Because planning meals and making grocery lists gobbles up oodles of time, I think I’ve tried a zillion meal planning programs. I used eMeals for two years, and there was another two years with RelishRelish. I have a bunch of cookbooks that plan the whole week for you, too. They make me happy for the short term, but not in the long term. I used Now You’re Cooking recipe software for years on my desktop, and am disappointed that there is neither an online nor a mobile version in the works. Thank goodness for Plan To Eat.
First, learning how to meal plan with Plan To Eat is easy because there are how-to videos. They’re short and informative, and allowed me to get up and running with Plan To Eat quickly. Well, pretty quickly – I had to enter a bunch of recipes by hand purely because I couldn’t find them anywhere online. Regardless, after a few hours my recipes were entered and I was off and planning. Here’s an overview video of Plan To Eat.
Yes, there is a subscription involved, but I think it’s very reasonable for the convenience of having my recipes whenever and wherever. For example, I took Peanut Butter Spirals to lunch and a co-worker asked me what I was eating. With no problem, I was able to share a link to the recipe within Plan To Eat.
Recipes, Planner, and Shopping List
There are four main areas to the Plan To Eat interface: Recipes, Planner, Shopping List, and Filtering. The buttons at the very top of the screen (Item #1) help you navigate to the various options within the interface. In my screenshot, recipes is highlighted, so you see all of your recipes displayed. Let’s look at each of these main areas, plus an easy way to clip recipes online.
Recipes are easy to work with and you can easily change from the standard view to a cooking friendly view. You can also print recipes, make recipes private, or add them to the queue – which we’ll talk about in a bit.
The planner is what really sold me on a Plan To Eat subscription. Meal planning with Plan To Eat is easy because all you do is drag and drop recipes. I usually filter to show only main meals, then drag the recipes onto the planner; and I repeat for only breakfast recipes or only snacks. To be honest, as one woman who eats like a bird, I usually plan every other week. That means I typically cook larger meals, freeze some, and eat leftovers. And I always allow a night or two for eating out!
I’m really picky about how my shopping list is organized, so always edit what’s displayed. However, I love that Plan To Eat gathers every single thing that might be needed for the planned recipes – and that I can export this list out to be as finicky as I want.
I like that it knows I want to group ingredients; that means you don’t see “black pepper” listed five times for each recipe it’s used in. If you look to the right of the list of ingredients, you can also see the planner date range – and a link to each recipe in the plan. And, if I wanted to, I could also specify the store that each ingredient might be purchased from; I’m not *that* finicky.
Also, take a look at the options in the upper left corner. You can add staples to the shopping like: things you buy all the time like chicken, red peppers, Oreo cookies, and dark chocolate. There’s also a mini-planner which is a smaller at-a-glance view of your weekly plan.
Friends, Queue, and Filter
Another interesting aspect of Plan To Eat that I haven’t explored is the ability to have “friends.” You know, like IRL friends or family members or whoever else you’d like to share your recipes with (or not; there’s an option to keep recipes private.)
If you’re craving a certain meal, you can add it to your queue. This is especially handy if you have hundreds or thousands of recipes. Those recipes in your queue are easily accessible from many areas of Plan To Eat, including the Planner.
Filtering is also useful when you have thousands of recipes. You can filter by course, cuisine, main ingredient, tags, total time, website, rating, or member. You can also search your entire database of recipes, or search for only those recipes that include a specific ingredient (or without specific ingredients.) And now my favorite feature of Plan To Eat: the Recipe Clipper!
The biggest issue I have with recipes online is how to save them for future consideration. Printing is a total waste of paper and Evernote, that most-lauded receptacle of everything online, never worked for me. The Plan To Eat Recipe Clipper definitely works for me. But first, install an extension.
This browser extension is super easy to install and adds the “Add To PTE” button to your toolbar. If you see a recipe you want to try, click the button and the below screen opens. You can make any changes you need, and then save the recipe.
For example, this Quinoa Beet Salad caught my eye. I clicked the “Add To PTE” button on my toolbar and reviewed the results. The picture is great, and so is the link to the actual recipe. But I didn’t like how the recipe ingredients imported, so I made changes on the fly. Then I assigned categories, clicked “Save Recipe,” and the recipe was imported into my Plan To Eat recipe book. You even have the opportunity to share the recipe or add comments immediately after the recipe is saved. Love it!
I love using Plan To Eat and am so happy I found it. After looking at a bunch of different options, I wasn’t sure there was one meal planner that would *really* work for me.
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