so I’m really only using it for dinner as you can see from this screenshot.
One of the coolest things about PTE is that you can (pretty seamlessly) import recipes from websites with a widget (a lot like the Pinterest “pin it”). PTE will categorize the recipe, list the ingredients and directions, all pretty much without you having to do anything. Once you’ve imported it, you can add it to your planner. Once you’re ready to cook, you can click it on the planner and the entire recipe pops up.
In my opinion, this is the coolest part. Instead of hauling out my cookbooks, I can cruise my favorite food sites (Everyday Food!) and import recipes directly. I can see where this would be amazing for Pinterest users as well. Even if you’re not planning to cook something right away you could import it and have it ready when you do want to plan it for a meal.
You can also add your own recipes the old school way–type everything in. I love having this feature for some of my tried and true paper recipes for sure.
Another cool feature I like is integration with Google Calendar. I keep everything on my Google Calendar, so it’s nice to see my dinners along with everything else, especially if plans change. The one annoyance with that is it takes a while for Google Calendar to sync if you make changes in PTE. But, it’s minor, and something I think I can live with.
There are a couple of other pros and cons I noticed as I’ve been using the site the last few days. First, you can add notes like “out to eat” or “going to a friend’s house.” But, as far as I can tell, these don’t sync to Google Calendar, so it looks like a blank space which isn’t super helpful for me. To get around it, I’ve actually created a recipe called “Leftovers,” and one called “Out to Eat” so that they’ll show up.
There’s also a grocery list feature. Cool, yes, but again not super useful for me. Most of the stuff on the list (salt, chicken breasts, onions) I keep stocked so that’s annoying to have all these extra things on it to remove. Also, I adore my to-do list, Wunderlist, and definitely want to keep my grocery list on there. So instead of using the PTE grocery list, I’ve just transferred the ingredients to Wunderlist and used it that way.
I’m still in my free trial (and no, they’re not paying me or anything, I just think it’s cool), but the service is $4.95/month or $39 per year. In my opinion, well worth it.