My last email to supporters was titled “I’m sick of cooking.”
Some of you might be feeling that, too.
Right now, there are only one or two meals a week that I don’t cook. You might be in a similar situation. But I hadn’t stepped up my planning game. If anything, I’d let it lapse even further.
Let me explain my meal planning process up until now.
First, I’d pull out some cookbooks. I would sit and flip through them looking for ideas on what to make. I’d also check for anything I’d save on my computer to try. Right now, many of my recipes are not useful because I can’t get some of the ingredients here.
Then, once I’d picked out my meals, I’d make a grocery list. On paper like an old. It looks kind of like this:
I would list out each recipe, where it came from (a cookbook, our website, Evernote, etc.), and then under each, I’d list ingredients that I needed to pick up. And then there was a list to the side with items that weren’t part of a recipe but I needed to pick up.
And if I ever lost this list, I’d be screwed. Because I could never remember what was on it, before or after shopping.
And that was the extent of the planning. I didn’t put meals on a calendar or anything. I would just make that decision meal by meal. And that was part of the problem.
Trying a Meal Planning Tool
(The Plan to Eat links are affiliate links and I do get a little $ if you sign up for a paid account through them.)
So, I’ve been on the hunt for a tool to get me more organized. Down here there are few surprises when it comes to mealtime since there are very limited restaurant options for vegans. Plus with the pandemic, we aren’t in any hurry to pack into a restaurant. It makes sense to plan better.
After looking at all the options online, I decided to try Plan to Eat. It’s a browser-based planner with both iOS and Android apps. You add your recipes, drop them in the calendar to plan your week, and then it generates a shopping list.
Now that I’ve had Plan to Eat for about a week and I’ve done my first grocery run with it, it seems like a good time to share my thoughts.
First, if you’re looking for a planner with a built-in database of recipes, this isn’t it. But being vegan, most of those libraries of recipes are useless to me so I like that it’s a blank slate.
Of course, that does mean that there’s a little work to do adding your recipes. Thankfully, there are a couple of features in Plan to Eat that make that easier. You can add a recipe via a URL and it will populate the fields for you pretty accurately. It worked great with all the recipes on our website. The recipes in this newsletter didn’t work automatically so I had to copy and paste them. And then, if you need to add recipes from a physical cookbook, you’re going to need to do some typing.
But, once you have them put in, it’s easy to drop them in the planner. And then a shopping list is generated sorted by location in the store. You can also attach different stores to different ingredients. That would be really useful if you didn’t move around as we do. And you can add other items to the list that aren’t included in the recipes like toiletries. When you pick up something at the store, you click it in the app and it gets crossed off the list.
You can also access the recipes in the app. I have been using the recipes in the app to cook this week. Having a plan has really taken a load off!
Now that I’ve slammed in 79 recipes, mostly from these newsletters, I can just add a couple a week until it contains all of my favorites.
Plan to Eat is a paid service but has a generous 30-day free trial. And they don’t ask for your payment information until you decide to sign up for a paid plan. If you want to leave at any time, you can export all of your recipes, too. This tool is worth the $39/year to me and I’m signing up. If meal planning has been taking too much of your time, I recommend checking it out.
How do you meal plan? Do you have another app or website that you love? Please share with everyone by dropping a comment!
Planning Leads to Better Decisions
One problem with my previous method is that I wasn’t specifically planning for snacks. If I make healthy snacks, I’ll eat them. If I don’t, I’ll eat chocolate chips by the handful.
You’ll see in the screenshot of my menu planner above that No Bake Cranberry Energy Balls are on the schedule! That recipe doesn’t make a full week’s worth so I tried a new recipe for Nut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. And boy are they delicious!
I’ve tried a recipe like this before and it was meh. But it had no added sugar at all. That one tablespoon of liquid sweetener made all the difference. Now I have two sweet treats in the house that are pretty healthy and taste great. More importantly, they satisfy my craving for sweets.
Yes, these do taste like bananas but we’re okay with that. If you’re not, hit that cranberry energy ball link. If you don’t like oats, I can’t help you this week. 😆
Store them in the refrigerator in a sealed container to keep them as fresh as possible.
Nut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups quick oats (or chop old fashioned oats a little in the food processor)
2 ripe bananas (about 1 1/4 cups), mashed
1⁄2 cup nut or seed butter (I used a mixed nut & seed blend from Costco)
1 tbsp agave or maple syrup
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup chocolate chips (raisins or dried cranberries would also be nice here)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare a cookie sheet with a silicone mat, parchment paper, or by spraying with oil.
Mash the bananas in a medium bowl with a fork until they are smooth.
Add the nut or seed butter, sweetener, salt, and vanilla and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips until they are well distributed.
Drop cookies by the spoonful onto the prepared cookie sheet. Press down into a cookie shape. These won’t spread much on their own but leave about an inch between them just in case.
Bake for 15 minutes. The cookies will be lightly browned on the edges and firm enough to hold shape but not crispy. They will solidify a little more as they cool. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container after cooling.
That’s about all I’ve got in me this issue. And remember, please share if you have recommendations for meal planning tools that you love!
Until next time, stay safe!