Menu planning can be a real pain and can take HOURS out of your life just to collect a week’s worth of meals you want to make, then figure out what ingredients you need to buy, then get to the grocery store, then go back to the grocery store the next day when you realize you forgot something, then have to go back a few days later because you didn’t get to that one recipe in time and now all the produce has gone bad…
Ugh. So I’m always looking for a better way. I’ve used the Buy Me A Pie app to manage my grocery shopping. It’s strengths: it can sync the list across devices so if Husband goes to the store, he’s always got the full list handy, no matter what or when I added things. You can have separate lists depending on how you shop (different stores, for example). Items can be color coded by aisle if you wish. Weaknesses: You have to pay to download the app on each device. There are a limited number of colors/categories to use so you can’t really sort by every aisle in the store, it’s not connected with any recipe or menu planning service so you still, once you’ve got your meals planned elsewhere, have to manually enter in all the ingredients you need.
Next, I tried PepperPlate. This app is great because it also can be downloaded on multiple devices, is FREE, has built in recipe and planning tools that work with the shopping list, groups like-items together and does the math for you (recipe X calls for 3 lemons, recipe Y calls for 2 lemons so the shopping list says you need 5 lemons), you can sort the list either by category (which is customizable and you can have every single aisle in your store listed) or by recipe – helpful when you can’t remember why in the world you need 5 lemons. Cons: If in one recipe you say 2 cloves garlic, and in another recipe you say 3 garlic cloves, the math won’t be done in the shopping list and each one will be listed separately. Same if you use tsp and teaspoon. The app crashes the first time I open it on both my android phone and Amazon Kindle. It can be a little glitchy if you use both the web interface and the app; sometimes something you do through the web is deleted when you open the app on your phone.
Then I tried Plan To Eat. It’s web-based only and there is no app. A huge bummer for me since with a web-based system you basically have to have internet access the entire time you shop (I don’t know about you but most of the places I shop have large internet dead-zones). However, everything else about it is great. The drag-and-drop menu planner is super easy to use and makes planning go FAST. Items from every recipe you add to the planner are automatically added to your shopping list. Depending on your shopping style, you can filter the list so that there will be 2 weeks worth of items listed, or 3 days worth, but no matter time time frame, items are always there so you can change the view without losing half your list.
The Cooking View for the recipes makes actually cooking the food a lot easier because you can have the directions appear step-by-step, but the ingredient list is always visible on the side (if you’re using a tablet or computer). No scrolling up and down between whatever step you’re on and the ingredients list.
Cons: no app. no app. no app. If the service was free this may not be an issue, but it’s about $5/month or $39/year. If the website functioned properly and as expected across all devices and browsers, this may not be as much of an issue, but it just doesn’t. On my phone, I have to constantly click “view full site” to go between my recipes and the shopping list. On the Kindle, I can’t use Google Chrome at all. I have to use the default browser, and even that doesn’t work properly (can’t click a recipe in the planner to open the cooking view, for example). To have to tinker around with finding different browsers on different devices in order to get the most features to work is just not worth a subscription fee. It’s really tempting, though. Everything else about it is all I could ever want from a meal planning service.
So the hunt continues for the perfect meal planning/recipe coordinating/shopping list managing system.