When you’re busy, meal planning can be the bane of your existence. I know this firsthand — I love strategic meal planning, but only when I have time to devote to it. And recently, I have had zero time to do it. The free time that I do have goes to self-care in the form of face masks and video games.
I’m very picky when it comes to meal planning, and have tried every free app under the sun (and a couple paid apps, too). My most recent escapade was with the app MealBoard, which failed miserably. The UI is buggy, unintuitive, and consistently resulted in my household avoiding meal planning entirely or forgetting a number of important items when we finally made it to Trader Joe’s.
When I was in college, one of my first “professional” jobs was running project management for a marketing agency. It was at this job that I discovered my one and one true love: Asana. Asana is a free project management application that is incredibly versatile. While my company doesn’t currently use it (we would require a paid premium subscription), I use Asana to manage my personal life & projects. After experiencing such dissatisfaction with meal planning, I decided to use Asana and I’m never going back.
Why You Should Meal Plan with Asana
Asana is great for meal planning because it is so simple. You can easily create tasks, add due dates, and assign them to stay organized. Other project management tools have these features, but I’ve yet to find one that is as plug-and-play as Asana. You can manage all your household tasks in Asana instead of having multiple apps for different parts of your household.
Asana is specifically great for meal planning because you can completely customize your workflow. Most meal planning apps require you to use their recipes, have wonky import functionality, or make it difficult to share shopping lists with your household. I’ve previously spent more time inputting my meal plan into the software than actually looking for recipes. Asana gives you the flexibility to add any recipe (online or straight out of your brain), build an accessible shopping list, and schedule your meals ahead of time. I’ve built out a meal planning process in Asana that is significantly more efficient than any app I’ve tried.
How to Meal Plan with Asana:
1. Sign up for an Asana account.
Create a free account here. Add the rest of your household (anyone that might be doing the cooking or grocery shopping) as users — you can add up to 15 people free.
2. Create a project in Asana.
Create a project. Title it ‘Home’ or ‘Meal Planning.’ Mine is labeled home, as I also track household chores, bill payments, and other items in the same project. If you are just using your Asana account to manage your household, I’d recommend making a separate project for meal planning.
3. Create sections
Create one section (Tab + n) labeled ‘Recipes’ and another labeled ‘Meal Plan.’
4. Add your favorite recipes from the web.
Start adding your favorite recipes in the ‘Recipes’ section of the project. Each task should be the name of the recipe. Copy/paste the instructions & recipe URL into the task description. Copy/paste the ingredients as ‘subtasks’ (see example below). If you are adding recipes from memory, follow the same structure (obviously you won’t have a URL).
5. Tag the recipes.
Tags help sort recipes by attributes that are important to you, like prep time or diet compliance. I tag all my recipes with prep time (as we usually like recipes that are under 30 minutes for week nights) and diet compliance. We try to eat loosely paleo, so I’ll filter by all recipes tagged ‘paleo’ to ensure I’m selecting a good mix of healthy options for the week. A couple ideas for tags: prep time, cuisine type, diet classification, key ingredients, macros… so many possibilities.
Steps 4 – 5 in a snappy gif for your viewing pleasure.
6. Start meal planning in Asana.
Once you have populated all your favorite recipes, it’s time to meal plan. At the beginning of your week (before you grocery shop), select your recipes for the week by dragging them from the ‘Recipes’ section to the ‘Meal Plan’ section. You will assign a due date, which should be the day you plan to prepare the dish, as well as a cook (if you’re meal planning with others). Create a task titled ‘Shopping List,’ copy the ingredients from the recipe, and paste the ingredients as subtasks on your shopping list. Follow this process for each meal you plan to have that week.
7. Download the app & go shopping.
Once you’re fully planned, prepare to have the easiest shopping trip of your life. Download the Asana mobile app and access the ‘Shopping List’ task from your phone. All your ingredients will be there in a user-friendly list. Just check them off as you pick them up.
8. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Once you’ve completed the first week, do not check off the recipe tasks, simply remove the due date and move the task back to the ‘Recipes’ section (tasks marked as ‘complete’ will be removed from your list. If you want to ‘check off’ each meal, consider copying the recipe task instead of dragging the original.)