iPhone Friday: Menu Planning on MealBoard

If you’re like me, you try to stick closely to a grocery budget every month.  Unless you like to approach each meal like it’s an episode of “Chopped”, having a clearly defined plan and a well thought-out grocery list is ESSENTIAL to keeping your food bills on track.  Two weeks ago, I purchased MealBoard, an iPhone app that’s going to keep all that together for me.

I’ve been desperate for an easier way to plan my meals and make my grocery list each week.  At $1.99, I thought MealBoard was definitely worth trying.  It does requires a lot of setup, (Trying to remember every dish I’ve ever made to input into the system is an ongoing project), but the longer I use it, the more I customize it, the bigger a timesaver it becomes!

The idea is pretty basic.  You just input your recipes into the app, schedule your menus on a weekly, bi-weekly, tri-weekly, or even monthly basis, And it uses the information to generate a detailed grocery list for you, right on your phone.

As you input recipes, you can specify the specific sections of the grocery store where items are found. Do you shop in a weird grocery store like Aldi?  No problem, your grocery store information is COMPLETELY customizable… Actually, EVERYTHING about this app is crazy customizable, right down to the color of the interface.  (I chose green!)  You might also notice from my list, that you can even enter a dollar value for each grocery item.  Maybe someday, I’ll get around to inputing that information, so I won’t have any surprises at the checkout.  There are settings for coupons, too, but I haven’t played with that feature, yet.

Before I chose to risk those precious two dollars on this gamble, I was concerned about the amount of time it would take to input recipes on my phone using a tiny touch screen.  This is not a problem with MealBoard, as their website offers you a custom log-in for recipe input.  Now, you enter grandma’s secret chutney recipe on your old fashioned laptop keyboard, lickety split!

In this case, I wanted to add a neat cottage cheese bread recipe I’d come across on a blog.  It was a simple matter of copy and paste!

Now, I can view or print my recipe from their website interface…

But, of course, it’s handier to do a simple “Cloud Sync” within the app, so all the information appears on my phone, and is ready to use in my weekly meal plans and be imported into my grocery list.

Within the app, you can even set up reminders to go off before the time the meal has been scheduled for, which is handy, if you’re like me and always forget to thaw your meats!

If inputing all your recipes still feels a little intimidating, you’ll be thrilled to know that Meal Board has a list of SEVERAL major recipe websites, (such as AllRecipes and The Food Network) that it works with directly to make that data entry a breeze!  For example, I was watching Giada mixing up a mad batch of quinoa the other day.  A quick search on The Food Network’s website brought up the recipe from that episode.  I just copied the page’s URL and pasted it into the MealBoard website.  BOOM!  The recipe is all right there!  No typing necessary!

If you’ve got two bucks burning a hole in your pocket, look up MealBoard, buy it, and thank me later.  I give it five stars!

I Believe that [Robots] are our Future…

For those of you who’ve been asking about our new family pet, I cannot imagine life without him!

Here’s a cute pic of him eating:

As much as I love my Roomba, I will admit he’s not for everyone.  Before making the order, I read, with great trepidation, every negative review amazon.com had to offer (out of the overwhelmingly positive majority).  Still, I was not dissuaded for one very important reason:  vacuuming is my least favorite chore.

I hate vacuuming MOSTLY because of the noise.  It really disturbs me on a deep level.  I always feel like somebody is lurking behind me while I vacuum, and I’d never hear them because of the noise.  I love to clean to music, but that’s impossible to do over the roar of sweeper.

I also hate just lugging the big old thing out of the cleaning closet, struggling with the cord, and my toddler running and crying in fear every time he see’s the thing.  Vacuuming is just miserable for me, and because of this, I only do it when absolutely necessary. (Like, once a month or when we’re about to have company… sometimes… if they don’t already know how trashy we are.)

Enter Roomba.  Unlike many of the negative amazon.com reviews assert, he is nowhere near the noisy roar of a traditional vacuum.  My kid is no longer terrified, my infant is endlessly entertained, and if I run him every day, my floors are cleaner than I EVER imagined they could be!

(In the pic above of my son, you can see I put a couple of the dining chairs on top of the table.  I only take this extra measure occasionally.)

Most folks will tell you that the Roomba is not necessarily a replacement for a traditional vacuum cleaner, but frankly, from what I’ve experienced (two weeks of use), if you had a really good handheld vac for upholstery and the occasional corner clean up, you’d be fine to only own a Roomba.

But, we also don’t have pets, and we don’t have any major allergies in our house.  All this to say, your mileage may very.

My traditional vacuum is 7 years old.  It’s bagless.  Though, I frequently clean it with a scrub brush, I’ve never actually CHANGED its filter.  So, it’s led a hard life, full of negligence and abuse.  That being said, I can tell you that after two cycles, our Roomba had our carpets cleaner than they’ve ever been at my hand with our old, decrepit sweeper.

As we are a SHOES ON household, I purchased the pet owner’s model of the Roomba, just because I knew we were dirtier than the average carpet dwellers.  I am astounded that even though I run it every day, and even though our carpets are brighter than they’ve ever been, it still offers me a good handful of dust mush every time it runs in our living room.  And in our bedroom, the most neglected room of the house, it fills its dust compartment EVERY time!  I wonder how many cycles it will take for these levels to start tapering off like they did in the living room.

Roomba doesn't do his best work in this little space.

There are a few flaws.  Roomba doesn’t do so great in angles smaller than 90 degrees.

He’s also just about the exact width most people keep between their couch and coffee table or their easy chair and ottoman.  I often have to go scooch these items an inch or two over, mid-cycle, to make sure Roomba has the proper clearance to get through.

Also, Roomba is most definitely a “he”, as he sure doesn’t do the task the way I would do it.  He meanders about somewhat aimlessly, getting distracted along the edge of a wall before finally coming back to the high traffic areas and circling around.  The way he goes about the job makes no sense to me, but in the end, he get’s it done, and better than I ever got it done, so I can’t nit pick about his unusual methods!

Somebody's been cleaning!

And there’s nothing so satisfying as getting up from a nap, and returning to a room full of Roomba tracks!  Yes, they reflect his odd techniques, but they’re there, and they’re pleasant!

He transitions pretty well from carpet to hard floors, and I like to use a virtual wall to keep him in my kitchen for a cycle after an especially “creative” session I’ve had in there.

He seems to know when a room is finished.  I’ve never bothered to time him, but he will spend a long time cleaning my living/dining room, compared to when I just shut him in our walk-in closet.  I also feel like he spends more time when the room is especially dirty!  It takes him FOREVER to clean our bedroom compared to the boys room, which is about equal in square footage, but not near as dusty!  In these rooms, he runs until he’s done, then just plays a happy tune and waits for me to retrieve him from the middle of the floor.  In the living room, he just returns to his dock when he’s finished.  A cycle, that, once again, seems to take less and less time the cleaner our carpets are becoming.

He does require a little bit of maintenance.  Namely, that you empty his bin and clean his brushes.  That’s about a 60 second job in my house with no pets, and since I have the pet owner’s version of the Roomba, they even sent me extra brushes, so I can just switch them out without cleaning every time.  The brush cleaning was one of the main complaints I read on amazon.com, but, to me, it seems like less work than simply winding and unwinding a vacuum cleaner cord.  Maybe it’s harder if you have a long haired siamese cat or something???

Despite my love for our new robot, I’ve heard he’s fragile and that his side brush breaks pretty frequently.  My guess, is that a lot of this depends on your space and your furniture.  In these two weeks, I’ve been watching that brush closely, and it’s not shown the sort of wear that was indicated in the most negative amazon.com reviews.  I’ve heard that if and when Roomba breaks, iRobot is not great about servicing their product, and why would they be, with hardly any competition in the robotic vacuum market?

I think competition is vital to wide acceptance and usage of robot vacuum cleaners, but when it shows up, robots are the future, baby!  This thing is like magic and unless I absolutely have to, I never want to go back to vacuuming the old way!  I give him five stars!

Put a Laundry Table in Your Closet

Since I’ve already started talking a little bit about my laundry habits, I figured it couldn’t hurt to turn this into a little feature series.  Step into my closet for a few minutes.  Here’s where I usually fold my clothes these days:

We are very blessed to have an apartment with convenient washer dryer hook ups, but if there is ANYTHING you can like about the laundry mat, it’s those spacious, counter-height tables that make for such convenient folding!

When I realized it was no longer useful in my kitchen, I decided to try this simple little breakfast nook in our walk in closet. Perfect fit!  And it’s just the right height for folding and ironing clothes!  (I just iron over a quilt or a towel.)  I moved our shoes out of that shoe organizer (that we hardly used anyway) and onto the floor, but I may decide to keep using it for belts and scarves and things.

The beauty of folding in our closet is that half the items can be put away right there!  Its a great set up for us right now!

Now, get out of my closet!  It’s crowed in here!  Share your favorite laundry tip in the comments and tune in Saturday where I’ll show you my actual laundry “room”!

A Simple, Happy Birthday!

My two year old became a three year old today!

There’s something so happy and simple about a plump, wispy bundle of birthday balloons!  They were definitely my son’s favorite part of the day!

We kept the celebration pretty simple, even for such a landmark birthday–no big party for my sensitive little sweetie.  Just grandparents and cupcakes!  Keeping things low key helped us ALL enjoy the event a little more fully.

We’re quickly learning that with so many adoring family members, my husband and I can gift our children pretty simply.  (And really SHOULD gift minimally if we want to have room to walk in our apartment!  LOL)  This year we gave him a lot of clothes, and just a few toys and books.  He was just as excited about the practical gifts!  What a kid!

3 years old.  Wow!  Our oldest baby is turning into a full fledged kiddo!

Look inside.

20120130-152806.jpg

I’ve realized (and it’s probably obvious from this blog) that my tendency is to run high on inspiration and low on action. I’ve got serious daydreaming issues.

Yesterday, I woke up and said to myself, “Today, instead of seeking out entertainment and inspiration from Pinterest and Facebook, I’m going to find it in my own home and family!”. Next, I poured myself a cup of tea, and had to take a picture of the serendipitous quote from the tag.

It kinda plays into the whole “sphere of influence” principle that Steven Covey writes about. I don’t know if I’ll ever master the balance, but it seemed a worthwhile thought.