free & flexible meal planning
While tempted to try the groupon for emeals I know that it won’t work for my ultra picky family. It is guaranteed that 50% of the suggested recipes someone in my family will not touch. Until they all become more flexible people and willing to try new things I have to use recipes from our own cookbooks, family recipes or many of the billions of FREE amazing recipes available in seconds – on sites like Food.com, AllRecipes.com, epicurious.com or FoodNetwork.com…. or literally ANY other resource online. Nowadays, it’s easier for me to link off to an online recipe than one in a book.
I found that just using these websites in themselves isn’t helpful though in terms of just searching for and saving recipes. Could I use a free meal planning option at one of these websites? I thought about that too except… I like to look at more than one site AND I wanted to incorporate recipes that weren’t even online if I wanted to.
Sure, I could print off the recipe, make a manual shopping list and do that week after week but that’s way too much work.
On a mac, I have already been using the Calendar program to it’s fullest extent already by using it to manage our personal schedules, business projects, household dates, birthdays, anniversaries, extracurricular activities, church functions, field trips, parties etc….. it’s my second brain !! Every category has it’s own ‘group’ and color.
What would happen if I made a ‘MEAL PLANNING’ category ?! Magic.
This system is something that I just created with trial and error over the past year or so – don’t let it scare you !!!! It’s easier than it’s looking here. ;D
So for example, all blue events on the calendar are BamBam’s, pink are Pebbles’, my business projects are light blue, whole family events are orange, bdays are gray etc…. I can already see EVERYTHING going on in all aspects of our daily living at a glance – and if needed, turn OFF certain categories to simplify. (ie. I made one for FLY LADY … which I fell off the wagon on that…. so I turned it off for now)
The one feature I didn’t tap into as much was it’s ability to link to a URL and/or any document on your computer – per event. This is where meal planning becomes super handy both at home …. and when you’re out on the road with your iphone.
This is perfect for menu planning and I’ll tell you why:
- Calendar syncs to your iphone obviously, so when you’re at the store you can look at the week and see what the menu is going to be each day just by going to your regular calendar vs going to a different app – or worst yet referring to paper scrunched up in your purse.
- You can see what days are the busiest for your family and plan accordingly. ie. slow cooker meal for your most hectic day / traditional roast for the weekend etc.
- As you’re looking at the whole week to help with inspiration you can figure a theme for every day – Mondays – Asian or Mexican; Tuesdays – vegetarian; Wednesdays – Beef; Thursdays – slow cooker; Fridays – Fish; Sundays – Chicken or Pork etc… or whatever you wish and vary up the recipes dramatically within the style….
- You’re already planning your life and looking at this calendar so you won’t waste time with other programs everything is at your glance and fingers right away.
- You can link to a website right from inside of the meal event taking you immediately to the original recipe source online
- When we have a LOVED recipe we’ll keep it and put the meal on a “REPEAT > CUSTOM for X number of weeks” say every Monday or Tuesday or whatever. I don’t like having the same recipe too often, so I’ll vary up the weeks 4-8. If it’s something that the kids LOVE A LOT … I might do every 2 weeks. I don’t have to think anymore…. this meal gets autofilled FOREVER every X weeks for me. I repeat this idea for different days, meals…. and I get automated menus for well, the rest of eternity. ;D
- If we decide we don’t like a recipe anymore…. I just ‘DELETE’ it and say yes to deleting ‘ALL’ records of it in the weeks to come and replace it with something else.
- For the “ATTACHMENTS” link you have options a) scan a favorite recipe from a book and save it to your computer and keep it there handy OR b) make a text doc of a whole weeks worth of ingredients for each of the 7 days to refer to it before your weekly shop to check against what you need VS what you already have. This text doc link up works best when you do the whole same PLAN for Sunday through Saturday ie. Plan A. then rotate all of these the same qty of weeks across the board. That way this will stay accurate. So plan A, B, C, D, E etc… as many as you want to play with. I bore easily 😉 so I tend to vary everything up so haven’t been using this feature as much as I’d hoped.
Stepping it up one more notch to fix the missing link – GROCERY LISTS while you’re out doing errands:
One simple FREE App that has CHANGED OUR LIFE.
Grocery iQ – we love you.
You can use it both online at any computer AND it syncs automatically to your iphone… and your spouse’s iphone !! Either one of you can look on your phone and see LIVE TIME what groceries or supplies you need at any given moment. If you’re both out shopping at different stores…. you can see oh, he just bought bell peppers – no need to pick those up anymore.
So what I do…. is I’ll look at the week’s meals coming up and simply pop them into my Grocery iQ list ready to go for the next time I’m out. I always have my phone with me so I never need to guess. If the spouse is running around and you want to add a last minute item – you can do that within seconds! It even auto-feeds in COUPONS for items too !! Amazing – love love LOVE this program. You can make lists per store or just one master list – you can have a favorites list for commonly purchased items like eggs, milk etc. so you don’t have to do any more typing. You can even scan your items in with a laser barcode reader (who doesn’t love to do that !!!??) ….. put in their prices etc… budget with it. I haven’t tapped it’s potential at all … I just love the plain old list!
I know reading that seems like a lot and pretty technical…. but it’s not really. It’s very flexible because I can just drag meals off to another day and save ‘ALL’ events in the future if I want … or not … or delete one meal event only and put in something else …. at anytime. You can do any recipe on the planet…. gluten free, low carb, paleo, comfort food…. whatever ! You can even plan in date nights or what the kids will have while you’re out. If it’s plain old pizza … just put pizza! no links.
I use it mostly for dinner… but if you’re as nutty as me ….. one day I might plan in lunches ?!?! hehehehehe
Have fun and let me know if you have questions or anything!