If homeschooling has taught me anything it’s that saving money is great as long as it doesn’t devour your time. Every financial guru from the east to the west coast will tell you that cooking at home is always a money saver over eating out.

For the last three years, I have worked to maintain a weekly menu and make only one trip weekly to the grocery store. I have the budget sheets to prove that this system is working for our family. What doesn’t work? Spending three hours a week making a menu and a grocery list. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an extra three hours lying around.

Eighteen months ago, I started using Emeals. It’s a menu service that gives you seven days of meals, recipes, and grocery lists. The user can tailor plans to every sort of diet restriction known to man. Our favorite plan was the clean eating plan. I highly recommend Emeals to anyone who wants to shop and cook without having to think. The biggest problem for us was the one thing that makes it great for most people: the recipes are not ours.

emeals

We entertain a lot and we have tons of well-loved family recipes. I needed to find a way to incorporate our recipes into the weekly menu but I didn’t want to give up the ease and  time savings that menu planners offer. That is when I found Plan to Eat.  This service allows you to add your own recipes to a database and then simply drag and drop to the menu calendar. The program notes which recipes have been used within the last month so there aren’t any repeats and it generates a grocery list from your recipes. The program also offers a browser toolbar button that grabs recipes from blogs and websites and adds to your account.  After you take the time to set up the recipe box, your weekly or monthly menu plan is just a drag and a drop away.

plantoeat

I highly recommend both services. Each are easy to use and inexpensive time savers. How inexpensive you say? Emeals charges $5 per month and Plan to Eat is $3.25 per month. Emeals is more expensive since they provide the menus and recipes while Plan to Eat gives you a way to make a menu from your own recipes. Happy menu planning!