Thursday, February 11, 2010

I HATE meal planning!

"Hate is a strong word" I tell my kids. Truth be told, I would rather clean the bathroom AND go to the dentist, than plan meals each week. However, no one else has volunteered to take on this job for my family of five, so I am always on the lookout for ways to streamline the process and make it easier for me. Plus, I like to cook healthy, complete meals and don't like to use a lot of prepared foods.

I have written about meal planning before- See Four Quick Tips for February 2009. Recently, I learned about from a Professional Organizer friend and checked it out for my own personal use. It is really a neat concept. It is software that you download onto your computer-as of this writing, it was free to try for 30 days, then approx $30 for unlimited use. It not only has many recipes that others have contributed, but it is a container for any recipes that you find on the internet and want to import and keep in one spot. Big Oven has tag indexing that lets you customize and search on any keyword such as bread, chicken, Mexican, simple, winter, etc.  There is a "new recipe" window which helps you type in your own recipes quickly and easily, AND it has a calendar meal planning tool which allows you to drag recipes onto the calendar and then add the ingredients you need for each recipe to a printable shopping list, which groups things according to grocery aisle. With the ability to print meal plans, recipes, and shopping lists, Big Oven has really thought of everything.

In my opinion, the menu planning system has a few limitations; for example, you can see all the meals for a chosen time period in the "print view" but not in the "planning/drag & drop" view, which makes it difficult to see what you already chose for that week. Also, I would like to see a feature that allows one to save meal plans to use over again from month to month, or year to year (as for holidays). Despite this, it is an awesome and useful tool that has really added efficiency to my planning. I print out the recipes I like and display them in an 8x10 plastic frame while I am cooking. It makes it a little easier to see while cooking, and is a necessity if you don't have a laptop on the counter. I file the hard copy of the recipes in a binder marked favorite recipes. Recipes can be printed in a variety of formats, including full page, 4x6 and 3x5 index cards. Rather than retyping many of my own recipes, I simply search on the name of the dish and see if someone has already entered a similar one. Many times I find the exact or near exact recipe. I made Old Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie last week and it was spectacular. My husband said it was "Restaurant Quality" and all three kids cleaned their plates. So while meal planning is a task I like to avoid, doing it successfully and easily is well worth my effort. I encourage you to try Big Oven for yourself to see if it might be something that you can use.

I have also posted about, Hassle Free Dinners, and all of which I still highly recommend.

Happy Cooking!

For help with meal management or any organizing project, Simply Contact Linda! 716-631-5619
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