Is there a website that will tell me what to eat and what to buy?
May 30, 2013 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I love cooking, I do! But I really only love cooking for others. Come the weekend, I'll happily slave over brining meats that end in elaborate 120-step preparations. I have made food from the French Laundry cookbook that basically tripled my grocery bill. I love it. But Monday through Friday, when its me and my tummy, I could kind of care less. I live a few miles from the nearest grocery and so I'm car-less, which means if I don't buy for the week, I don't buy at all. I'm also stupidly busy which means that a lot of the time I'm either paying way too much for lousy chain food or eating gummi worms for lunch.

So, here's the Q: Are there websites with sort of Monday-Friday menus that you can just download and take to the grocery store? Or an app where I can pick a handful of dishes and it'll just give me a grocery list? I know, I know. All apologies to St. Pollan et al., but menu planning is way low on my list of priorities.
posted by GilloD to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Alternately, a really good recipe manager would work. Paprika looks nice, but the lack of web or Windows support is a real bummer.
posted by GilloD at 11:40 AM on May 30, 2013

Eating Well has a number of meal plans that look pretty decent.

I use Evernote to manage all of my recipes. I can clip recipes to my Evernote account using the Chrome web clipper. Then when I'm ready to go to the store, I can just copy and paste the ingredient lists from my recipes into a new note called Shopping List.
posted by anotheraccount at 11:44 AM on May 30, 2013

How do you feel about leftovers? Because you could just make more stuff on the weekend.

I'm the same way. I cook all day at work. I cook for people when they come over. I end up cooking something when we go to my in law's house because they know I can cook. So can they, but there's always something they want me to do. And I do it, because I enjoy it. But when it's just me I do mac & cheese way too often.

Pasta is really easy though. A canned sauce and some meat on top/mixed in are great.

Pizza is really easy too. You should have all the stuff for the dough already in your house. From there it's just sauce/cheese/topping.

You might want to look into Once a Week Cooking. Same extreme amount of weekend work for you, but it gets you meals for the whole week. There's also a monthly version. If you have huge amounts of freezer space.
posted by theichibun at 11:47 AM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes! I signed up for Mealime a few weeks agowhen they had a promo on Lifehacker. They give you a shopping list and the recipes for 6 dinners per week. Each recipe makes enough for dinner and leftovers to take for lunch the next day. If they have a free trial running now, I would definitely recommend trying it!
posted by bootswiththefur at 11:54 AM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

Mealime looks superb—do you have any sample recipes that you can share here, bootswiththefur? The one sample recipe on their site that I can find is for a black bean quesadilla, which doesn't quite sell it for me.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 12:17 PM on May 30, 2013

I recently came across Food on the Table. It's pretty amazing, although I haven't gotten into the habit of using it regularly, but that is more about my own lack of organization than the product.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:22 PM on May 30, 2013

Not sure if this is available in your area, and I haven't personally tried it, only read about it. Hello Fresh delivers boxes of groceries with recipes, so not only do you have a meal plan, you don't even have to go shopping.
posted by dnash at 12:58 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine was just telling me how much she liked The Fresh 20, which apparently sends you a shopping list and recipes every week for $5 a month or something. Seriously, I haven't used it, but she was raving about it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:40 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Came here to say Mealime too!
posted by atlantica at 3:54 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

This in New York so it may not be useful for you but I just signed up for Quinciple which is a curated delivery/pick up service that contains a variety of vetted produce, meats, breads and cheeses and supplies recipes with each weeks delivery. I'm pretty excited about it. There might be something similar near you.
posted by rdnnyc at 5:01 PM on May 30, 2013

We use the Fresh 20 for exactly this. Its 5 meals a week with a shopping list that are tasty, pretty easy and use basic ingredients. We love it!!! The meals generally take about 30 min to make. Best $5 a month I have ever spent on food! Also I can't eat fish but the weekly seafood menu item is easily substituted for chicken 90% of the time.
posted by saradarlin at 5:52 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

This week's recipes on Mealime were:
Baked Honey & Soy Chicken with sauteed parmesan cauliflower
Mustard Pork Schnitzel with roasted parmesan green beans
Honey-Ginger Chicken Stir Fry with bell pepper, mushrooms & brown rice
Baked Pork Chops with yogurt-dressed waldorf salad
Falafel Patties with red cabbage slaw
Red Cabbage & Tuna Salad with garbanzo beans, celery & bell pepper

They take about 30 minutes to make, and I spend $50-60 a week on groceries.
posted by bootswiththefur at 8:36 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've also been impressed with Mealime, also signing up from the Lifehacker promo. The Mealime menus are reasonably healthy (although more meat-heavy than I would prefer), reasonably easy to make, and tasty, and most importantly, it relieves me of much of the menu planning/shopping stress. The portions are fairly generous -- their suggested "meal for one with lunch left over" is usually plenty for two plus a small lunch for the next day.

I've seen good reviews from people I know for Blue Apron, another "deliver both the food and recipes" service, but haven't personally tried it.
posted by nonane at 5:57 PM on May 31, 2013

Also, there's this blog, Rainbow Delicious, which seems to do the same thing, is free, and closer to vegetarian.
posted by bootswiththefur at 11:28 AM on June 1, 2013

I noticed that a few people had mentioned Mealime here! I'm one of the co-founders of this meal planning service, so I thought I'd jump in to say hello. If you have any questions about Mealime, I'd be more than happy to answer them for you! Feel free to post your questions here or email us at Here's some basic info that you might be interested in:

- You receive a 4-recipe and a 6-recipe meal plan each week, both accompanied by a shopping list. So, you can decide to cook less or more depending on your weekly schedule!
- All recipes are tested to ensure that you can make them in 30 minutes or less.
- Pictures of all recipes included for inspiration!
- Mobile-friendly shopping lists & recipes so you don't have to worry about printing.
- Free 14-day trial so you can see if it's a good fit for you before you pay.

@whyareyouatriangle - I'll be glad to send over a couple more sample recipes if you email us at :)

Thanks to everyone who is already trying out Mealime :D
posted by Maria Golikova at 5:53 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm single with two children, and sometimes I have a full house of children, friends and ex-husbands. At other times I am all alone.
I make an attempt to save leftovers in my freezer from the crowded days, for one. And then I have a few staples:
Fried rice (I always cook much more rice than I need) - there are so many variations on this and I love it for breakfast with an egg on it as well.
Different quick and dirty pasta variations, like with chili and garlic, with pesto, a la carbonara, a la putanesca, etc.
A variation of Salade Nicoise - lettuce, eggs, tuna, olives, potatoes (often leftovers), olives, tomatoes, cucumber and anchovies. I always have anchovies in my fridge.
I always have onion, cucumber, tomato and garlic too, which mix well with pasta, cous cous, fried bread, beans, eggs, leftover meat and is also good on it's own.
For really tired evenings, it's cottage cheese or yogurt and a salad of the above veggies.

I also keep a lot of spinach in my freezer, because I love spinach. For me, a toast with steamed and buttered spinach and a side of fried mushrooms is a wonderful meal, fit for gods.

Lentils are great, too, but maybe they are too much cooking for you? I find them simple, but admit they are not for the nights when you are home at 9, starving. Finely chop an onion and a pack of bacon while you rinse the lentils under running water. Fry the onion and bacon, then add lentils, water, pepper, thyme, maybe an (organic) maggi cube. Simmer for 30 minutes. Eat with bread. Puy lentils are best for this. All lentils are really good for a 45 minute meal - you could make a dal with red lentils too.

In short: don't have too many perishables, but have some fresh stuff that can be combined in many ways, and a lot of dry stuff like pasta, bread and rice and lentils.
posted by mumimor at 12:35 PM on June 3, 2013

I'm glad I have the opportunity to recommend my favorite (not exaggerating) cookbook: The Pleasures of Cooking for One by the inimitable Judith Jones. Relevant detail about me: I'm also someone who has blown her weekly food budget to cook from Thomas Keller's various cookbooks. I have a ton of fantastic cookbooks, and this is the one I cook from the most.

Anyway, I love this cookbook because it takes an interesting approach to cooking for one: Jones preps a larger dish early in the week, then adapts the ingredients into different dishes for later meals. I'd describe her food as "everyday French," not classical restaurant cuisine but the type of stuff Julia Child might whip together for her husband for a weekday lunch (she published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, after all). Some of my favorites are the pork loin that eventually gets turned into a fantastic hash, the braised lamb that goes into a lentil dish, and the roast chicken that gets minced up and bound together with a béchamel sauce, then spooned over toast. The recipes are simple, but Jones doesn't take shortcuts, so time constraints could be an issue.

The cookbook also has a great discussion on learning to cook for oneself (Jones wrote it after her husband passed), as well as learning to embrace and enjoy it.
posted by therumsgone at 2:43 PM on June 3, 2013

Hello Fresh is amazing. I tried it on the suggestion of one of the other posters on this thread and I highly reccomend it! If anyone is thinking about joining, feel free to Memail me for a $20 coupon code. (When you join you get a coupon code to give out too, for each person who uses the coupon gets you $20 off of your next box also.)

It really works exactly like it says it does and the 3 meals I made this week from my first box were delicious and not things that I would have normally thought to make for myself.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 6:25 AM on June 21, 2013

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