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Meal Planning Sites Review

Meal Planning Sites Review
Amelia
  • On October 16, 2015
  • http://ameliajune.net

Meal planning, shopping, and cooking are basically the worst parts of my week. I tend to be a picky eater, and I live with two other picky eaters who are picky about different things. As a result, I’ve been railroaded into a few, repetitive recipes that get dull quickly.

We’ve tried many fixes for these issues with varying degrees of success. Most recently, I’ve become stubbornly dedicated to meal planning. If I can get the plan right at the beginning of the week, we can at least know what’s for dinner and picky eaters can make themselves an alternative. I am really tired of the “what’s for dinner” dance. To that end, I’ve been testing websites and apps that help with this process. I figured I’d review a few of them for you.

For years now, I’ve been using Microsoft One Note as a catch-all recipe box.

Upsides:

  • It is now cross-platform and can be accessed on your smartphone.
  • It’s robust in terms of being a searchable, indexed database.
  • It’s fairly easy to copy and paste recipes from online into the program, although on mobile that’s far more cumbersome.
  • I can share it with family and friends online.

Downsides:

  • It really isn’t made for storing recipes specifically, so there are some features that I like in other apps that don’t exist here (like adding items to a shopping list).
  • It’s fairly cumbersome to sign in to Microsoft Live for updates to the online version.
  • It’s really a one-trick pony; nice for storing, doesn’t do much else.

In the interest of taking the work out of planning, I signed up for Gathered Table. Gathered Table promised to dig into its own recipe database and make me a meal plan and shopping list all specific to my tastes.

Upsides:

  • It did what it said it would do—weekly, customized menus and shopping list.
  • The website is now offering grocery delivery in some areas, which seems pretty cool.

Downsides:

  • It was terrible at picking recipes I would like—even after putting in my preferences, it would send me repeated suggestions for things like minted peas, which I do not enjoy even thinking about.
  • At the time I used it, the recipes were limited and repetitive. That may have changed; it’s been a year since I tried it.
  • It’s a paid service. At this time, plans start at $7 each month. I can’t imagine why it would cost more than that unless they came and cooked for me. Perhaps they’re taking grocery delivery into account.

The idea of Gathered Table was good, even though I didn’t like the execution. So last month I tried a service called Eat This Much. Eat This Much does much what Gathered Table does, but it also takes into account your preferences for calories, macros, etc. Seems like a great idea, doesn’t it?

Upsides:

  • It beautifully plans out three meals a day and snacks—or other numbers of meals, if you prefer.
  • It takes into account if you’re trying to eat low carb or whatnot.
  • It creates a shopping list from your plan.
  • You can have it email your shopping list and plan to you and anyone else, which is pretty handy.
  • If you mark something as in your pantry at home, it will remember and not throw it back on to your shopping list.
  • Most of the recipes it recommended were tasty and simple to make, which was a pleasant surprise.

Downsides:

  • If you aren’t diligent about your preferences, it will keep suggesting you eat things you don’t want to. I had to refresh each day several times to get a week I liked.
  • The macro thing is hilariously messed up. I didn’t notice and sent my husband to the store with a shopping list. I began receiving texts like, “Do you really need 37 eggs?” It turns out that to fit your macros it will just decide you can eat three or four servings of a food. The app legit tried to make me eat six eggs for breakfast. I’m not Gaston, so that didn’t work out. No one wants six cups of spinach with olive oil for a snack. Well, maybe someone does, but not me.
  • It is costly, at $9 per month (or $7 per month if you get a yearlong subscription). I recommend trying it out for one month first to see if you like the recipes.
  • There’s no Android app, so it requires logging in on the mobile browser each time if you want to peek at it if you’re out. This wasn’t too bad, though; the mobile site is very well done.

Thanks to the weird macro issue, I bailed on that one, and now I’m trying out Plan to Eat. Plan to Eat comes with an in-browser widget that allows you to save any recipe you find online in your recipe box over there, complete with instructions, with one or two mouse clicks.

Upsides:

  • The interface is very simple and very smooth to use. Transferring recipes from the web to recipe box to your calendar and your shopping list takes hardly any time at all.
  • In essence, it creates a searchable database of recipes for you. You can rank, categorize, and tag everything so that searching becomes very easy.
  • Drag and dropping a recipe into your calendar automatically populates your shopping list.
  • You use your own recipes rather than a random recipe database so you know you like the food.
  • There’s an export function for both shopping lists and recipes, in case you want to save recipes locally.
  • There’s a friend function that allows you to befriend other users and see their shared recipes. You go in friends with their blog, which has over 300 recipes you can browse.
  • It’s the cheapest of the things I’ve tried so far: $4.95 per month or $39 per year.

Downsides:

  • You have to populate the recipe database yourself. That is a major drag at the beginning and can take hours to set up. Once set up, it’s easy to add new recipes, though.
  • There’s no automatic planning function. You do the work of deciding what to eat, when.
  • There’s no app, currently. It works on mobile devices via the web quite nicely, though.
  • It’s the cheapest of the plans I’ve tried, but I’m not sure yet if it’s worth any money to me. It does what One Note does, except in a much cleaner fashion and with the bonus shopping list addition. I’d pay $40 for that once, but yearly? I’m not sure.

I’m sticking with Plan to Eat for a couple weeks to see how it goes. Getting all the recipes in there was a good exercise in cleaning out what I don’t use from One Note, at least. Now if I could just find an app that will come over and cook the food to my specifications. That would be ideal.

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Comments

  1. I am looking forward to an update on Plan to Eat. Right now I mostly use Pinterest to find new things to eat. I have a small collection of magazine recipe clippings and printed out stuff. I’d like something to organize all my recipes, ones that I use regularly and ones that I still haven’t tried, that allows me to populate shopping lists as well as keep track of what’s already in my pantry. I just don’t have the time to program exactly what I want even thought my husband keeps telling me “We should make an app!”
    Plus, I get really tired of being the primary chef and would like to have everything in one place I can shove in my husband’s face and say, “Here. You’re cooking tonight.”

    • Amelia

      IF YOU GUYS MAKE AN APP I WILL BUY IT. Because Plan to Eat is my favorite but 40 bucks a year??? Wat.

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