So Close!

Megan here. Not the developer. We’ve been absent from the blog for a little while now, but, we’re nearly there. One more big push and we’ll be at the full release of Insert Meal Here. All your recipes, all in one place. And they all are funneled in to your plan and shopping list.

The biggest recent changes have been design and the restrictive diet features. Gone is the Web 1.0 design of a developer. Now the app features the look and feel of a chalkboard, thanks to the hard work of the team at Lubiens Design. These guys really know their stuff. They listen hard and work harder to create an end product that meets the goals of good design: a happy client with a functional, rich piece of art to apply to their needs.

Besides design, we’ve also added a feature that will help you stick to your diet. Avoiding carbs? {IMH} will now tell you a recipe may not fit with your goals.

Though full release is just around the corner, we have more plans for the future, with more features, and with features becoming richer.

Go out there and #conquerdinner!

{insert meal here} Composite Recipes

I have a lot of cook books.  In fact, they have place of pride on the bookshelf next to my desk where I can easily grab them and plan out what I want to cook.  It is one of the things that inspired this entire project.  And, as I’ve been building the program, and running it on my local machine to test, and use, I’ve put in some of my favorite recipes, or new recipes that I wanted to make. Occasionally (or frequently depending on the book) I would come across a recipe that was presented as if it were two recipes, like this:

recipe

A composite recipe. That is, two or more recipes that are interdependent on each other to make a single dish. At first, I had no way to handle this other than to simply enter in all the ingredients and make sure that I made the instructions more explicit about what goes where and how much.  That can be rather painful when you’re entering a dozen recipes into a form, and slows the process down a lot.  So, instead of making the data entry more work, I made the database do more work instead!  As you can see from the above screen shot, {Insert Meal Here} does indeed support composite recipe. (incidentally you also get a peak at what the alpha version pages look like, not much yet, I know).

 

{insert meal here} A few of my favorite features.

Last time, I shared with you my general excitement and a very brief overview of what I’m planning for my program.  Today, I wanted to talk a little bit more about some of the features that I’m most excited about, and have garnered some of the most excitement from the people I’ve talked to about it so far. Meal Templates (or The Great Meal Wizard! ™).

Meal Templates:  One of the first things I thought of when I started writing notes for the program was Meal Templates.  In our house we frequently do things like Pizza Night, Taco Night, or Tea Party.  And that is exactly what we write on our current white board. The fun thing is, as everyone who enjoys a good pizza knows, that you can make so many different variations on these, and other sort of generic ideas. But how do you best represent that on a meal planning board?

Yes, I could easily add Pepperoni Pizza, Sausage Pizza, Meat Lovers Pizza, etc into the database until my eyes bleed.  But there’s a better way.  Computers have been walking users through complex configuration for the better part of thirty years.  Why not a wizard that takes a basic idea (Pizza Night) and walks you through the steps to put together your perfect pizza!

In the Pizza Night example, it would follow the steps similar to this:

1) Choose your dough! Sourdough? Whole wheat dough? The system would present you any recipes that are on your account tagged with Pizza Dough and allow you to choose.

2) Choose your sauce. Classic marinara or a spicy pesto? This would be the same as the previous step but for your sauces.

So far steps one and two would be exactly like the manual step of adding recipes to the database and selecting each of them individually. However on step 3

3) Toppings! This one would present you a list of dozens, or hundreds of possible toppings (including cheeses) that you might want to grace your pizza.

4) Sides, much like steps 1 and 2, here you would be given a selection of popular (or not so popular) sides to serve with your pizza. Of course, you can completely skip a side if all you want is pizza.

In each of the steps above, you would also be given the opportunity to add your own recipe to the database, where it would be safely stored for future Pizza Nights.  And when you are done with the process, the whole thing is combined into one Composite Recipe for easy reference and addition to future meals without having to go through the selection process again (if you want the same pizza again anyway).

Don’t know what a Composite Recipe is? Check back soon and I’ll talk about what they are, and why they are important.

{insert meal here} Meal Planning Board

Somewhere around the end of May, beginning of June my wife and I got a small week planner white board. The kind that people write their schedules on so everyone knows what’s going when.  For us, it was so I would remember what I was cooking when.  It was amazing! Rather than struggling to remember where I left a sheet of paper with the plan on it, it was right there on the wall. I could change what day of the week I was doing my zucchini fritters with the faux croque madame.

And for a while that was good enough.  But I still had to generate a shopping list and schedule the meal plan before I put it onto the white board.  And I often found myself starting two or three shopping lists during the week with things that I know I’ll need when I go to the grocery store (only to lose them, or forget that I already made them). I wanted to be able to pull a standard recipe out at a moment’s notice and have it ready to go! (like my mom’s blank recipe book that she filled with family favorite recipes).

So, I turned to Google. I turned to forums. I turned to blogs. Nowhere could I find the tool that would do the things that I wanted, that I needed.  There are plenty of tools out there for aggregating recipes. More that make a shopping list for you. And even programs that help you with meal scheduling. But all three? No. While I looked into an abyss of searches for a program that didn’t exist, I kept thinking of more features that I wanted! Nowhere was the tool I was dreaming up to be found!

Fortunately, though I am an airhead, I’m also programmer, and I knew just what to do.  So one sleepless night, when there was no one to talk to and TV felt redundant and dull, I pulled up my IDE (that’ programmer talk for a very fancy text editor) and started writing code.  A lot of code.  I built a database, I wrote control logic, I built HTML templates.  And slowly a virtual white board started coming together.  And a shopping list.  And a recipe aggregator.

Right now, it’s still just a prototype. Right now, it’s running locally on my machine, and a few select testers to help me flesh out the feature set. I want to get this right. I want to share with you this wonderful tool that is in my mind, so that together we can explore new recipes.