I Heart Personalizing Our Meal Plan

Right next to my oft-used "Pin It" button on my bookmark toolbar, is my equally oft-used "Save Recipe to VMM" button. This thing is awesome! Here is step-by-step how to use it, and a brief how-to on using Veggie Meal-Maker's customized meal plans.

1 | Pour yourself a warm drink (or a tall glass of water) and nestle into a quiet corner just you and the computer.

vegan, vegetarian, meal-planning, recipes, pinterest
screenshots: veggie meal-maker | pinterest

2 | Log-in to VMM, and install "Save Recipe" button to your tool bar.

2a >> Log in to Veggie Meal-Maker, or sign up for a free trial >>here, if you haven't already.

2b >> Once logged in, click "add recipe" from the main Planner screen.

2c >> Drag "Save Recipe (VMM)" button to your Internet tool bar. This is also where you could add your own family recipes manually, so ingredients will be added to your shopping list and recipe can be pulled up on screen while cooking.

2d >> Search for recipes wherever you normally do so, and the Save Recipe button will be there. Some of my favorite recipe resources include: Pinterest, Real Simple, AllRecipes.com, and various food blogs including Naturally Ella, Love & Lemons, Vegan Stoner, and Oh She Glows.

vegan vegetarian blogs, save recipe tool, naturally ella, love & lemons, vegan stoner, veggie meal-maker
screenshots: naturally ella | love & lemons | vegan stoner | veggie meal-maker save recipe

3 | Save recipes to your VMM account.

Depending on how the recipe is entered into the site, the Save Recipe window will already be automatically filled-in, or it will need to be manually entered which goes rather quickly. Wherever you find your recipe, make sure you are on the actual recipe page before using the Save Recipe button.

3a >> Some recipes (like this one from Naturally Ella) will automatically fill-in all ingredients and instructions, and sometimes even a photo or additional information like cooking time.

3b >> Once key information for the recipe is all there, give the info a quick look over, and scroll down to save recipe. The next screen allows you to Add to Queue or Add to Planner. I usually just exit out of the screen and find recipe in my Planner when I'm ready to meal-plan.

3c >> Other recipes (like this one from Love & Lemons) will auto fill-in some information, but will be missing key pieces or items will be out of place. If that's the case, it's just a quick highlight copy (ctrl+c) from the Web site/blog and a quick insert (ctrl+v) into the VMM recipe form.

3d >> A few recipes have text locked in an image that will have to be manually entered. The Vegan Stoner has recipes as images, so I manually enter those when I find one I like. Their recipes are short and simple (which is what I love about them), so they're not difficult to transfer manually.

meal-planning tool, saved recipe, veggie meal-maker
screenshot: veggie meal-maker meal-planning app

4 | Use recipe in meal plan.

4a >> Search for recipe in sidebar (if it was saved recently, it will automatically show up under Recently Added Recipes).

4b >> Click on it, and drag it to the day and meal you plan to make it. Ingredients from the recipe (including how much you need) will automatically be added to your shopping list. But more about that tomorrow.

You can start with a pre-planned meal plan from Veggie Meal-Maker. (Find those under "Menus" in the left sidebar. Just drag the week's menu to the week on the calendar that you want to use it.) Then, customize it by moving recipes around, taking some out and adding new ones in.

I personally do my meal-planning from scratch with set theme nights. Theme nights help me know that each week I need to have a recipe for rice, one for pasta, one for burgers, one for a soup, one for Mexican-style food, and so on. One meal each day is often something cooked fresh, the other is leftovers, pita pockets or sandwiches. And breakfast is a rotation of oatmeal and cold cereals.

Finding a routine that works for you and your family is key to meal-planning success, and sticking with the plan.

The next part is truly magical, so check back in Wednesday to learn about automated shopping lists and the lovely mobile site. Tomorrow I'll share how to make a month meal plan.

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