Why I’m Going to Start Using Plan to Eat For Meal Planning (and You Might Want To, Too) 5

Why I’m Going to Start Using Plan to Eat For Meal Planning (and You Might Want To, Too)

Meal planning might be the death of me…or not, thanks to Plan to Eat. Here’s why I’m going to start using Plan to Eat for meal planning starting NOW.

Meal planning might be the death of me...or not, thanks to Plan to Eat. Here's why I'm going to start using Plan to Eat for meal planning starting NOW.

By Ann Timm

I don’t use a meal planning service, though I certainly meal plan.

Lately, I’ve had this feeling that my meal planning could use a bit of … help. Especially with the holidays coming up and family visiting from out of town. With that in mind, I discovered, thanks to my work here at Keeper of the Home, that the solution might be as easy as Plan to Eat.

As I read through it and explored, I realized: I’m really missing out on something here!

While I haven’t started using Plan to Eat, I can’t help but add the word “yet,” and here’s why:

It’s easy to use.

You don’t have to be a techie or employ a teenager to teach you how to use this: it’s as easy as clicking on your favorite food sites or saving recipes from wherever you are online.

Did I mention you can also add your favorites from that notebook on the second shelf in your kitchen cupboard and from the dog-eared copy of the cookbook you got at your wedding? Yep, that’s a big plus.

I also love that you can use tags and categories to organize your recipes. If I’m looking for something meatless, for example, I can look for something tagged that way. Same with gluten- or dairy-free or, for that matter, mushroom-free.

My youngest daughter, Grace, is always asking for pasta. Easy! I can have as many recipes tagged with pasta as I want.

The same recipes can even be tagged gluten-free or dairy-free. So when my niece, who is gluten intolerant, comes to visit I can just search the recipes with those tags I want and have them all organized right there at my fingertips (instead of searching forever through my completely unorganized binder with torn out pages falling to the floor! No more with Plan to Eat!).

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Meal planning looks already done.

As I was looking around, I started to wonder just how much time I would save using this. For one thing, there’s a drag-and-drop feature that looks about as hard as starting my car. (In other words, it isn’t!)

There are also many filtering options and automatically generated shopping lists with—get this!—automatically categorized ingredients, so I just saved some time shopping, too! Once you have your shopping list, you can choose whether to print it or use your smartphone (or both) to make sure you have everything already in the house.

How many times have I not been able to make what I planned to make because I didn’t have something in the house? How often have I wondered if I have something at home and either bought it when I already have it (so that I have too much) or not gotten it (so that I’m facing option 1: can’t make the dinner I planned for)?

Looks like my problem may be solved…as long as I buckle down and use the tool!

Because yes, I’m pretty sold on it.

From what I can tell, meal planning turns into a four-step process:

  1. Add recipes.
  2. Make a meal plan.
  3. Go shopping with the list of ingredients you need.
  4. Repeat.

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Plan to Eat makes that all seamless and I’m betting it will save me hours of time and loads of energy by making everything straightforward and easy to do.

Bottom line: it looks indispensable.

In addition to the things I’ve mentioned, I was also struck by the recipe storage, sharing, and queue. Haven’t made spaghetti in a while and I think of it while we’re at riding lessons? No problem: I can pull it up on my phone and add it to the queue. There’s something on Pinterest that will be perfect for next month’s crazy after-school schedule? Easy peasy to add and find it again when I add it to my recipe storage.

And I haven’t even touched on the sharing possibilities, but from what I have read, it’s awesome. Which is great, because I can use some refreshing of the menu around here!

Once I’m rolling with Plan to Eat, I suspect I’ll be using the option to check out and double or repeat previous weeks’ plans.

A Look at Who’s Behind It

Plan to Eat staff

As I was looking into Plan to Eat, I found myself intrigued by why founders Clint Bounds and Christopher McLaughlin were inspired to start it.

“When we started Plan to Eat,” said Clint, “it was just our household. I thought I was only building a tool for my wife. Then one night I had the idea to post it on the web and I asked a few of our friends to try it out and see if it is useful — that’s actually when Christopher’s family started using it.”

On Plan to Eat’s About page, Clint explains what his life was like before PTE:

“We would often have a refrigerator that was completely empty, or it was full of food we couldn’t use. We hated grocery shopping because we would buy what we didn’t need while forgetting the things we did. Our ‘fun’ and ‘spontaneous’ meal plans, which actually lacked any form of a plan, landed us at restaurants more than we wanted. Our bank account suffered because eating out is expensive. Our health suffered because what we were eating was not good for us.

“We needed a good meal planner, and out of this need Plan to Eat was born. Now we want to share it with you so that you don’t have to fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-meal-plan anymore either.”

Since its founding in 2009, Plan to Eat has been through many, many iterations, according to Clint. “Our goal is always to make meal planning as easy as possible.”

“Planning meals is the biggest hurdle keeping families from eating together,” Christopher pointed out. “In many cases, planning meals is the biggest hurdle keeping families from eating a home cooked meal at all — we hear this all of the time. If we can help families get over the meal planning hurdle they will naturally end up eating together more often.”

I couldn’t resist asking what they do when they have their families around the table. Here’s what Christopher said:

“For fun we like to play games that give context to the food. For example, one night dinner was based on Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House cookbook, which is a classic Savannah institution (here is a blog post about it). My wife and I met while in school in Savannah and our first apartment was down the street from Mrs. Wilkes. That meal gave us an opportunity to share with our children what our lives were like before they came along. They were fascinated!”

Meal planning touches every aspect of our lives, Christopher points out. He shared this letter from a customer that they got recently:

“Your site has allowed me to go from 310 pounds on January 1st, 2015, to 165 pounds on November 6th, 2015. By properly planning and eating healthy food, my life, and family has been completely transformed. Without your service, and amazing site and support, I would NOT have been able to accomplish this! Your service makes it SO simple to eat properly. Spending half an hour a week laying out the weekly menu saves time, and energy throughout the entire week. So easy, so convenient.

PS: I was a type 2 diabetic as well, on numerous medications. Now my doctor has removed me from ALL the medication. If everyone took the time to plan, they would find cooking at home easy, enjoyable, and HEALTHY!”

He mentioned that they’re always blown away by this sort of feedback, and I can see why. I can also see why this is more than just a handy tool…

Now, excuse me, I have to go sign up for my free 30-day trial…

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Have you tried Plan to Eat before? How has it made your meal planning and grocery shopping easier?

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  1. I’ve forgotten how to meal plan. The break I had between my children and grandchildren made me lazy with cooking. 🙂 this appears to be an easy useful tool.

  2. While I do love browsing a physical cookbook, having all my recipes at my fingertips (on my iPhone/computer) is sure awesome. Plan To Eat is a great tool!

    1. Especially when I’m out running errands and decide I need to stop at the grocery store last minute! Plan to Eat has it all right there. Thanks Hilarie 🙂

  3. You will LOVE it. PTE is fantastic and I know I’m not even fully utilizing it. I haven’t yet explored the friends feature (but have told some friends to get on it & friend me bc I have loads of grain & gluten free recipes that I’ve tried & they have a recent celiac diagnosis). I also haven’t fully utilized the freezer meal section, but how cool is that? 😉 Anyway, I adore it and have a vague recollection of meal planning and specifically grocery list creating as quite arduous. But it’s now a distant memory. 😉

    1. Joanna, thanks for sharing! I have not used the friends feature yet, but it looks super fun and easy to share. I can’t wait to use the recipe clipper as well. I’m always finding recipes on the web that I want to try! Here’s to making that arduous meal planning and list creating a distant memory 🙂

  4. I used Plant to Eat a few times and really liked it. I need to get back into it! Thanks for the reminder. Maybe I’ll win a free year so I can get back into it. 😉

  5. I love to peruse through cookbooks and magazines but I truthfully get overwhelmed with the process. I prefer to buy what is on sale too and then figure out what to make which adds to the process. Anyway it might make it easier to have it digitally sent. Thanks for the giveaway!!

  6. I am really hoping to be able to re-use plans from previous weeks to save time and mental energy! Also love the shopping list feature!

  7. I tried Plan to Eat a few years ago with a free trial. It was nice but not compelling to me then.
    I’ve added 2 more kids to the family since, and with school and activities, life is crazy! I know that if I don’t know what’s for dinner by noon, we’re likely to have fast food or sandwiches…. and yet, when I make a plan on paper, it gets shoved under other paperwork after a day or two.

    I’m planning to sign up for a subscription with their Black Friday sale.

  8. I think digital would be so much faster than hand-written lists, calendars, or actual recipe cards for meal planning. If something is quicker and easier, I tend to use it a LOT more! Plus, to be honest, my handwriting makes going back to use my list difficult and unappealing. Something easy to read and access would make so much sense for meal planning! Can’t wait to save time and money.

  9. I think digital would be helpful because I wouldn’t have to manually search for recipes that fit certain qualifications (specific ingredients, dietary restrictions, etc). Thank you for the giveaway!

  10. I am constantly juggling paper copies of recipes printing from this website, printing and then
    stacking them in an endless pile. I would love a place I could ‘put’ these recipes and use them! I have looked
    at Plan to Eat several times but have never taken the plunge!

  11. I definitely like the online planning idea and while I’ve never tried a service like this, the digital component is almost essential for our family. My husband does most of the shopping and cooking but could use some help with the planning. Since that is more my strength it has fallen to me. But a program like this would be something I think he would love – he’s the stay at home parent in our family right now!

  12. I’ve been wanting to try out meal plan for awhile now. I spend way too much time thinking of what to cook. this will be A great way to start. Hope I win It!!

  13. I can’t wait to try this. Our life has become incredibly hectic this year. I never have time to plan meals and shop anymore.

  14. I always have the best intentions about meal planning and grocery shopping but I always seem way too busy to do any of it resulting in eating out way too frequently! and to add it it, we have been out of printer ink and wants to hand write anything!? ☺️

  15. I love how organized the photos of the website look. I think drag and dropping would be so much easier than re-writing my menu plan each week!

  16. I’m excited to try this online meal planning to see if it does save time – and helps keep me organized when grocery shopping! Also looking forward to wasting less food 🙂

  17. I would be interested in trying it, less thinking for me?? I’m not sure how well it would work as we only have a desktop computer and I don’t have a fancy phone….

  18. I am REALLY interested to try this service but have not had any extra in my budget to subscribe. I am tired of having recipes on random scraps of paper and torn out magazine pages. I feel disorganized and am ready for a change!

  19. I desperately need to plan meals out even for just the two of us. trying to wing it on a daily basis is getting to me – so am truly hoping this will help me get a handle on it!

  20. I am really interested but I don’t have extra money to purchase or subscribe
    It will be easy to have something ready

  21. I’m excited to give it a shot, although I wish the trial period wasn’t during such a busy, abnormal season. Who knows, maybe it will make the season easier! The electronic method of meal planning sounds more convenient as I have so many recipes bookmarked online as well as hardcopies and cookbooks. The shopping will hopefully be made easier as well, which is extremely appealing.

  22. I’d love to try this! I’m so disorganized and we waste so much food. Also would love to eat healthier! Thanks for the chance!

  23. I would love to use Plan to Eat. I have all my recipes in a three-ring binder and many are torn and stained. Having all the info with me available on my phone would be great!

  24. I plan the menus for both my mom and my family. Always looking for ways to cook less often and I think this may help.

  25. This sounds like an amazing tool! I spend so much time searching out recipes to prepare and pairing them just right to stretch out the week, making my grocery list, scouring the cupboards to see what ingredients I may already have. Its exhausting. then I discover my printer is out of ink come time to print recipe and on the day of I spend precious time finding the recipe on line to see how to prepare, I could go on and on, lol. I think this is a great tool for the homemaker. Might free up time to get a manicure from time to time.

  26. What an awesome sounding tool. I would definitely benefit from this type of a program. I spend so much time searching for recipes, pairing them to stretch out the week, ingredient lists, search cupboard to see if I already have any ingredients on list, printer out of ink so have to and find recipe day of , etc May free up time for a pamper session for myself at the spa from time to time.

  27. I have recipes EVERYWHERE…..paper, cookbooks, websites & screenshots. They are never where I need them & I would love a way to easily have them in one spot with a way to organize them!

  28. I’ve been using Plan to Eat for a few years now and LOVE it. I planned 4 weeks of menus for each season, Winter Week 1, Winter Week 2 , etc. and I can drop them into the calendar and have menu plans done a year in advance. My family all have the app on their phones so my husband can shop with the list on his phone or daughter can start dinner if I’m working late. Our busy family can’t do without it!

    It’s 50% off on Black Friday!

  29. This sounds wonderful. I used to meal plan on a monthly or weekly basis. Lately I have found myself going over budget on groceries because I just don’t have time to meal plan with my pen and notebook like I used to.

  30. I think a digital recipe file is a great idea! I often get my recipes online, but then I have a pile of hard to file stacks of recipes on a shelf in my kitchen. 🙁 This is an exciting alternative that I am eager to try!

  31. I sort of tried plan to eat but was so busy, I didn’t have time to input all my recipes. I look forward to trying it again.

  32. We have always done meal planning in our home – saves time & money! But reading through this, this would be a great way to have the recipes we love incorporated easily into the “plan” rather than looking through our binders time after time – sounds efficient.

  33. I would love to try this…I plan to eat all the time…but I don’t always plan what I’m going to eat and I really need to!

  34. I used a meal planning service years ago and it was great in so many ways. However, I was sent a list of recipes for the week and they were new recipes every time. This was nice at first, but when always making a new recipe gets old because it takes more time. So this sound just about perfect to me.

  35. As much as I love my paper & pen, Plan to Eat has the flexibility & power of drastically cutting planning time on a regular basis. I am eager to use it, winner or not. Thanks again!

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