If you’re like me, meal planning doesn’t rank too high in the list of daily priorities. Typically, by the time lunch or dinner rolls around, it is a mad scramble for leftovers in the fridge or requires a quick stop at the corner taco shop. But a new product from Seattle’s BigOven is looking to provide a little more structure to meal planning.
It’s called Menu Planner, and it works as an online organizational tool allowing cooks to drag recipes from a personal archive or dishes that have been marked as “favorites” onto a calendar and then have the ingredients from the recipes added to a grocery list that’s automatically sorted by aisle. (That solves the problem of getting lost looking for black beans).
As an entrepreneur, BigOven CEO Steve Murch said he too doesn’t always have as much time as he’d like to plan out meals. But, in his view, that speaks to the problem.
“There are a ton of busy moms and dads who try to get ahead of the ‘dinner scramble’ by planning ahead,” Murch tells GeekWire. “There’s even a large, active group of folks who are ‘Once a Month Cooks’ who attempt to cook everything for an entire month, freeze it, then re-heat as needed. In my own case, I do most of the home cooking, and very much like to plan 1-7 days ahead.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the technology is the aisle categorization. I asked Murch how the company knows where items are located in various grocery stores.
“In general, BigOven will tell you what ‘larger group’ an ingredient is in, and there is only one group. In nearly all cases, it’ll get it right for you; BigOven will provide its best guess — based first on our own editorial judgment, and if not found, on the categorizations of others — but you can always change its guess if it is different in your local store,” he said.
BigOven is a bootstrap success story, with Murch growing the company to a powerhouse in the online recipe space. It has recorded more than 5.5 million mobile app downloads, and has grown its registered membership base to more than 1.3 million.
And the company, which is now cash-flow positive, has done it on a bare-bones budget.
Murch, a former Microsoft employee who previously co-founded VacationSpot.com, is offering the new Menu Planner service for free for 30-day trial. Afterwards, it will be available to those members who register for a $15.99 annual premium account.
Here’s a closer look at the new offering, which adds to BigOven’s recently launched RecipeScan service: