Flying by the seat of my pants is what I like to call my typical approach to planning dinner. I love to cook and try new recipes, which means the standard taco, chili and pasta bake dinners, while easy for me to whip up, don’t offer the challenges I like in the kitchen. I also have an eight-month-old baby and work full time, so I don’t get a lot of opportunity to play in the kitchen as much as I used to.
Enter BigOven. A free website and app that touts itself as the best recipe organizer, grocery list and menu app for home cooks. If you don’t consider yourself a home cook, don’t fret. This is for you, too.
My Five Favorite Features
The site is broken down into a few main sections, all accessible within the top of the website and the bottom of the app, but these were the most useful in my experience using it:
1. Search for recipes
Click the “Get Ideas” tab at the top, and you’ll be taken to a wondrous, digital world full of 500,000+ recipes. They’re organized into collections, courses and a search option that allows you to find recipes based on ingredient, equipment and lifestyle (including diabetic, kid-friendly and picnics).
2. Add your own recipes
Click “add recipe,” and get four options to begin saving your favorite creations in one easily accessible spot. Once you add one, save it to a folder, add ingredients to a grocery list, add to a meal plan, print, share or mark it as a favorite. Adding recipes is easy:
Manually type it.
Copy, paste then import from a text document.
Copy and paste a link, then it will translate everything from the page into an easy-to read recipe.
Take a picture of a recipe from a book or magazine, upload the photo, and it will import all the fields. You get three scans with the free version, but if you upgrade to BigOven Pro, you get 25 more free.
3. Create grocery lists
My husband does the grocery shopping. Lucky me. But I’m the one that figures out what we eat for dinner, so sometimes I’ll think of something I need while I’m at work. I can add it to the grocery list in the app, and since we both have access, he can see any changes on his phone.
4. Plan meals
This has been the most helpful. In the menu planner section of the site, you have the ability to type items that may not necessarily need recipes (grilled cheese, for example), or you can look at your favorites, search for recipes and more, then drag and drop them into the daily slots.
5. Use up leftovers
Leftover ground beef, but you don’t want to eat tacos again? No problem. Visit this section of the site to plug in the ingredients you have on hand, and you’ll be served with a ton of options for using the leftover ingredients. For example, ground beef, bread and rice can turn into delicious stuffed peppers, meatballs or soup, easy recipes included.
What it Costs
The basic version is free. If you decide to upgrade to the pro version, it’s $1.99 per month, or $19.99 for an entire year. With a subscription, you get nutrition facts, the option to customize added recipes from the Web and the ability to add unlimited recipes and an ad-free experience.
This is just one of the many free meal-planning apps that are out there. Look around online to find the one that best suits you, and you’ll find that your weeknights become a little less stressful because you’ve planned ahead. That means no more getting to work and realizing you didn’t thaw any meat. And you can prep other items like vegetables ahead of time too. It’s a win-win.