Make Your Grocery List in Under Ten Minutes
Ask any trained chef and they’ll tell you – the hardest part of getting good food on the table is the planning and the shopping. To make these chores easier – and therefore more likely that good food makes a regular appearance in our house – I use the online service Plan to Eat.
While this membership program isn’t free, I’ve been using it for almost a year and I love it! I’ll explain why I find Plan to Eat worth the $39 annual subscription, and compare it to the next best free alternative – Ziplist.com.
Easily Import & Categorize Recipes
Both Plan to Eat and Ziplist offer a recipe clipper tool that allows you to automatically import recipes found online into your recipe library, including the photo. Plan to Eat’s import tool is more consistent; it works with more recipe sites and it doesn’t forget to pull in the directions like Ziplist often does (you have to manually copy/paste that in).
Once imported, Plan to Eat lets you categorize recipes by course (soup, poultry, dessert), cuisine (Italian, Mexican), and add useful tags like “kid friendly”, “slow cooker” or “summer”. This makes filtering my large recipe library much easier. Ziplist can only display recipes in alphabetical order and offers the standard search box for finding recipes.
Plan to Eat has a calendar that I use to line up recipes for the coming week. It’s drag-and-drop, making it super easy to add, delete, or move recipes around as needed. I can also line up recipes that I want to try out soon by adding them my “Queue” with one click. When I’m scratching my head for ideas, I go here first. No calendar or queue functions in Ziplist.
Making Your Grocery List
Plan to Eat’s shopping list automatically includes all items from my planner for the next seven days (or if I chose, a longer range or specific dates), organized neatly by category (dairy, produce, frozen). From there I can remove items I already have, add things from my staple list (bread, milk, eggs), and print. Or access lists from your smartphone and check off items as you shop.
If I change my mind and remove a recipe from my planner, all items from that recipe automatically drop off my shopping list. In Ziplist, since there is no planner, you click on each recipe you want to add to your shopping list individually. Then if you change your mind, you have to mouse over each item in the list to see which recipe it belongs to, and then delete those items one at a time.
Here is a Plan to Eat shopping list, and the exact same list in Ziplist:
Great Customer Service
I can’t say enough about Plan to Eat’s customer service. Last summer when I first starting using it, I submitted a suggestion for a feature I wanted to see. I got a personal reply from Clint, the site’s founder and primary developer, who then incorporated my suggestion right away. There is an active discussion board where members can ask questions, report problems, make suggestions, and share recipes and meal planning tips with each other.
I’ll Pay for Less Clutter Any Day
Since Ziplist is free, you’ll be looking at a lot of ads, many of them animated (jumping salads, anyone?). When I began typing “AA batteries” into the add-item box, Ziplist helpfully suggested “Energizer Double Barrel Flashlight with 4 AAA Batteries”. And when I tested their new coupons feature, it required a Java coupon printer applet which wasn’t compatible with my browser (Chrome), and I gave up.
Plan to Eat is an easy to use meal planning tool which I recommend to anyone who wants to save time planning and grocery shopping. Once I invested the time building up my recipe library, I now simply drag and drop a few recipes into my calendar for the upcoming week, click to add some staple items, review and print in about ten minutes. Give it a try and let me know how you like it. Bon appétit!