Sunday, May 16, 2010

Menu Planning

What to make for dinner? You have several options if you want to start planning meals, or have them planned for you. Here are a few that I have stumbled across.

Cost: $15 every 3 months, $1.25 per week.
Shopping list: Very nicely laid out, organized by food type, and has checkboxes. The list has staples listed separately across the bottom of the page, and is VERY easy to read. (the font of the staples list is pretty small, but I use glasses and it worked beautifully for me)
Recipes: This is my favorite part!!! The layout an simplicity of the recipes is just AMAZING! There is a single page of recipes, no cards to flip through, multiple pages of clutter in my kitchen, just the single double sided page, with all the recipes on one side, and the shopping list on the other.
Flavor.... This is pretty hard to rate, I find that with every plan, except my own, we don't like at least one meal, and often more per week. On the other hand, we have gotten a few Wowsa!! recipes as well.
Delivery: You must login to their site to print the plan out. Only 2 weeks info are on the site at any time, so be sure to print it out asap.
Samples: Go ahead, check out the samples link on the home page. :-)

E-mealz has menus for individual stores, as well as a regular plan that you can use with any store. Other options include, Vegtarian, Point System, Low Carb, Couples only, and also lots of combos, such as Low Carb Walmart.

Saving Dinner Menu Mailer

Cost: $15 for 3 months, and far a limited time, $27 for 12 months
Shopping List: A bit too cluttery for me. It breaks down the list by category of food, and also includes a special category for gluten free, and kosher options. So if I want to cook gluten free, I simply buy things from that category, and skip the corresponding regular item. This is great if you need this, but it makes it a bit confusing if you don't.
Recipes: This plan comes with all of these options included in the one price, so you can choose a different style if you want to for the week. Low carb, heart healthy, regular, and each has a version for 2 or 4 servings.
Flavor:There are some great recipes here, and some not so great. But with all plans, it is impossible to please everyone. :-) I LOVE the cube steak recipe!
Delivery: an email will be sent each week, that has a link to the menu mailer. Like E-mealz, you must get it right away, since only the current and previous weeks are visible on the website. However, if you save the email, I think that you can see the mailer for much much longer than on the actual site. Of course, you can just save it on the computer.
Sample: You must sign up for their emails to get the sample week. (sample link located at, NOT

In a few weeks, they are starting a Custom Menu-Mailer service ." As usual, you will get 4 different menus when you log onto your account. However, as an Elite Member, you can choose which recipes you want out of those 4 menus to create your own custom menu, then click, push a button and you’ll have a customized shopping list to go with the menu you just created." I haven't tried this yet, but it looks interesting. This is listed under News, but I couldn't find a rate or actually check it out.

Menus 4 Moms
(free and $5-$8 per month) the free are archived, under the menu plan basics bar on the left.
Cost: free!!!
Shopping list: Simple Layout! Also has an estimate of the cost of each non staple item.
Recipes: Recipes are on the webpage, so must print banners, bars & clutter as well.
Flavor: Just a basic assortment of 4 person with leftovers, 6 without meals.
Delivery: Online archive only for free version.
Samples: You need to create an account(free) and look on the left, under Menu Plan Basics, to access the Menu Archive.

This site was free with emailed menu planners for each week, but they had just too many people to keep up. You can access 6 years of recipes on the site, or if you don't want to have to remember, you can subscribe to one of their purchased plans. We liked a lot of these meals.

You in Bloom
(Free info on creating your own streamlined meal plans)
Cost: FREE!
Shopping List: Just the way you like it!
Recipes: Laid out the way you like them.
Flavor: This is your problem... :-)
Delivery: n/a

You must put in a fair amount of work at the beginning, but should be pretty simple once you are set up. I like the laminated recipe cards idea, and the way she streamlines her recipes to only 30 dinners.

My overall thoughts:

Shopping List:
I like the layout of the E-meals plan, but I would prefer to use my own recipes. I have set up a spreadsheet in OpenOffice (free version of excel) and have arranged it ala E-meals.

simple, one page layout is what I like, and I am in the process of converting all my recipes to this format. I plan to keep a copy of my menu database in my coupon binder. This way, if I am shopping and notice that something I need for a recipe is on sale, I can grab the other ingredients for that meal on the fly.

I am tired of getting out books to cook with in my limited counter space environment, so I would also like to eventually converting over to a box with laminated master recipes in it, and just printing out my meal plan for the week to keep on the fridge.

I also hate eating the same things for lunch each day, so I hope to have a menu plan ready for our lunches soon.