Honesty is my top priority as a blogger. I tell it like it is — whether people like it or not. And the same is true when it comes to product reviews: you’re going to hear exactly what I think of a product. In other words, I’m not going to write a glowing review unless I find a product to be exceptional.
Last week, I wrote a fairly negative review of Plan to Eat. I had planned to try out the service and use it for a month before writing the review. However, when I logged onto the site to set up my account and figure out how to use it, I was left very frustrated with the site. There were little-to-no instructions on how to use the site and the only way I could figure out how to input recipes in order to test out the shopping list and menu-planning features was to type up all the recipes completely from scratch — which I really did not have time to do.
It seemed tedious and time-consuming and definitely not a product I felt comfortable singing the praises of. I kept wondering if I was missing something major somewhere because I just couldn’t figure out how to make it work. I scoured the site for step-by-step directions and tutorials and found none. So I finally gave up trying to make it work and just decided to share my experiences in my review.
At any rate, come to find out, I was missing something really big. Reader Mandy wrote to me yesterday and said:
I just read your blog post about Plan To Eat. I just wanted to point out that there is a VERY easy way to enter recipes from websites. If you simply cut/paste the URL of the webpage with the recipe in the top box (the same place that you enter the search info if you want to do a search), it will import the recipe beautifully for almost all the websites I’ve tried it with (and I’ve imported over 100 recipes).
If for some reason that doesn’t work, you can hit “bulk entry” and just one or two cut and pastes, and the recipe is there. You are right that the site doesn’t do a good job of tutorials. I guess I’m just lucky that it only took a few minutes to figure it out for me. I guess I have looked at so many meal planning sites and programs over the last 6 months that I can figure things out quickly 🙂 I will say that I have found what I was looking for in Plan to Eat though.
I logged into my account yesterday and looked for what she was talking about. Sure enough, right there in the header was a place to input recipes from a web address. I have no idea how I failed to find this the first time around — and I felt like a total dork for the review I wrote. It’s very apparent I’m a complete know-nothing when it comes to techie stuff!
At any rate, I spent a long while messing around with my account yesterday and I’ve totally changed my mind about Plan to Eat. In fact, I love the service! Once I figured out how to input some of my favorite recipes in it, I was able to see how it had some amazing features and would be an invaluable menu-planning service and grocery-list-making help.
It does take a little bit of time to input your favorite recipes, but using Mandy’s suggestions, I was adding recipes at about the rate of 1 per minute — much quicker than I ever could do if I were typing them up from scratch.
After inputting some recipes, I was able to quickly plan a mock-up menu with just a few clicks of a mouse. Then, once I had my menu planned, my grocery list was automatically created for me! (With a few more clicks, I was able to go through and easily delete the items I already have on hand and didn’t need to buy.)
I don’t know about you, but I’m always stumbling across recipes online that I want to try. Up until now, I’ve not found any system for collecting and cataloging these recipes. Well, I got all excited after I figured out how Plan to Eat worked yesterday because now I have a place to input and save all these wonderful recipes I find online.
No more searching in vain for a recipe link that I saw somewhere and then misplaced; I can immediately just add it to my recipe box on Plan to Eat. And then I can easily incorporate these recipes into our menu plans — all with just a few clicks.
In addition, once you built up your recipe collection, you can see at-a-glance if you’ve incorporated a recipe into your meal-plan and how often you’ve done so. I thought this was an especially cool feature as I sometimes can get into a rut in menu-planning.
Another really helpful feature is that you can easily divide your grocery list up by store. Plus, you can keep track of what you have in your pantry.
There are many more features I could tell you about, but I’ll have to save those to share later. The basic thing I wanted to make sure and communicate is that I was completely wrong in my assessment of Plan to Eat. It’s a really wonderful tool that I think many, many people could benefit tremendously from. In fact, I like it so much that I am seriously considering switching my entire menu-planning process over and using Plan to Eat exclusively because I think it could revolutionize my kitchen and meal-planning organization.
Interested in trying out Plan to Eat, too? Well, there’s good news: you can sign up for a completely free 30-Day Plan to Eat Subscription right now!
(And you are more than welcome to get a good laugh out of how un-techie I am for not being able to figure out how to use this service earlier. But I did I talk to the creator of Plan to Eat and was promised that step-by-step tutorials are at the top of the priority list. Not that probably anyone else besides me needs them!)
Hey Crystal, hope you are doing well.
Just want to ask, is this still the best out there? Have been trying to find something free but no luck, maybe PTE with annual membership is still the best buy, I would be ever so grateful for your advice?
Crystal Paine says
We actually love Eat at Home as a menu plan service and I would recommend that over this one, if you want a pre-planned service.
Thank you so much for your reply, I will check it out!
Going to check them out. I just canceled another meal planning service yesterday that was $20.00 per month. Decided it wasn’t worth the price at all for what you got. This is so much better with a much better price.
Forgot to add the URL! My bad! :}
FYI: A ten-minute video on youtube about how to use PTE properly. Found it very helpful in deciding whether or not to try it out. Will decide after the free trial. Hope this helps! Bon appetit!
I felt a little lost at first, too. Then, I clicked on the link on top for the tour. All of my questions were answered, and everything was really helpful! I am doing a free trial and I think it is going to be a lifesaver for my family!!
Thanks for the info, Jessica. I’d have never found it!
Am I missing something? I can’t figure out how much it costs after the 30-day trial 🙁
@Connie, If you click like you are going to upgrade, it says $4.95/month or $39/year.
I’m trying this out for this week’s grocery list, and I really like it so far! I also discovered a way to add Pioneer Woman’s recipes easily for those who use them. If you go to the print page (select size and click “Print” … it doesn’t print automatically but takes you to a new page), you can enter that URL, just like any recipe site. Now if I could figure out a way to do this for all of Smitten Kitchen’s recipes (that aren’t adapted from a big recipe site)!
Org Junkie says
Oh so glad you changed your mind. I love Plan to Eat, it’s a great service that I highly recommend!
I’d love to win it! Thanks!
I want to step by step as well. I talked with tech support over about 10 messages before I figured out how to use the site. but now that I am using it I LOVE it. Not sure what I am going to do once my free trial is over but I am giving it another good try anyway!!!
Thanks for your great reviews!
Ladies, another great feature is the recipe sharing!!! Find friends (maybe some that are commenting on this blog), and share your recipes–make it even faster to build your bank of recipes.
I’m dingy_broad there for anyone who wants to try to link up. Only have a handful of recipes in so far, working on adding in our tried and true ones and the ones I can easily import without as much afterwork. But I’d love to share some with others! 🙂
Oops actually looks like maybe it links up by email addy? If so I’m ydfchick at yahoo dot com 😉
P.S. If there IS a referral link or code to use, I’d like to give the credit to you if you think you might continue using it? Not sure if it’s “credits” or cash, but maybe put the link up for those of us who might pay for the service once our trial is up, thanks to you!
Lauren @ Just Add Lauren says
Thank you for being honest and reassessing your review. I’ve never used the site, but I just appreciate that you were able to take a second look and then come back and post about it, even though you may have felt like a dork (which, by the way, you shouldn’t, because I think everyone has very un-techie moments in their lives!)
Susan J says
Thanks for being honest and letting us know! Personally, I use the cook’n software and it’s a lifesaver – many of the same features you described, though harder to import recipes from online.
And how did I miss knowing you were pregnant?! I read your bog everyday…did you make an announcement that I missed?? Congratulations! Wow!
Not pregnant — yet! The review on the maternity clothes was done by my marketing assistant, Amy, who is pregnant! 🙂
My problem with sites like this is that I try to start my menu plan with what I have on hand. I don’t just browse my recipe list and pick things. I have a hard time seeing how this will really help me since I’ve already checked out my pantry inventory by the time I’ve made the menu.
One neat feature of Plan to Eat is that you can enter keywords for your recipes. I do this with the main ingredient(s), so when I want a recipe that uses chicken breasts, I just narrow the search to the keyword “chicken breast”. I always buy extra things when they are on sale and so I always have “on hand” things too. This was a great feature of PTE that has really saved me time and money.
@Amber, If you tag your recipes with main ingredients, you can easily see what recipes fit what you have in the pantry. You can also use the search bar to identify quickly which recipes will make the most of what you already have.
I’m glad you re-posted as well. I didn’t look too closely the first time after your review – but now I have and I’m IN LOVE! This could seriously make my life SO much easier. Family of 9 here and meal planning is a necessity and money saver that takes up more time than I’d like to admit most weeks. Although I generally avoid paying for ANYTHING like this, I am trying the free trial and if it’s as helpful as I think it will be, I will put the word out that it’s what I want in advance for my birthday gift! Thanks! 🙂 There goes MY productive day, though – I know what I’ll be doing all day instead! 😉
@Stacy, I did that too! I had won a Visa card that he was going to use to buy me a Mother’s Day gift. I asked him to please get this for me instead and he did! He hates giving me “practical” gifts, but I’m SO happy with this. It has streamlined this part of my housework so much!
i love plan to eat. I use them for like 6 months and love it !
The Working Home Keeper says
I plan my own menus, but I’m a bit intrigued! Especially about the automatically generated grocery list. Saving time and being more efficient = more time spent with my family. Which is a big thing as a full-time working mom.
Another free meal planning website: http://www.mealsmatter.org/
@star3night, I just took a look at this since I hadn’t heard of this before. This looks awesome- download recipes, create recurring menus (e.g. Pizza Night every Thursday or whatnot). Plus, you can DOWNLOAD TO A GOOGLE calendar!!! This totally makes my day. I’ve actually used springpad and then manually entered info into my google calendar before. This is really helpful. Thanks for sharing!
@star3night, I just took a look at this too and it seems pretty neat, but the one limitation I found, is it doesn’t appear as though I can import recipes from other websides into your cook book. You can only contribute a new recipe or search the recipes from the mealsmatter website. Unless I’m missing something?
Can I import recipes from allrecipes.com, epicurious, etc. into mealsmatter?
If I can’t than I may be will to try out Plan to Eat.
I clicked on the link for the “free 30 day trial” and within that page are several explanations of how the site works. There are tabs along the top that explain the features.
I am so glad someone spoke up, and you changed your review! I LOVE Plan to Eat. I’ve been using it for a long time, and it’s saved me tons of time and money. I was shocked by your initial review. The customer service is by far the best, and the site continues to improve–adding new and better features on a regular basis. For example, a new feature allows me to import the menu into my ICal. It gets better all the time!
@Tamara, what is ICal? That sounds like something I might be interested in too! 🙂
@Kim, It’s the mac-based calendar program. You can also import your menu into Google calendar, if you use that.
@Tamara, Oh, bummer. I thought it was something to do with calorie counting. LOL!
Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home says
I’m glad to see that you’re enjoying it now! I’m also reviewing the site right now, and although it has taken some work on my part to get my recipes in there, I think that the work will pay off. I still need to get a few more of my faves in there to make it especially useful, but I’m getting there. I think you’re right that once you get truly set up and using it, it could revolutionize the way that you meal plan. 🙂
And DO NOT feel bad at all for not being techie and figuring it out quickly. It took me a few visits to figure it out, too. Honestly, for being a blogger for almost 3 years, I am unbelievably UN-techie. I always tell people that I may run a website, but I’m hopeless with computers. Thank goodness for my husband! LOL!
This sounds like it works very similar to http://springpadit.com/ which is free! May want to check it out instead since you are about saving money 🙂
Yes, I use Springpad, and love it. And it’s free. I wouldn’t pay a thing for any service like that.
I’m so glad you took a second look at it. I absolutely love the site, and I was baffled when I read your review. One of the best things is that their customer service is very good and responsive!
Crazy Coupon Carol says
Crystal – I always hate it when I miss something and then say something that makes it apparent that i’ve missed something and then I feel about 2 inches tall when I have to come back and say “HI I WAS A DORK!” and I rarely do it gracefully …but YOU did it with grace girl 🙂 Thanks for the post – I think i’ll check out plan to eat as soon as i have a chance to sit down and play with it 🙂
Paula Freeman says
just signed up for it and this look like a great site.I love to find recipes but hate to print them all out so I can find them.
Laura L says
Is it just me or is it a bit expensive?
@Laura L, I was put off by the price too, but in the end it is such a time saver for me that I ended up buying an annual membership (used a Visa card I had won!). They have a neat referral program where you can earn money towards a membership too, but I have been unsuccessful thus far in recruiting anyone. 🙂
@Kim, Exactly how much is it?
@johanna, You get $1 for every person who purchases a monthly subscription and $6 for every annual subscription.
I have been posting my recipes on my facebook page every day and had a few interested people, but no one had actually purchased it yet. 🙁
It’s just you! ?. No hate intended!
I’m new to PlanToEat but can already see how it is going to pay for the yearly service in about 2 months. I tend to overbuy fresh produce and lose it to spoilage before I get it used up. Items go past ‘best by’ dates while hiding in the back of the cupboard or refrigerator. With my planner shopping list, I can buy exactly what I need and remedy that.
Actually, we are getting a second, separate account for my hubby so he can manage his own cookbook. I have to eat a different diet from the other 2 members of the family. Customer service quickly and politely emailed suggestions to meet our needs using only one account but John decided to get his own. Believe me, if Scrooge Mc John spends a dollar, it’s worth it!
i thought the same thing when i first heard about it, and was told: if it saves you from going out to eat even once, it works out. my husband and i eat out ALL. THE. TIME. this has been great for us.
Awesome post Crystal! Bloggers tell it like it is and you are a true blogger.