I’ve talked before about my struggles with meal planning. Now, aside from making my own templates, I have also looked into the world of digital meal planning. Here are a couple of resources that I’ve found and tried.
The first online meal planner I ever used was courtesy of SparkPeople. SparkPeople is an online healthy-lifestyle community, focusing on helping people lose weight and develop healthy habits that are maintainable. While you can use their tools as just a work-out tracker and food diary, (like MyFitnessPal, which I love), they also have the option of letting them develop editable plans for you. You can use it for the exercise, but since I’m talking about meal planning, I’m focusing on that option.
Their meal planner lets you use their recipes and recommendations and will give you a grocery list for however many days you need. You can also go in and substitute items as you like. Say you don’t particularly care for mushrooms, so you click on the offending food and SparkPeople provides you with list of options to substitute that will still fill the nutritional benefit that mushrooms was going to do in that day’s meal plan. I used this set-up to help me get started with my weight loss back college. It really allowed me to relinquish some of the responsibility of trying to come up with the right things to eat, and it taught me what I should be eating (and how much) so that I could graduate to the point of making my own food choices.
However, over time, I found the constant need to input substitutions and limitations to recipes (their sister-site, SparkRecipes, has a TON of wonderful, healthy recipes, but the meal planner doesn’t access them) made the overall meal planner a bit clunky. Also, once Mr. LL joined my life, I found it even more frustrating that I couldn’t get the grocery list to give the quantities for TWO people. I know it’s not that much of a struggle to just multiply by two, but it’s the little things.
The next virtual meal planner I used was an app called Meal Board. It is $3.99 in the iTunes App Store. Boy oh boy. This app. Well, let’s get started.
First of all, this is clunky as hell to use on a mobile device. It is on my iPad, and it is just rough trying to type in recipes. However, you can use their website to enter your recipes, which I highly recommend and also how in the hell you are supposed to know about it is beyond me. I only discovered this by emailing and complaining to the developer. I had one recipe I was trying to enter, and EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. the app would crash on me. I emailed wanting a refund, but they just said to try using the website to enter the recipes while they worked on the problem (but they did say that if I really just wanted a refund, they would do that–I bought the app so it would help me though, so I was willing to give it another try).
I don’t know if they ever fixed the app. I kinda gave up on using it, but writing this post has inspired me to give it another whirl. I’ll just have to sit down and enter my 5 basic recipes on their website, then cloud sync it with my app.
In other words, it may actually be a while before I use it again.
The last meal planning tool I’m going to talk about is actually a blog. Once A Month Meals (or OAMM) is a wonderful blog (that I actually linked to in my last post about meal planning). Each month, the contributors put together a plethora of menus for its readers. Now, the premise of this blog is for people who like to do the whole cook a month’s worth of meals in one day and freeze them kinda lifestyle. It is something I long to do and I am envious of anyone with the freezer space/counter space to do so.
I feel they do a great job in covering the gambit of different diets and restrictions in their menus. Currently, you can pick from these menus: Traditional, Whole Foods (not the store), Diet, Baby food, Paleo, Gluten/Dairy Free and Vegetarian. They also post a mini menu every week, I believe, for those who don’t do the once a month thing.
Now, you might be asking, how is this anymore helpful than the other food and/or mommy blogs that post their own meal plans? Well, OAMM’s menus post with recipes at the start of each month, and that isn’t very different; but they also have a paid membership option that will allow you to download grocery lists AND adjust servings needed (take that SparkPeople!).
I, personally, haven’t purchased a membership for a couple of reasons. The first being that I am unable to do the Once-A-Month lifestyle. My apartment just doesn’t allow for it. Secondly, I am a picky eater and some months, the majority of their recipes do not appeal to me. I’m not as picky as I once was, but it rears its ugly head more often than I care to admit.
I also found this interesting article over at LifeHacker, about the “Five Best Meal Planning Apps” by Alan Henry. I think the Ziplist app looks like a winner.
Let me know what meal planning apps or tools you use.
[All of these opinions are my own, and I am in no way affiliated with any of these sites or products.]