Evernote Meal Planning for the Spontaneous Cook

Planning and Spontaneous in the same title?  How does that work you ask?   You know all those weekly menu programs to organize your cooking life? I have a confession. I’m a big fat failure at following them. Oh, I love the IDEA of them. All those neat plans laid out so you never, ever have to hear “What’s for dinner?” I’ve tried doing my own menu as well as pre-packaged meal plans and it always comes down to the fact that when Tuesday arrives I REALLY DON’T WANT TACOS (or meatloaf or spaghetti or whatever the menu says we are supposed to have that day). Maybe it is just my anti-authority streak, but I just never managed to follow the plan even if it was my own plan.

On the other hand, as I try to focus on real food and farmer’s market finds, having no plan often results in finding that the chard that seemed so exciting and full of possibilities when purchased from the farmer’s market has turned to green slime in the back of the refrigerator or the 100% grass fed steaks I defrosted last week are now not even dog food worthy.  Clearly, SOME sort of plan was necessary.

Do you feel your life changing with just a glimpse of this logo?

In walks Evernote as my salvation. Swoon.   It started as a place to store links to recipes.   Any recipe I find on the internet I can post to folders in my evernote account.  I can trim them down to just what I want, I can tag them, I can search them.   So, say I saved a recipe for kohlrabi (I wouldn’t, but lets just say I did) and I don’t even remember that I did it, a quick search for “kohlrabi” and up pops my recipe.     Before Evernote I kept print outs of recipes from the internet in a three ring binder.    There is no search feature on my binder and even though I have labeled tabs sometimes I don’t remember where I put something.   Oh, and with evernote, should I ever be so inclined, I could scan the recipe and attach it to evernote.  Oh yeah, take THAT you old fashioned binder!     Have a favorite recipe penned by your great granny?  Scan it and pop it into evernote and it will always be just a few clicks away.

This is a recipe my stepdad used to make at Christmas every year. As a child I would eat as many as I could and I’d pretend they’d made me tipsy.

Not only does evernote save and organize everything for me, it has wheedled its way onto every one of my electronic devices.   In addition to recipes, I keep my grocery list as a note on evernote.   No more getting to the grocery store without my list–unless of course I forget my phone.    Not only can I access my evernote grocery list wherever I am, I am even training my hubby to add things to the grocery list by accessing evernote on his new Iphone (I may or may not have used bribery when he was begging for his new toy at the Sprint store).   I have plans of adding a pantry list to evernote as well so I can keep an inventory of those items in the deep freeze or canned foods shelf.

A glimpse into the chaos that is my organization. Click to enlarge

So, my recipes are on evernote, my grocery list is on evernote, AND my weekly meal plan is on evernote.   Now, those of you who work well with calendars and actual menus can certainly create a menu note on evernote to work with that but, as I said, that doesn’t work for me.   What I do is keep a list of all the recipes I have the ingredients on hand to make.  If I was more organized the list would be links of the recipes, but I’m not so it is just a list.    If I buy something at the farmer’s market and don’t yet know what to do with it I’ll add it to my meal plan with a question mark—-just so it is on the agenda and won’t get forgotten about.   Usually when I add something to my meal plan I add any needed ingredients to my grocery list.

My Meal Plan notes
This is totally faked by the way. Bonus points if you noticed.

There are many ways of organizing your data on evernote.  Each item is a “note” within a “folder” and you can create as many folders and tags for your items as you want.  I keep it simple.   Because I tend to save every random recipe that seems vaguely interesting, I pin all new recipes in a folder titled “recipes to try”.  Once I try it I either delete it or move it to my folder “Recipes worth keeping”.     I don’t really edit or add tags to a recipe until it has made it to the “Recipes worth keeping” folder.     You can create tags for as many items in your recipe as you want, but so far I’ve just kept my tags to items between main dish, sides, salads, etc.   The search feature searches within recipes so it will still go looking (though if you haven’t trimmed the recipe and you have a web clipping and someone in the 34th comment on a recipe mentioned the word “chard”, it will show up on your search and you will spend 20 minutes trying to figure out why that particular recipe showed up in your chard search).

Since I don’t plan out days ahead what I’m going to eat each day, I check in every couple of days and look at my calendar and make sure I defrost anything that needs it, and that I bump to the top of the list anything that will be going bad soon.   When I want to know what is for dinner I check my meal plan, decide what I’m in the mood for and start cooking.  It isn’t as organized as those pretty weekly menus, but I would bet most people would say I seem fairly organized.  And if I can fake it that well, who needs to ACTUALLY be organized?

With Evernote I’m set in the kitchen.  Well, at least as long as I have my Ipad.  And an internet connection. And a smart phone.

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10 thoughts on “Evernote Meal Planning for the Spontaneous Cook

  1. I think you had me at broiled fish heads in cream sauce. You’re so making that to bring to that martini party we’re all having, while we whip up votive candle holders (that resemble cats because hey, martinis) and I wish I had better technology :D Nice idea! Me: 4 people and 1.2 incomes, I meal plan. But if / when I stop being quite so forced planny, I’m checking Evernote out :)

  2. As I read, I was guessing who it was that was writing this post. Sounds like a helpful program, love the search feature.

  3. Pingback: Another way to Reduce Food Waste « three blind wives

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