After a quick perusal of our budget, it was obvious that a big expense that we had that we could save money on was food. With both of us working with long commutes, it was often easier to just go out to eat every night. This was especially made easier by the fact that we lived in San Gabriel Valley where there was an overabundance of cheap and good asian food. But of course over time, this expense started to add up. Plus, eating out is not as healthy as cooking your own meals at home. The hard part for me about cooking though was going grocery shopping and having planned meals with recipes. You really need to be organized and plan out your grocery shopping so that you only have to go once a week to make it efficient. So the first part of getting organized is coming up with a weekly meal plan. You can download a simple template with grocery shopping list that I made on excel by clicking below:
Other good free sources for meal planning sources are:
Ziplist started off as a simple grocery shopping list organizer, but it’s evolved over the years to be a richly featured shopping tool, recipe organizer, and meal planner. The focus of the app is clearly on grocery lists and organizing your weekly shopping, but don’t count out its meal planning features. It’s free, cross platform (available for iOS/Android/web), and even sports a clipping bookmarklet to save all of your favorite recipes (if it’s not already in their database.) When you’re ready to build your meal plan, you get a weekly overview that lets you add specific recipes and dishes to each day, and then generate a grocery list based on those recipes. Then you can sync your meal plan with your calendar outside of the app so you get notifications on what to make, and can share your weekly menu with others. Ziplist can also notify you to sales, coupons, and other discounts available in the stores you shop, so you can save money and eat well at the same time.
It is great for its department-sorted shopping lists, built-in store circulars and coupons, and the fact that unlike many apps that generate grocery lists based on recipes, it gives you the option to cross items off that you already have before it adds the item to the list. Plus, it doesn’t just add everything blindly, so if you have two recipes that require salt, your shopping list isn’t cluttered with entries for salt.
Pepperplate is a mobile app and meal planning tool that excels at organizing your recipe collection, planning your meals based on those recipes, building out shopping lists, and helping you cook the recipes you want to try. It’s available for free on the web, on iOS, Android, Windows Phone/Windows RT, Nook, and Kindle devices. Once you’re signed up, you can import recipes from the web by pasting in the URL for them, or you can enter them manually from your favorite cookbooks or that stash of index cards you have. Once you have a good collection of recipes, you can build menus for your regular meals, for special events, or any night of the week. From there, Pepperplate will generate a shopping list based on your meal plan that you can take with you and cross off at the grocery store. You can share your recipes, meal plans, or shopping lists with others if you need to. When you’re ready to cook, Pepperplate will walk you through the recipes, complete with cooking timers to help you stay on top of simmering or baking food.
This app is great for the fact that it is free, cross-platform, and easy to use. Pepperplate’s bookmarklet makes adding recipes to your account super-easy (and does a great job of scrubbing recipes from various websites). Pepperplate isn’t perfect though—it may be free, but it hasn’t seen updates in a while, and the developers may have abandoned it so something to consider if you are looking for an app that is being continuously updated.
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