As I shared in my first post in this series, Meal Planning Made Easy: Step 1…Get Inspired!, meal planning doesn’t have to be a drag or feel like a chore…it can even be FUN once you start to get some creative ideas flowing 🙂
In today’s post, I’m going to tell you about my absolute FAVORITE meal planning tool. It makes meal planning and easy and even gives you the option to print a shopping list directly from the site!
Let’s take a look at my top 3 tips to Get Organized!
1) Tackle your toolbox.
I’m not talking hammers and nails here, but the truth is, if we want to plan and start cooking our meals, we have to have the right tools in our kitchen to make prepping and cooking easier and more efficient.
Here are my top 6 tools: (1) glass mason jars for food prep, storage and freezing; (2) a chef’s knife; (3) crock pot; (4) high-speed blender; (5) food processor; and (6) thermos (to transport hot & cold food!).
The key to using these tools is to make them accessible. If they’re stowed away in a closet in your basement, you won’t use them. Trust me. Put them on the countertop or on a table in your kitchen or dining room. If they are easy to access, you will be much more likely to use them!
2) Clean out & restock your pantry.
I like to think of my approach to eating as “common sense nutrition,” so here’s a simple rule of thumb – If you keep healthy food in your house, you will eat healthy food. If you keep junk food in your house, you will eat junk food.
Start with a pantry clean out and toss anything that is expired or that you don’t use. (That would include your jar of sage from 2003 🙂) Ask yourself,
“Does this support my healthy goals? The person I want to be? How I want to feel?”
If the answer is “no,” toss it. Make it easier for yourself to make healthy choices!
I’ve shared my top 10 everyday pantry essentials and my top 11 sweet treat staples in previous posts, so check them out if you want to know some staples I always have on hand in addition to the basics like beans, lentils, peas, brown rice, and quinoa.
3) Use a Meal Planning Tool!
My favorite is Plan to Eat. I introduced it to my coworkers a few weeks ago, and they LOVED it. Here’s why!
- Add Recipes: You can add your own recipes manually, use the Plan to Eat bookmark bar just like the Pinterest pin icon to automatically upload whatever recipe you’re viewing into your recipe book, or paste a URL from a recipe website into the box on the Recipes page using the Add Recipe button.
- Plan Using the Calendar: Drag and drop your recipes into the calendar and plan meals for a day, week or for several months!
- Printable Shopping List: As you add recipes to your planner, the shopping list will update and add in all ingredients you need for each meal. You end up with an organized, easy to follow shopping list that you can print out and take with you to the store. You can check off items you already have and even add certain items to your grocery staples list.
- Add Stores: Do you shop at multiple stores? No problem! Add each store to your list and you can move items on your shopping list to the store where you buy them.
- Get Social: You can Add Friends, which lets you access each other’s recipes.
They don’t have an app, but the website is 100% mobile-enabled, so you can easily use it from any device.
You can sign up for a free 30-day trial to try it out yourself before you commit. They don’t take your credit card info ahead of time like other websites do, so it really is free. The cost for an annual membership is $39. Renew on Black Friday to get a year for $19!
Check out the quick video below to learn more about how Plan To Eat works and see it in action!
If you’re interested in checking out meal planning apps, take a look at MealBoard or Paprika. I can’t speak from experience on those, but they do have good reviews online.
In my final post of this series, I’ll be sharing some practical tips for how to actually “Get To It” and start putting the ideas in steps 1 and 2 into practice!
I use the Six O’Clock Scramble meal planning service http://www.thescramble.com/ and have years. I get an email every Wednesday with 5 dinners, their recipes and the grocery shopping list. They can be customized to include more meals or exchange for family favorites. Meal planning is truly necessary in a busy, dual-working family! This service is a great help for only $50 a year.
Thanks for sharing, Tara! I had heard of that service, too, so it’s always nice to hear from someone who actually uses it. Sounds like it’s working great for you, so thanks for giving us another option 🙂