Menu Planning and Recipe Saving Using Plan to Eat

Plan to Eat Recipe Index

Though I like to pretend otherwise, my recipe management techniques are a disaster. I have the best of intentions, but I tend to leave the organization part of management until “later.” If only I had a clone to handle all the things that fall into that particular life category.

For various reasons, including my decision to get serious about my diet, I’ve been working on getting all the recipes I have stashed in various places under control. These include: pages ripped out of magazines, various and sundry recipes bookmarked over the decades via different browsers, recipes pinned and clipped into various programs.

And the dreaded recipes in open tabs — I wish I were joking when I say sometimes I have thirty tabs open. Most of them are recipes.

My menu plan using Plan to Eat
My weekly menu plan with other options from Plan to Eat. It’s easy to organize and to add free-form content.

When I asked on Twitter how people organized recipes, I received a lot of interesting answers, answers I suspect reflect how often people cook. I’ll be spending a few posts exploring those suggestions and how they might work for you.

First up, is a web-based application called Plan to Eat (plantoeat.com). Of all the systems I’ve tested, this one works best for me. My initial criteria were fairly simple: easy recipe management, meal planning capabilities, mobile access. While Plan to Eat (PTE) doesn’t have a standalone app, if you save the website on your phone, you get quick access to the all-important shopping list (not one of my initial criteria, but one I find very useful).

Things I really like about PTE:

  • I can create additional cuisines beyond the list they’ve started for me. This means I’ve added Thai and Vietnamese to my list already. More can come.
  • It is super, super easy to add a recipe from a website to the system. And when you add a recipe, you can update all the essential metadata (meal, cuisine, etc) in a few seconds. This has reduced my open tab problem dramatically!
  • I can create additional main ingredients beyond the list they’ve started for me. Yes, I’ve gotten a bit granular, adding both garbanzo beans and garbanzo bean flour.
  • I can edit recipes — very useful for recipes clipped from websites. I am a huge recipe modifier, so it’s nice to be able to do my changes on the fly…a type of recipe development tool that is an unexpected bonus.
  • Easy tagging for search.
  • Good search capabilities. You can narrow down by key metadata or do word searches.
  • Links back to the original recipe. Very helpful in giving credit where credit is due.
  • Menu plan creation is very nice. You can create custom menus, making it easier to reuse and modify specific menus rather than starting from scratch every week.

The only feature I’ve found that isn’t as intuitive as I’d like is the shopping list. I have no problem generating an actual list on the web or my phone, but haven’t quite figured out the “My Stores” system. I will, I swear it, I will.

Plan to Eat Shopping List generated from my weekly menu
An example of the Plan to Eat shopping list generated from my menu plan for the week.

PTE costs $39 a year or $4.95 a month, which I think is reasonable. They offer a one-month free trial The system allows you to export all your recipes should you choose to move to a different system. The system is very much geared toward the member, but their blog links to lots of interesting recipes (there’s a gluten free category).

I’m loving using this website, though I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it can do. What recipe management/meal planners are you using?

Tip of the Week

Meal planning — and shopping ahead — makes it much easier to feed yourself on a gluten-free diet. My favorite trick is making meals that do double duty. I use leftovers as the basis for other meals, and, of course, for lunches. Here are some other meal planning tips.

Menu of the Week

Speaking of easy, delicious leftovers (plus budget friendly!), nothing beats pulled pork made in the crockpot. This dish is infinitely customizable, and, of course, the leftovers are a cook’s dream. In fact, they’re so dreamy, I’ve posted a bunch of ideas for leftover pulled pork. Whenever pork shoulder is on sale, I decided it’s pulled pork time!

Sweet potato fries are delicious and easy to make. My trick to a crispy outside and well-cooked inside? After cutting the potatoes into fries, I put them in a pot with cold water and heat the water to boiling. Let cook for five minutes, drain, let the potatoes steam dry, then toss them with seasonings before roasting at 425 degrees until crispy (about 25 minutes, depending on the size of your fries).

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