Print Your Plan

A little while ago, we were asked if the {IMH} Digital Meal Planning board could print the schedule to paper, so the paper could be displayed in a family command center.

What a perfect idea, I thought. The app needs to do this. I turned to the developer and told him.

A few hours later, and I had what I wanted.

The schedule now has a “Print This,” button right next to the date. Clicking the button will create a PDF that can be printed to good old fashioned paper and put where it’s most useful for you.

Ready to check out this feature? Subscribe today!

Recipe Tags

Your personalized tags.
Your personalized tags.

Tags keep your Recipe Collection organized. They also assign a recipe to specific meal. Beef stew, for example, is usually a dinner item, while sandwiches or my favorite Adult Bentos are great lunches. Adding these tags (dinner, lunch) to a recipe tells the meal planning board to put the recipe under that meal in your collection.

Place a comma between tags. This recipe didn't have very many, so I added a few to help sort it better.
Place a comma between tags. This recipe didn’t have very many, so I added a few to help sort it better.

Recipes can have multiple tags, and can belong to multiple meals. Just place a comma between each tag. Want to add a tag to a recipe later? Just type the tag in there, hit save, and it’ll appear in there the next time you look at the recipe.

Besides sorting by meal, just what do these tags do? For one, they start

A sample listing of recipes tagged with "Egg."
A sample listing of recipes tagged with “Egg.”

to show you what you eat. The tag cloud up there will show you your top ten tags (you can tell we eat a fair bit of chicken, vegetarian meals, and sweet potatoes). It does more than that though. Click on a tag, and you’ll head to a listing of every recipe with that tag. It’s much like the meal tabs, but more specific to the recipes you love, and how you think of them. Or, say you know you have a bunch of eggs you’d like to use up, but you don’t want the Faux Croque Madame. Click on the “egg,” tag to head to a listing of recipes tagged with “egg” in your collection. See a tag that inspires you more? Click that tag to head to a listing of recipes with that tag in it. Tags could even be used to sort out a family member’s favorite meals by using the name of the family member. Favorite holiday or gathering meals could also be tagged as such.

All recipe collections have some level of organization. Whether that’s a box with cards kept roughly in alphabetical order or, a cookbook sorted by meal and main ingredient (or even by season), there’s some sort of organization. The {IMH} Digital Meal Planner gives you all of these levels of organization. Even better, you personalize your organization to what works best for you.

How will you organize your Recipe Collection?

 

Quick Start Guide

Ready to get started meal planning? Here’s the short version to get you started. Ready?

Login. Your username and password will be sent to you in an email within 24 hours of your payment processing. If it’s been that long, you might check “Purchases” in your inbox or your SPAM folder. Head to http://app.insertmealhere.com and give the program your credentials. Welcome!

Your Recipes

A preview of the recipe collection, which is always customized to the user.
A preview of the recipe collection, which is always customized to the user.

The {IMH} Meal Planning Board journey starts with recipes. To add your first recipe to your collection, click the “Recipes” button. On the top left, you’ll see a link to “Add a Recipe.” Click the link, and enter your recipe in the form. Check out a full guide to the Recipe Collection for more details. Or, take a tour here with this Facebook Live.

Your Plan

A simple, sample schedule.
A simple, sample schedule.

Your Meal Plan is based on the recipes you have in your Recipe Collection. Now that you’ve added a recipe, you have the ability to add it to your plan. Click the form on the left to select a day and a meal to add the recipe to your plan. Click save. Select the “Schedule” up at the top menu to see your recipe in action on your meal plan.  I’ll take you through this step-by-step  in this Facebook Live too.

Your Shopping List

A sample shopping list, sorted by store section, based on a meal plan.
A sample shopping list, sorted by store section, based on a meal plan.

Now that you’ve got a recipe and a plan, you can build a shopping list. Click the “Shopping List” link at the top menu and select “Add New Shopping List.” Tell the {IMH} Meal Planning Board the day you plan on going shopping and the last day covered by your shopping trip. The program will pull all the ingredients in your recipes into a new list. To sort this list by section, click “Sort by Section.” Want to watch a video all about this? We did a Facebook Live right here.

Of course, there’s a fair bit more to the {IMH} Meal Planning Board this. But, this will help you dive in and get you started. Check out more in-depth information here.

The Shopping List

A well-designed meal plan can keep you organized and keep you on track for any meal-related goals you may have. But, when you head to the grocery store, you have t know what to buy, and how much, in order to successfully implement your plan.

Enter the Shopping List.

A sample shopping list in action. This list is built off a meal plan.
A sample shopping list in action. This list is built off a meal plan.

When your plan is set up, click the Shopping List button on the main menu and start building your list based entirely on your plan. Click the “New Shopping List” button on the top left of the screen. Now let the program know the day you intend to go shopping and the last day the shopping trip will cover in your plan. Click “Save,” and take a preview of your shopping list.

Build your new shopping list with your parameters.
Build your new shopping list with your parameters.

Controlling Your Shopping List

Keep your shopping list organized with the controls at the bottom of the list.
Keep your shopping list organized with the controls at the bottom of the list.

From here, it’s all about control. Use the controls at the bottom of the list and next to the actual items to edit your list. At first, your shopping list will be sorted by alpha. However, you can also sort your list by Section. But, before you do, you’ll need to add Store Sections and Add Items to those sections. Start by “Adding a Store Section.” Common sections may include produce and the butcher. Your sections may be based on what you buy or where you shop: for example, our favorite grocery store has a bulk section, and we don’t buy much from the middle, so we call this “Condiments,” in our controls. When you have your section(s) set, you can add items to your sections. Click “Add Item to Store Section,” select the section, and type the item as it appears on your list. Yes, this process is tedious, especially at the beginning. But, it goes pretty quick. And, each week, you’ll find yourself adding fewer and fewer (if any) items to sections. Sort your list by section using the link at the top left: “Sort by Section.”

In our house, there are certain items that need to be purchased every week: milk, eggs, bacon, and yogurt are the main ones. We add these to meals, eat them as snacks, drink them, and just generally think having them around is a good idea. Click the double-circle icon next to any item to add it to your repeating items list. This item will show up every week, whether it’s in a recipe or not. To review your repeating items, Click the “Repeating Items” in the controls.

Each item itself can be controlled as well. Delete items you already have in the pantry (salt comes to mind) with the trashcan icon. Use the check mark to edit an item, to say increase or decrease the quantity based on what’s already in the pantry. And, as mentioned above, have an item show up every week by clicking on the double circle icon.

Need a new list, or a list for just one day? Click on “New List” and set your parameters, and go!

You can make a new Shopping List by using the controls or the link on the top left of the list, whichever you prefer.
You can make a new Shopping List by using the controls or the link on the top left of the list, whichever you prefer.

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to head to the store? Don’t forget to take your list with you. You can use the list right inside the Meal Planning Board. Or, use the “Print this List” link right next to the “Shopping List for…” title at the top of the list for a clean, printer-friendly list. Head off to the store confident you have everything you need right in front of you, and that nothing will be left behind at the store.

Your Meal Plan

What’s a Meal Planning Board without a plan? The heart of the program rests inside the Schedule. The recipes in your Recipe Collection build up your Plan, and your Plan will build your Shopping List. Friday isn’t quite over year. Let’s go through this feature, shall we?

Add your Recipe to your Meal Plan by selecting the date and meal you want to eat the food.
Add your Recipe to your Meal Plan by selecting the date and meal you want to eat the food.

First thing’s first: getting a recipe on to your meal plan. Head to the recipe you want to put on your plan. On the left hand side, select the date and meal the recipe should be on your plan. Then click “Save.” You’ll head back to your Recipe Collection automatically. Click on “Schedule” to see your plan in action, as it starts to shape up.

A sample, simple schedule with dinners for a week.
A sample, simple schedule with dinners for a week.

Your plan can be as detailed or as simple as you like. Here, you can see a simple plan that shows dinner for a week. Our own meal planning is centered around dinner, with leftovers building up lunches as well as subsequent dinners. In this sample Plan, the Bride’s Mole is built off of a roast chicken from the previous week, and the Cubanos on Friday are built off of the roast from Friday.

Scroll through weeks by clicking the "Next," and Previous" week buttons.
Scroll through weeks by clicking the “Next,” and Previous” week buttons.

You can do quite a bit more in your Schedule than take a look at what’s laid out for the week. Skip ahead to the next week or back to the previous week by clicking on the “Next,” and “Previous” buttons.

View all the recipes for a single meal.
View all the recipes for a single meal

 

 

 

 

Or take a look at a single meal by clicking on the specific meal. Whether you have one recipe, 10 recipes, or something in between for that meal, all the recipes show up in one spot for easy reference while cooking.

 

 

 

Remove an unwanted recipe from your plan.
Remove an unwanted recipe from your plan.

When you need to make a change, you can delete a recipe from your Plan by  clicking on the trash can next to each recipe in your plan. But, before you click that delete button, if you’re just trying to move the recipe to another day or meal, drag the recipe from the old to the correct location in your plan.

Your Customized Recipe Collection

Fridays are all about features. Each week, we’ll highlight a different feature of the {IMH} Meal Planning Board. Is there a feature you want to know more about? Leave a note in the comments or shoot us an email. This week’s feature is the Recipe Collection. It’s a place for all of your favorite recipes to call home. Click on “Recipes” to head to your collection.recipe list

 

What good is a list thoadd a recipeugh without items in it? Click on the “Add a Recipe” link at the top left to go to the form to add your recipe. Try not to be too scared here. I’ll walk you through all this white. The title is perhaps the most important, because it can’t be changed later. Each box is a place to put the corresponding description. Number of servings will become important in the near future with an upcoming feature that’s in testing. The “Component Title” is itself a neat little feature: this allows you to add multiple components to a single recipe (such as a chocolate drizzle that goes over a cake). It’s all one recipe, but, there are a couple of different components. This will keep them separated for you. Ingredients have to have a name in the “Ingredient” column. I know I never put a quantity or measure in “salt and pepper” in my savory recipes, as it’s “to taste,” (I put that in the “instructions” column – see below).

 

Perhaps my personal favorite aspect of the recipe collection is the source information for each recipe, down at the bottom of the form. This lets me know where I got the original recipe from, be it a website, a book, or a friend. It’s also a great research tool when diving in to multiple, similar recipes, as the true source can be traced.

When your recipe is entered, click on “Save.” You’ll head to a screen that will allow you to tag your recipetag list so you can find it later. Here’s the tag “Ham” in action, to your right. You can also add notes on this screen. Click on “Save” again, and you’ll head back to your Recipe Collection.

 

When you’re in your Recipe Collection, click on a recipe to view it. The recipe below is a simple gallette I cobbled together one night. In here, you can see how the recipe is tagged and diets that it fits inside of (when applicable). You can also add the recipe to your plan. Just give it a date and a meal and click on save. Add a new tag right from this screen as well. You can also edit the recipe (except for the name; remember when I mentioned to pay attention to that, yeah, not potato is forever spelled wrong in this recipe – a fix to that will be coming at some time in the future).recipe card

The recipe itself appears to the right, with ingredients and instructions all right where you’d expect them to be. Underneath the recipe is a section for notes. I use these to make notes on things I might want to change as I’m testing and using a recipe. Eventually, if and when I use the same changes multiple times and am happy with them, I’ll incorporate the note in to the recipe itself.

Whew that was quite a bit. I love keeping all the recipes we try, and the ones that are and have become family favorites, in one spot. I don’t flip through dozens of cookbooks anymore to try to find that one cucumber soup I made that one time. I also don’t have to hope a blogger didn’t take down a recipe that used to be up in favor of publishing it in a book that I haven’t purchased (yet). I keep the original source right there in the recipe, and get to keep all my notes. Though the cards don’t get stained by the food they make, which I admit I kind of miss, they’re always legible and grease stains don’t smear out ingredients.

*Note: all screenshots are from version 1.0.3, which was released in July of 2015. As the Meal Planning Board evolves, the exact look of the program may change slightly, though the functionality will remain the same. Rest assured that we’ll update with new screenshots when there are major changes.

Notes

What’s in a note? A reminder for the next time? A request from someone else? Small breadcrumbs left behind to be found and taken advantage of later.

Something crucial to recipe writing and development. Something the {IMH} digital meal planning board has a built-in solution for.

Recipe writing can be a long, difficult process. Adjust the chocolate in a recipe just a bit, and you end up with something fudgy and wonderful or a dry mess. Or perhaps your favorite flour substitute simply doesn’t work with the specific mix of ingredients in a particular recipe. No more forgetting! Keep track of your recipe use and development by adding and editing notes to the items in your collection.

Adding or editing a note to a recipe in your digital meal planning board is simple. Just Click on “Add Note,” at the top of any recipe, make your notes, and click “Save.” The note appears at the bottom of the recipe, as in the image above. When you come back to the recipe later, edit the not by clicking the check mark right by the note. Keep your old notes and add to them or remove irrelevant information.

add notenote

It’s your recipe. Keep it customized to you.

Now get out there and #conquerdinner!

Updates: Menus and Drag and Drop Interface

The Meal Planning Board saw some great big changes this morning with the addition of a new feature: menus. We all have favorite dishes (say this Almond, Hazelnut, and Sesame Crusted Chicken) that we may serve with different sides at different times (we’ve had it with my Grape Salad, some simple sauteed green beans, or a classic side green salad as an example). These custom menus put you in the driver seat and let you build a meal based on your favorite recipes.

Screenshot Menu Sample
Sample menu from recipes in our collection.

 

Screenshot Menu Drag
Building a menu with the drag and drop interface. Menus are the first feature to get this treatment.

As if menus weren’t exciting enough, the addition of this feature introduces a drag and drop interface in to the app. Here’s the drag and drop in action, with the Almond, Hazelnut, and Sesame Crusted Chicken serving as the first test subject into a menu. Just drag the recipe to the menu space, and it’s there.

Screenshot Menu List
Saved menus are available for future use, just like recipes.

Save the menu, and add it to your plan. Once the menu is saved, it’s there forever and can be added again and again.  You can also edit the name of the Menu (I changed it to “‘Fried’ Chicken and Carrots,”). The menu appears on the plan on the date you select.

This is the last big feature before moving to the Beta test. There’s still a few smaller bits to tidy up before moving to the Beta test. In addition, there’s a couple more features to go during Beta (namely, Meal Wizards). All this means we’re still on schedule for the Beta release later this month (for which we need more testers – request your invitation here), and the full release of the Meal Planning Board in May.

Go out there and #conquerdinner.

About The Meal Planning Board

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

Recipe Card
Recipes from your collection appear on cards with detailed information, including ingredients and instructions just like you’d expect them. Manage your recipe with tags, diet restrictions, and planning. Make notes to remind yourself what you served the recipe with or a something to try the next time you make it.

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.

Adding recipes
The recipe input screen. Add all your favorite recipes, including Grandma’s secrets, right here. Keep them organized with source information so you can always go back to where you originally found or created it.

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.

The Plan

A Simple, Sample Meal Plan
A sample schedule. Make it as detailed or as complicated as what works for you. When plans change, drag recipes from one day to another to keep track of those changes.

 

 

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

A Sample Shopping List
A view of the shopping list. Any item can become a repeating item by clicking on the circular arrows. Items already in your pantry can be deleted.

 

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.

Shopping List Management
Manage the shopping list by adding items, store sections, putting items into store sections, viewing repeating items, and creating a new list, for those times when you do forget the salt.

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.