Here’s the spiel all about the Meal Planning Board. No fancy words or programmer notes or excitement. Just the words I, the accountant, use when I tell friends, family, and strangers about the app.
That, right there, is probably the best place to start. The app. The Meal Planning Board, or MPB, is an app. It’s web-based and accessible across all devices. It doesn’t care what operating system, device, or even very much what browser you’re using. If you have an internet connection and can type “www.insertmealhere.com” into your web browser, you can use it.
But WHAT does it DO!?
I think of the app as having three parts: a Recipe Collection, The Plan, and the Shopping List. Each part is exciting on its own, and his its own set of features. I’ll walk through each one this morning, and take you on a little tour of the app. I’ll update this post with new features as they’re added, as well as better screenshots as we abandon the Web 1.0 look of the Alpha test and move toward the finished product (these last updates will be later, in March and April – which is also when I’ll be knee deep in tax returns).
The Recipe Collection
Growing up, my grandparents and even my mom had recipe cards they kept in a little box with their favorite recipes on them. Some of them came from cookbooks. Some were family recipes passed on from generation to generation. Most were on the same color and style of card with a cute watermark or border of vegetables or a picnic basket or similar. Some were on different colored cards and came from friends and family at the end of the year or with a potluck contribution. They would thumb through the recipes and make a selection prior to cooking. As I got older, some of these cards were copied with love and care on to a set of my own cards and given to me.
The Recipe Collection takes those cards into the digital space. You can add as many recipes as you like. Tag them by meal, ingredient, holiday, diet, or anything else you’d like. There’s a place for a note about where you got the recipe – cookbook, author, page number, blog, Grandma, whatever. You can even add notes to your recipe, to say replace mayonnaise with yoghurt or cream cheese (a regular replacement in my household with a few very specific exceptions). If you like that note enough, you can even edit the recipe later to include that change.
Use The Plan to build a calendar of your meals for a week, a day, a month, or whatever timeframe you like best. You can see how leftovers might be used – the roast beef at the beginning of the week becomes French dip and then tacos later in the week, for example.
You can also use the Menu Wizard to build a custom menu for a meal. We have a chicken recipe that involves honey and herbs that we love, as well as several potential sides from green beans with mustard and walnuts to roasted cauliflower to a shaved Brussels sprouts and cranberry salad. But we don’t always want to eat them together, and I don’t particularly want to have seven recipes in the collection to cover all the possible variables (just the chicken, the chicken with each side, and just each side). The wizard lets me build this menu, save it, reuse it, and add the entire menu to The Plan as a single meal.
The Shopping List
Before the Meal Planning Board, I almost always forgot something at the grocery store. Salt was a big one. We use sea salt, and we buy a cardboard can of it once every few months. We use salt all the time, but, hardly ever buy it. When we started running low this summer, we forgot to get salt to the list no less than five times. And then we ran out of salt, and had to go to the grocery store JUST TO BUY SALT!
This was what English majors call the “inciting incident,” of the Meal Planning Board – the thing that gave rise to the action – the action that gave rise to the app.
The shopping list pulls from your plan to build the list of things you need and want to buy. It’s based on your recipes. If you need 8 chicken breasts for the week to use in three different recipes, it will put eight chicken breasts on the list. Salt shows up on the list every time (salt is, in fact, in all of our recipes). And, as we don’t need salt every week, we can delete it from the list.
The list also sorts itself based on your preferences. Sections are fully customizeble to you, the user, and how you shop at your store. You can even add repeating items to your list so they show up every week. We always buy eggs and cream. We usually also buy milk, yoghurt, and bacon. These are on our list automatically, every week, regardless of our meal plan. We also add other, non-food items to the list: shampoo, soap, and parchment paper for example. Hard to forget items that are staring you in the face on a list.