The Best of Meal Planning {a true health- and money-saver}

{what's for dinner?}

Ah, meal planning. It's the single most effective step to cooking real food from home, eating healthier meals, increasing efficiency at the store, decreasing the grocery bill, and actually enjoying family dinner (source: perceptions in my head). I'm not sure any actual data has been collected to prove that, but testimonies abound to emphasize the point. If you want to eat healthier or save money, meal-planning is a must.

With some effort, trial-and-error, and a little training from those around me, I've learned a thing or two about meal-planning that might help other beginners like myself. Who knows, maybe there's an idea or two in here that could spur inspiration in a pro. You won't know until you read ;)

The only method of meal planning that existed pre-computer era: manual meal-planning. You know, pull out all of the hard back cookbooks to scour for recipes (of course, now we'd pull up Pinterest or, pen and paper and get to planning. If you're feeling crafty, there are also fun ways to display said meal plan and involve the kids. I love the involving-the-kids part. I loathe the blood, sweat and tears of pen and paper and manual everything. Enter: the best meal-planning tool EVER.

Would you mind terribly if I go into brief promotion-mode? I usually reserve this mode for when I'm excited about following Christ, cloth diapering, going green or being minimalist. But every now and then, I take the time to promote a specific product or service or opportunity that I believe in. You know, Redbox, Blurb, birthday freebies, Picnik (which is now closing). And this is definitely a product / service / opportunity that I believe in!

Meal-planning for the 21st century. No more pen and paper and losing lists (seriously, if you have a smart phone, you don't even have to print anything). No more giving up because it's too much work. And no more scouring recipe books that you're not sure you even like. Could it be true?!

Yes, it is true. Veggie Meal-Maker (VMM) is the best vegan/vegetarian meal-planning tool out there.

{free trial}

VMM is my new best friend when it's time to meal plan... and shop... and cook... and do it all again. Here are a few reasons why I love it, and why I think you will too:
  • An already prepared meal plan with recipes and shopping lists is ready to personalize.
  • For the more adventurous, there's the option to start from scratch (like I do).
  • A database of delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes.
  • The handy "Save Recipe to VMM" tool installed next to the "Pin It" button on the Internet toolbar makes recipes from my favorite blogs and Web sites so easy to save to my personal recipe book--exactly where I want (need) them in the first place.
  • Meal planning is as simple as {1} drag and {2} drop. Seriously, that's it. I find a recipe (one of there's, mine, or someone's friended on VMM) and drag and drop into the meal plan. If I realize we're having pasta two nights in a row or I'd rather save a recipe for next week, just a simple drag and drop to fix it however works for me.
  • As I plan, the automated shopping list is automatically (imagine that) being formulated.
  • I can print whatever I want, view it from any computer with internet access, share with friends, or my absolute favorite...
  • Access it all on my phone! I went to in my phone's Web browser. In the options, I selected "Add to Home Screen," and voila! I have the Veggie Meal-Maker Web site right on my phone whenever I need it. Which is daily. I view my recipes making my cookbook handy in the kitchen with me. I view my meal plan to know what's for dinner, or even check out what I have planned for the weekend.
  • And access my shopping list on the phone! I take it through the store with me and check off items as I go. I also add items as I think of them or as we run out at home. They're even marked with how much I need (should I grab 1 onion or a bag of onions?) and coded with which recipe items will be used in (do I really need a full lemon or would the lemon juice at home work?). Sigh. It brings me great joy checking those items off my phone :)
  • Your first 30 days are free--that's reason enough to give it a shot. And, when you do, find me so we can share recipes--my user name is TrinaCress.


That's all fine and good, but how do you know which recipes to drop in? How does it all come together when you are adventurous enough to start from scratch? We use theme nights, and you can learn all about that on the Veggie Meal-Maker blog.

{What are your meal-planning tips and tricks?}