The Meal Planning Boot Camp Day 4: Q & A and the Friends Section

By | Meal Planning Boot Camp | 55 Comments

(If your just joining us, welcome to Meal Planning Boot Camp. Each day this week I’ll post a lesson and a homework assignment. Click here to read the complete overview.)

Graduation Day Update

We had some blog post delivery issues late this week, as a result, I’ll be moving Graduation Day to next week. This will give everyone the weekend to catch up (or even just add in a few more menus and recipes) and it will also allow you to put all your hard work to the test at the grocery store this weekend.

Today’s Lesson: The Friends Section and Q & A

In today’s videos, I discuss the Friends section of the Plan To Eat website and I also answer several of your questions including:

  • How do I add my menu plan to my calendar.
  • How to use tags to further categorize recipes.
  • How to add nutrition info.
  • How to make a recipe private.
  • What is the Queue and how do I use it?
  • I don’t see my Pantry in the Shopping List. How do I add it?

(RSS and email readers, click here to watch the videos.)

I hope you have been enjoying this Boot Camp so far! I’ve really enjoyed reading your comments and tweets about all that you’re learning.

Be sure to finish strong. Make the most of this weekend. Add more recipes, create a couple more menu plans, tweak the shopping list. Finishing strong now will make it so much easier for you the rest of the year. Your future self and your family will thank you for all your hard work.

Homework: Time To Make Some Friends

Since we just did a lesson on the Friend section, let’s create a list of everyone’s usernames, the type of food they generally cook, and the names of their favorite recipes.

Assignment 1: Introduce yourself
Share these 3 tidbits in the comments:

  1. PTE username
  2. Kinds of recipes you have (simple, vegan, gluten free, fast, gourmet, kid friendly…)
  3. The names of 1 or 2 of your favorite recipes and why.

Assignment 2: Add at least 5 friends
Try to find at least 5 friends whose cooking matches up with yours and add them as friends. It will make it so much simpler the next time you find yourself in a cooking rut. Just take a glance through their recipes or menus and you’ll find plenty of inspiration.

Click here to comment and introduce yourself.

The Meal Planning Boot Camp Day 3: The Shopping List

By | Meal Planning Boot Camp | 48 Comments

(If your just joining us, welcome to Meal Planning Boot Camp. Each day this week I’ll post a lesson and a homework assignment. Click here to read the complete overview.)

Lesson 3: The Shopping List

We all know that grocery shopping with little ones is stressful enough. Adding a disorganized shopping list to the matter certainly doesn’t help. So in today’s lesson I’m going to show you how Plan To Eat helps you to make the most of your time in the gauntlet of fire – aka grocery store.

(RSS and email readers, click here to watch the video.)

A Few Tips

Have a shopping day. I’ve found it extremely helpful to have one day a week when I do my grocery shopping. For us, that day is Sunday. It helps me to know that each week I can reset and start fresh. Even if my meal planning fell apart the previous week, Sunday is a clean slate.

Make shopping special. Since I shop on Sunday morning (we go to the late service at church, so it’s a perfect non-crowded time to go) and my husband is at home, I usually try to take just one of the kids. They get pretty excited about the one on one time, even if it is the grocery store.

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(That’s my son pushing the cart. He was so proud he could do it himself. The looks from other shoppers were hilarious, though, because it took them awhile to figure out how my cart was moving!)

Shop in order. Organize your shopping list by your grocery store’s layout and not by the food category. I used to just make my shopping list according to what the items were, but after awhile I realized I was still roaming back and forth a lot at the store. So I started reorganizing my list to reflect where my store kept items. It has hugely reduced the amount of backtracking I have to do.

Send older kids on missions. In the summer, I do usually take all my kids to the store. My older kids are big enough for me to send on special “missions” – aka to get the items I forgot on the previous aisle. This is helpful for me and really fun for them. We have even brought along walkie talkies so that I could ask them to get various items.

Don’t shop hungry. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but if you shop when you’re hungry, you’re likely to buy more and you’re also likely to be crankier with the kids. If we are hungry when we go to the store, I always let my kids buy either a piece of fruit or a healthy snack (Clif, Luna and Kind bars are their favorites) before we start shopping.

Homework

1. Tweak and adjust your shopping categories. Make sure your Plan To Eat shopping list lines up with the way your grocery store is laid out. This will make your shopping trip go much more smoothly.

2. Make your first shopping list from your meal plan. If you have a smart phone, try the list out on your phone and make a bookmark of the PTE site so that when you get to the store, you’ll be ready to go. If you don’t have a smartphone, print out your shopping list.

Check In

When you complete the homework, please check in by leaving a comment.

Also, if you have any questions, please leave those in the comments as well and I will do my best to help. If you have suggestions or ideas feel free to help other recruits by chiming in on questions in the comments. Click here to join in the discussion.

Time for questions: Tomorrow is Q&A day, so be sure to ask your questions in today’s comments! Dismissed.

The Meal Planning Boot Camp Day 2: The Menu Planning Process

By | Meal Planning Boot Camp | 47 Comments

(If your just joining us, welcome to Meal Planning Boot Camp. Each day this week I’ll post a lesson and a homework assignment. Click here to read the complete overview.)

Well Done Recruits!

Great job making it through day 1.

I’m proud of you, but…don’t think I’m going easy on you now. If you haven’t finished yesterday’s homework, go do that before moving on. I want you to have at LEAST a dozen recipes by the end of the week in your Recipe Book. It will help you make the most of PTE.

No use trying and not going all out, right?

Lesson 2: Meal Planning

Today we are going to look at the planning section of Plan To Eat. This is where all the goodness happens. Even though I love how simple it is to enter recipes, it’s the planning part of the site that makes me sing its praises.

Call me a nerd, but I think it’s really fun to be able to drag and drop recipes onto the calendar to plan my week. And when I discovered I could SAVE that week’s meal plan and then just drag and drop an entire weekly menu…I wept softly.

Wait…no I didn’t. Drill Sergeants don’t cry. Alright, forget that. Get to work. Here’s today’s video lesson:

(RSS and email readers, click here to view today’s video lesson.)

Homework

1. Enter at least 5 more recipes. After yesterday, you are a recipe entering ninja-ette. (After you enter 25 recipes, you officially become a ninja. Patience, grasshopper.) Today, I want you to enter at least 5 more. The goal is for you to have enough meals to plan an entire week. Drop and give me 5.

Tip: I even have Leftovers and PBJ and Cereal as recipes in my Recipe Book. We do eat those often, so I just drag and drop and save them in my weekly meal plan. If you are pressed for time, feel free to enter simple “recipes” like that for today’s assignment.

2. Make a Menu Plan. If you have enough recipes to meal plan for a week, go ahead and do that. Be sure to save it as a Menu so that you can use it again later. If you don’t have enough recipes entered yet, meal plan as many days as you can and save that as a Menu. I want you to at least practice meal planning via the drag and drop calendar. I also want you to practice creating a menu plan – that is where the secret power lies.

Bookmarklet Help

Here is a video and instruction from the Plan To Eat site on how to install their handy dandy bookmarklet. It may vary a bit depending on your system, browser etc.

And here is information on how to install it on a mobile device.

Check In

When you complete today’s homework, please check in by leaving a comment. Did the menu planner make you weep with joy?

If you have any questions, please leave those in the comments as well and I will do my best to help. If you have suggestions or ideas feel free to help other recruits by chiming in on questions in the comments. Click here to join in the discussion.

Get to work. No time to play. Tomorrow we talk about Shopping Lists. This stuff ain’t for pansies. Dismissed.

The Meal Planning Boot Camp Day 1: Your Recipe Book

By | Meal Planning Boot Camp | 97 Comments

(If you’re just joining us, welcome to Meal Planning Boot Camp. Each day this week I’ll post a lesson and a homework assignment. Click here to read the complete overview.)

Getting Started

Today is Day 1 of the Meal Planning Boot Camp and it’s going to the be hardest day. You’ll need to work, but if you can survive this, you will be a meal planning ninja in no time.

Yes, I just mixed metaphors. I’m a pretend drill sergeant, I can do that. But for the record, Ninjas do not go to boot camp.

Moving on…

Today is all about entering our recipes into PlanToEat. If you already have your recipes gathered, this will be a pretty straight forward process.

There are several ways to add your recipes depending on whether you have them on paper or organized digitally. I’ll cover all the methods in today’s video lesson.

Lesson 1: The Recipe Book

Here is my video screencast on how to enter recipes into your recipe book.

(RSS and email readers click here to watch the video.)

Homework

Today’s homework is to enter at least 5 recipes into your Recipe Book. If you have time to do more, then that’s even better. We will be entering recipes for the next few days, so the more you can do today, the less you’ll have to do tomorrow.

Tips

Focus On Your Favorites – Only enter your most used recipes. Don’t start at the beginning of your recipe pile and waste time on recipes that you only make occasionally. You can always add those later. Focus on your core meals.

Finish first, fancy later – Don’t worry about photos or tags or categories at first if you are pressed for time. Make something useable and then worry about making it fancy.

The goal for this week is for you to have enough recipes in your recipe book to make at least one or two menu plans. If you can add more that’s even better. Just be sure not to get hung up on the details.

Don’t retype if you don’t have to – Google is your friend. If you have a lot of recipes on paper that you need to type in, try searching for them first. I’ve done this for a number of dishes and it works really well. I simply search Google or a recipe site for the dish name. I often find the exact dish, but even when I don’t there are usually just one or two adjustments that need to be made. It speeds up the process a lot because I can just use the PTE recipe bookmarklet. (Here’s the info on how to add the bookmarklet if you haven’t already done so.)

Check In

When you complete the homework, please check in by leaving a comment. (Shhh…There may be a few little prizes available at the end of bootcamp for the most active recruits. Although, ninjas like you don’t need prizes so I’m sure you’ll give 110% anyway. Am I right? AM I RIGHT?! At ease.)

Also, if you have any questions, please leave those in the comments as well and I will do my best to help. If you have suggestions or ideas feel free to help other recruits by chiming in on questions in the comments. Click here to join in the discussion.

Rest up recruits. We have another insane day tomorrow. Dismissed.

Join Us For The Meal Planning Boot Camp!

By | Meal Planning Boot Camp | 13 Comments

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(Here is the main page for the Meal Planning Boot Camp with links to all the lessons.)

Welcome New Recruits

I’ve shared about doing this Meal Planning Bootcamp for a few weeks now on the podcast. I love how excited you all are about it! I thought I’d give you a little overview and a few tips before we get started.

Why?
I’m doing this “boot camp” because over the Thanksgiving holiday I shared about the website I use to do my meal planning. It’s called PlanToEat.com. I was blown away by how many of you signed up for it. I want to follow up and make sure you have everything you need to make the most of it.

Hence, boot camp…

What Will You Learn?
This meal planning boot camp is going to be centered around the PlanToEat.com service. Why? Well, because it’s the only meal planning system that has ever worked for me, so it’s the only method that I could cover with any semblance of authority.

However, the overall method of organizing recipes into weekly menus with a corresponding shopping list will help anyone on any system. And the accountability of going through the bootcamp together might just be the motivation you need to get your meal planning in order.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

However, I’m not a food blogger or any sort of meal planning expert. I’m just a mom who loathes meal planning, cooks only when forced (It’s like my family expects to eat every single day. What’s up with that?) and wants to simplify the process as much as possible.

This system allows me to meal plan in less than 5 minutes each week. How awesome is that?

I don’t have all my recipes tagged or perfectly categorized. I don’t even have photos for a lot of them. I thought about tidying up my recipes and such before doing the screencasts, but then I thought it would be best for you to see that it doesn’t need to be perfect to work well.

I expect you to work this week. No, really. I do. If you’ve signed up for PTE and you are following along, take a look at your calendar for this week. Right now, I want you to block off at least 30 minutes a day to work on your meal planning system.

If you put in the work this week, by next Sunday, meal planning stress could be a thing of the past. But you need to work hard this week.

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Lesson and Homework Overview

Lesson 1: Recipe overview. I will walk you through the process of entering recipes in PTE.
Homework: Enter at least 5 recipes into your account.

Lesson 2: Planning overview. In this lesson I will walk you through the Planning section of PTE and the process of both planning a week of meals as well as creating a reusable menu.
Homework: Add 5 recipes. Meal plan one week and create a saved menu.

Lesson 3: Shopping List – In this lesson I will show you the shopping list feature of PTE and how to sort and organize your list for your shopping habits.
Homework: Add 5 recipes. Organize your shopping list and categories.

Lesson 4: Q & A (and Friend section of PTE) – throughout the week, I hope you’ll ask lots of questions. On Friday I’ll share written and screencast answers to as many of them as I can.
Homework: Read through the comments and do what you can to help other recruits.

Lesson 5: Graduation ceremony – Graduation is based on the honor system. If you follow along all week and complete all the homework assignments, you are a graduate. Hooa!! or is it…huuua!!… (Army people, help a civilian out, how do you spell that?)
Homework: On this day, I want you to share your progress and your tips. You can do this in the comments or you can share a link in the comments to a blog post where you’ve written your progress report.

Get Ready…

Here is what I want you to have ready by tomorrow:

  • Get your free 30 day trial Plan To Eat account started.
  • Gather your favorite recipes in one place, preferably near the computer.
  • Write down a list of all the non-recipe things you eat – like cereal, sandwiches etc.
  • Set aside at least 30 minutes a day this week.
  • Practice relaxing. You’ll have a lot more time each week to do that once boot camp is over and you are a meal planning ninja.

Now rest up recruits. Tomorrow is a big day.

-Drill Sergeant Kat

Hate Meal Planning? Here’s a GREAT Deal!

By | Meal Planning Boot Camp | 5 Comments

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Better Than Sliced Bread…

If you’ve been reading Inspired To Action for long, you know how much I love PlanToEat.com. I recently held a Meal Planning Bootcamp to show you how I meal plan in just about 5 minutes each week.

Well, PlanToEat.com is having a great Mother’s Day sale – Through May 12th you can get 30% off of a yearly subscription for yourself using the coupon code BeautifulSimplicity. Once you are a member, you can get a gift subscription for Mom (or a friend) at 50% off the regular price using the coupon code ThanksMom. That is a fantastic deal!

Now, you could give this as a gift to someone or yourself, but I honestly encourage you to gift it to you AND someone else. Why? Because, if you’re struggling with meal planning, there is nothing like accountability and community to really turn things around.

Sign up and then go through the Bootcamp together, share recipes and rejoice in the awesomeness of stress free meal planning. Booyah.

Why I Turned Down A FREE Offer

plan-to-eat-300 That the link above is an affiliate link, which means that at no cost to you, PTE gives me a portion of the proceeds of each sale. If you subscribe and use that link, thank you so much.

The owners of Plan To Eat offered to give me a FREE lifetime subscription to their service because of all the traffic I’ve sent their way over the years. But I turned them down because if I’m encouraging you to put down your hard earned money for something, I should do the same.

So when I recommend something to you, it’s because it has seriously impacted me. And, yes, it’s weird to say that a website has “impacted” me, but I used to hate meal planning. Now I don’t. That’s kind of miraculous, my friends. Now if only I can find a website that will clean my house…

All that to say, I highly encourage you to check out Plan To Eat. With my Meal Planning Boot Camp to walk you through setting it up, I’m sure you’ll be a meal planning ninja in no time.

The sale ends on May 12th, so don’t miss that deadline. To get the deal, use the coupon codes: BeautifulSimplicity and ThanksMom

Click here to check out Plan to Eat and say adios to your meal planning woes.

If you have any questions about Plan To Eat, feel free to ask them here and I’ll do my best to answer!

Meal Planning Boot Camp Graduation Day!

By | Meal Planning Boot Camp | 84 Comments

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(photo credit)

(The Scene: Picture Drill Sergeant Kat pacing back and forth, hands clasped behind her back, addressing you from a stage on a hot spring day as you sit in your Ninja costumes, blazing hot and hoping she’ll finish her monologue of mixed-metaphors soon…)

Congratulations! It’s Graduation day. You have completed the Meal Planning Boot Camp (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this link is a good place to start).

I have to say, I’m really proud of how hard you worked. You came in here as a pack of scrawny, nervous meal planning newbies and now you are a trained team of lean, mean, meal planning machines.

I know it wasn’t easy, but you committed yourselves and didn’t flinch, even in the face of grocery shopping with kids. That takes guts. Well done recruits…

…I officially pronounce you Meal Planning Ninjas. Wear that title proudly, teach the others and use your powers for good.

The Power of Automation

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Just like with anything else, when you are able to automate one thing, it has a butterfly effect on the rest of your life. This one small improvement can free up your time so that you can begin to research healthier meals for your family. You are likely to actually use those recipes because you know exactly how to file them and you have a system for adding new recipes to your rotation.

That healthier eating might inspire healthier thinking and more movement. All of that can impact the long term health of you and your loved ones.

I know it seems like a really small thing, but your new automated system of meal planning could have a big impact on your family. I know it was hard work, but I hope it will prove to be more than worth it.

Ninja Reunions

This isn’t farewell. (music softly plays in the background…”and friends are friends forever…”) I didn’t train you just to drop you. We are in this together, through thick and thin.

I will be posting regular check-ins to keep us all on track with meal planning this year. I haven’t decided if the check-ins will be weekly or monthly, on the blog or via social media. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

Giveaway!!

easy-homemade-big-box-2Mandi Ehman, author of Easy Homemade – an ebook filled with 60 recipes for healthier, homemade versions of processed pantry staples, is giving away 3 copied of her book to 3 randomly selected winners AND a $1 off coupon so that everyone wins. Use the coupon INSPIRED2013 to get your discount. Click here to learn more about Easy Homemade.

To enter, just leave a comment and answer these two questions:
1. Did bootcamp help you? What helped you the most?
2. If I did Boot Camps on other areas of life, household, blogging, personal growth — what specific topics would you be interested in?

Click here to leave your comment.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

If you enjoyed the boot camp, don’t forget about the 30% off coupon (PTEBOOTCAMP) that PlanToEat.com offered to us. Now is the perfect time to sign up for the trial and then use the coupon before it expires.