Meal planning can seem overwhelming when first starting out and people often tap out on this first step, but it’s easier than you might think! If you want to know how to organize meal planning, there are some programs out there that can help you out!
First though, let me remind you, I’m a huge advocate for starting small and working your way up to more intricate meal planning. Two dinners, that’s all you need to start, to get your feet wet. Start with a recipe you know and then add in something new.
But, you argue, it’s more than that, it’s planning meals based on your schedule, it’s creating grocery lists, shopping, and then meal prep. How do you track your meals? Your grocery list?
Is there a way to keep things organized? There are SO MANY options out there and everyone seems to have a different opinion of what is best. At the end of the day, what’s best is what you like to use for your family, and everyone is different.
After speaking to other busy moms who are trying to stay organized with their cooking, shopping, and recipes, there are a few options that have continuously come up. I’ll summarize them and hopefully one might grab your interest without overwhelming you to the point of throwing in the towel!
Paper and Pen
THE simplest, most basic approach is paper and pen. Write down the recipes you’re going to use, create a shopping list from the recipes you need and boom. Good to go. Print your recipes or bookmark the cookbook pages you are going to use.
Plan to Eat
This is the app I use and have gone into it in more detail HERE. It definitely has its pros and cons though, I’m not going to lie! Plan to Eat (affiliate link) is a great app for people who bookmark recipes all over the internet and need them stored and organized in one place.
It’s a great way to organize recipes, plan meals and then watch the magic happen as it generates a shopping list based on your planned meals. The recipe organizer is amazing. I can search by slow cooker, by meal (breakfast or dinner or sweets), or by main ingredient.
The con, and it’s a big one, well two really, is it can be time consuming to get started. Putting in all the recipes can take some time, especially if they’re not already online. Most big foodie sites are super easy to bring a recipe over to Plan to Eat. It’s copy and paste into the URL and you’re done. BUT, if a lot of recipes are offline, you do have to type them in by hand if you can’t find them online OR if you are a big America’s Test Kitchen use and can’t access the recipes online.
The other drawback is that I feel there’s a solid learning curve involved. I did save myself a lot of grief by watching and reading the tutorials before I even began. But, with that being said, I still don’t even use all the features. There’s so much you can do in Plan to Eat, I haven’t carved out time to learn beyond the basics.
Once things are set up though, the time to meal plan and grocery shop are cut down dramatically! This, in the long run is a HUGE time saver.
If cost is an issue – they usually run a black Friday sale, which is when I signed up two years ago! Just FYI.
This might be the most popular based on my unscientific poll, and you can click HERE (no affiliate link) to get to the app.
To be totally upfront, I have not used this app, and talk about it based on what I have been told ONLY!
It’s pretty user friendly and is available across all platforms – computer, kindle, Iphone and Android. A significant drawback for many is that you have to buy it for you portable device, which is $4.99 and then if you want it for your computer, it’s another $30.
One of the best features about Paprika is that as you are cooking you can cross items you’ve used off your list. Or, if you need to mark your spot, you can highlight a section of the recipe. Another beneficial feature is how it your device will stay awake if you are on a recipe. One thing that drives me batty about NOT printing recipes is how my device goes dark, and II have to stop what I am doing to make it active. These little conveniences can be enough to justify the cost for many.
I think Paprika is another great option to organize recipes, meal plan and get the most out of your food budget!
Meal Plan and Meal Board
Each app is $4 seem to somewhat similar but I have not used either one but seem like a good, simple way to track your weekly meal plan.
Copy Me That
Another one I have not used, but has received rave reviews is one called Copy Me That, a free recipe manager, shopping list, and meal planner. There is a premium version which includes:
- recipe scaling
- multiple shopping lists
- personalized list categories (you can create your own categories for shopping)
- a master shopping list (you can move items over as needed to the weekly list)
- meal plan options (weekly and monthly view)
- print options
- recipe view options
- ability to email your meal plan
- print from the app
The premium version, which sounds like it is similar to Plan to Eat and Paprika is only $12 a year. I can’t comment whether this is user friendly but it is recommended quite often. Since there is a free version, this might be a good option to get your feet wet and see if a program like this will be helpful.
What to Use
There are so many tools out there to help you get organized, but be careful, you can actually end up in a black hole of technology if you aren’t careful. Don’t get shiny object syndrome – always looking for the next best app to solve your problems. I have had more than my share of shiny object syndrome, so I speak from experience on this one!
If you don’t need something to handle your planning, groceries, and organization all in one, don’t even go down that rabbit hole. Maybe you just want a way to organize your groceries? There are DOZENS upon dozens of grocery list apps you can download. I won’t go into them because I don’t use any of them. I use my Alexa/Echo to create my lists and I use Plan to Eat.
Using tools to help you organize your meal planning is only beneficial if you use them. And if you are thinking, “this is way too much,” then ignore this post altogether! I really want you to try meal planning and prep and not feel overwhelmed. These apps/programs are optional, a way to streamline things once you get going!
Quick Start Guide
If you want more information on getting started, I’ve created a 7 page quick start guide (CLICK HERE) to help break down all the different steps that can be involved in meal prep.