IMG_2947Since we’ve doubled down on being vegetarian, meal planning has been a challenge. Vegetarian meals aren’t just the same as traditional meals minus the meat. They’re a completely different animal (non-animal?).

Instead of grabbing a package of meat, a vegetable and potato and voilà, dinner, things are more complicated. Plus, we make an effort to get complete proteins, even though it’s possible to have some of the amino acids at lunch and the complement at dinner (beans plus rice, for example).

The Carnivore’s idea of dinner: traditional Alsatian choucroute. This is for one. At the top: miso noodle soup made by the kid.

Our kid has become quite the foodie, doing a lot of cooking and learning techniques from  the Internet, especially from Bon Appétit, whose employees now feel like old friends.

Pickled red onions, an idea from Bon Appétit, now a staple in our fridge. Such snappy flavor! 

A few weeks ago, local teens were treated to a kind of low-budget TED Talk about food waste, hosted by the company that does municipal solid waste removal, Covaldem. A repeat of the talk in the evening was aimed at adults, with a no-waste tasting afterward. The theater was full.


They even gave away a little booklet of “anti-gaspi” (anti-gaspillage = no waste) recipes by local chefs. For example, autumn vegetable soup with croutons, a velouté (thick soup) of potimarron (a kind of small, sweet pumpkin) with a “tartine” made with the potimarron skin, nuts, and grilled potimarron seeds. The idea was to either use everything, or to transform leftovers.

The Carnivore’s idea of anti-gaspi. He gets major points for presentation. Something to keep in mind.

The talk pointed out that 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year worldwide, which accounts for a third of food produced. It went through expiration dates (many of which are n’importe quoi–whatever–except for meat and fish), and pointed out ways that supermarkets have been pushed to reduce waste, such as by having a display for discounted food that’s about to expire, or for “ugly” vegetables and fruit, also discounted. They also said restaurants are being encouraged to let diners take home what’s left of their meals, not in “doggie bags” but in “gourmet bags.”

tomatoes ugly
For tomatoes, especially, the uglier the better.

The talk also pointed out that meal planning can reduce waste. A few days later, a friend told me about an app for meal planning and it’s everything I wanted. It’s called Jow, and it seems to be available only in France. That’s because it links to several chains of supermarkets to make your shopping list, which you can then order online. The app is free, so they must make their money by getting a commission from the supermarkets.

Rice and squash patties. Not bad, but didn’t hold shape.

I prefer to buy my produce at the market, so I haven’t made any purchases through the app. Curiously, even though the app is French and I never made any language selection, some of the recipes turn up in English. Or partly in English and partly in French. It’s fine with me–it’s how we roll in our house.

First you choose your supermarket (you can put anything, just to continue. A Walter Mitty moment where you can pick your dream French town). Then how many people you’re cooking for and how many are children. Then what you eat: everything/vegetarian/vegan/no pork/no gluten/no dairy.

More elaborate: gaspacho; zucchini noodles, polenta with pesto, mushroom tofu, red pepper hummus, salad (this kind is called mâche), sprouts.

Next it asks what you have in your kitchen: oven, microwave, stovetop, fryer, blender (and what kind), automatic cooker (Thermomix or other brand–they’re listed). Then you put in how many meals you want to plan: 2? 5? 7?

Et boum! (Not a typo–that’s the French spelling.) Meal ideas, mostly one-dish, with recipes and compiled shopping list. The recipes change each week. Doing it just now, Jow suggested onion quiche with chèvre and honey, shakshuka, eggplant curry, pear and gorgonzola pizza, and sweet potato gratin with chestnuts. If you don’t like something, you click on the remplacer button and it suggests something else.

Lunch regular: winter vegetable salad. Often involving beets.

Click on the red shopping cart to get your shopping list. There, you can eliminate items that you already have in your pantry or add other things you need, like breakfast foods or dish soap. The entire list for the five menus above come to €49.40 at Leclerc.

I made the eggplant curry, but I had only a tiny eggplant, so I added other vegetables (mushrooms and spinach stems….yes stems. You can get bags of baby spinach at the store but at the market it’s much bigger, sometimes with the roots still attached). Last week there was a quiche with roasted butternut squash and red onion; I substituted leeks and zucchini. I also made the risotto with red peppers.

The risotto with red and yellow peppers, and roussilous mushrooms sautéed in butter with parsley.

Other suggestions under vegetarian: onion tart tatin; Tunisian lablabi; roasted camembert; crunchy tofu with quinoa and broccoli; roasted tomatoes with feta; chèvre and spinach tourte; eggplant parmesan; lentil and avocado salad; salad with dried apricots and spice bread; beet, chèvre and nut quiche; zucchini crumble; pasta with muchrooms; gnocchi with spinach and gorgonzola; polenta with roasted tomatoes. And you can click on more recipes. There are other buttons to try: favorites, new, exotic, autumn, express, desserts, healthy, veggie, gluten-free.

The mushrooms cooking. They are heaven. A local specialty, from the Black Mountains.

It’s easy to eliminate things you don’t want. The recipes are quick and easy and they give an idea of reasonable portion sizes. Some, like the tarts and quiches, are for four–you can’t really make a quiche for two–so we have leftovers for lunch. I realize that while I eat very healthy–everything homemade, heavy on vegetables–I eat too much. Portion control is the very French way of dieting. My Fitbit tells me that even with running I barely pass 2,000 calories in a day, far less on the days I don’t run, then something has to give. FitBit’s calculations are based on averages for age, height and weight. At some point recently, I seem to have passed into a new category, because for the same number of steps in a day it was telling me I was burning significantly fewer calories. Wake-up call! How middle-age spread happens.

A favorite here: zucchni fritters with fresh salsa.

Years ago, I tried to do the same thing as Jow, but using a spreadsheet, not with all the wonders of app technology. It was an utter failure–clumsy, bulky, hard to change, hard to organize. I am sure there are other apps out there, ones that connect to your local supermarket. But if you want some meal planning help with French flavor, check out Jow.

This isn’t sponsored. I just really like Jow. If you have similar apps that you like, please mention them in the comments so readers in your country can find out about them.

No recipe needed.



46 thoughts on “Genius Meal Planner

  1. Lits of yummy ideas there! I resist structure so am not there yet on the meal planning. Also on my own a lot during the week so I can please myself. But sometimes the inspiration runs thin so an App might come in handy. Will definitely check out Jow! (Funny name for a French app, eh?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My friend pronounced it “Joe.” The thing about meal planning is you need a minimum for buying groceries.
      Another app suggested at the anti-waste talk is FrigoMagic, which comes up with recipes from what you have/tend to buy. I haven’t tried it yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha! I now live in Carcassonne and I’m cooking with Jou! A bit of fantasy. I like the thinking in French that the app requires me to do. Like a little sprinkling of French words to incorporate into my life. I’ll keep playing with Jou! Thank you 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  3. WOW wow woaaaaw….. – I’m not a vegetarian, nor a vegan, but I most certainly DO love these photos, the idea, the concept. And just think: It’s a FRENCH thing – not something I would have expected. I’m also just back from the market we have twice per week – and once more I thought that how wrong it feels that the prices are so very high, when we should be able to buy more or less directly from the producer and no supermarket is taking a big cut.
    But I guess we’re too close to Paris and it’s a rather well-to-do area.
    Anyway, although I am not a fan of phone-apps, I’ll look gladly into this and I’m sure that I’ll find things I like about it. Even if it were ‘only’ to get some input to my own planning.
    I own umpteen cookery books, but I never use them for recipes. I’m a total ‘freelancer’ as far as food is concerned. Cooking with what’s in season or in my freezer, being alert to ‘bargains’ of all sorts, having enough verve and enthusiasm to fabricate something from little, I cannot offer you much ‘advice’ but I do love to look at the photos, marvel at the imagination and skills of the authors and I do get inspired – sometimes. As a trilinguist I also gather ideas from stuff I read or the occasional video I happen upon. And I love eating, sitting around a table with good food and wine, friends or even just a book and myself – and that makes surely for a good cook too?! (Leaving for my kitchen and a well deserved espresso!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are options with meat, as well. Or without gluten or dairy. Jow is available as a Web site, too, if you don’t want to use an app. The thing that irks me about many cookbooks, and I read somewhere they do this on purpose, is the essential but exotic, hard-to-source ingredient that you almost certainly don’t have in your pantry. Pinterest also offers lots of ideas, but you still have to plan out which you’ll use, and how many onions and eggs and cups of flour and milk you need to buy in total, whereas Jow does all that for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this idea! I wish we had something like that here connected to our grocery stores.

    I’m a trained chef and normally do my own thing but I like the idea of customizing the meals, getting replacement suggestions and complete shopping lists. The ability to already know what you have in your cupboard or fridge is very smart. It seems like they thought of everything.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved this post! The descriptions and photos of all those lovely dishes has me wanting to head straight to the kitchen. I’ve recently started meal planning more because it saves on time during the week, money on your shopping and headaches when trying to think up healthy meals in a rush. It’s really noticeble when we don’t plan and we’re just throwing together any old thing. Pen and paper are still my best friends for any kind of planning but here in Spain there is an app that is taking off at the moment: MyRealFood App. There is a whole “real fooding” movement, especially among young people. It started on Instagram and it aims to cut back on highly processed foods and foods with high sugar content. The app allows you to scan the product in the supermarket and based on its nutritional value, it give it one of three scores: Real Food (your average fruit and veg, for example), Good processed food (has healthy ingredients and few additives) and Ultra processed Food (high in sugar, additives, etc). The aim is to include no more than 10% Ultra processed food in your diet. It’s an interesting concept, from a sociological point as much as anything. A product praised by the real fooding movement has been known to run out in supermarkets and shops have started stocking certain healthier products based on demand from users. I’m curious to see how this pans out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds fantastic, although it’s pretty clear what’s real food (only one ingredient on the label, if there even is a label). There was just a study about weight gain on processed food (in the New York Times and Nature; summary here:
      There are three aspects to the idea of meal planning: eating healthy meals, spending less month and wasting less food.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This app sounds great. I was a vegetarian for almost 20 years but had a lot of problems with my gut, hair falling out and brittle nails, I was not getting enough protein and eating way to many carbs. So about 4 years ago I started eating meat again, not a lot, but some. I feel so much better now. I also love to bake and don’t do it well without eggs.

    The food waste in the world really bothers me, especially the waste from restaurants, cafes, Starbucks. The amount of food they throw away at the end of the day is staggering. Sadly, they do not even let their own employees take the food home for fear of a lawsuit!

    Companies need to start giving the food to employees, or donating it to food banks! There are non-profit organizations that will come and pick the stuff up and serve it to homeless or other places. How abut these companies donate the food to schools! I have a friend who is a teacher in Tennessee and the school serves both breakfast and lunch to the kids all year long, even in the summer and for many it it the only food they get.

    Love seeing your recipe ideas. Pickled onions are my favorite, I eat them on salad, eggs, tacos, and more. And your beet, carrot salad looks delicious as well. I make a salad with green apple sticks, smoked almonds and blue cheese that is delicious! Also a eggplant, tomato stack salad with pesto drizzled over the top.

    Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My kid and I are vegetarians, not vegans, so we do eat eggs and cheese/dairy. Being vegan seems too challenging. Variety is so important for getting a mix of nutrients.
      France has a number of apps for restaurants and grocery stores to connect them with food banks to reduce food waste.
      Your salads sound delicious and I will be trying them. You always post such tempting shots of baked goods.


      1. Yes, vegan is way mote challenging. I made a great salad I will be posting this week, greens, maple roasted acorn squash, cranberries, shallots and roasted acorn squash seeds with a vinaigrette. It was delicious. Just curious, do you have Vitamix blenders in France? We recently invested in one and frankly it is now the hardest working appliance in the kitchen. The motor gets so hot when blending that you can throw vegetables and stock in it and 5 minutes later have hot soup. A tip which I am sure that you already know it to use raw cashews in your soup instead of cream( blended soups) and they are delicious.

        I hope that you are well and have a wonderful weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Your Vitamix sounds amazing. I had no idea!!
          Didn’t know about raw cashews. I have eaten them in Africa, but I’ve never even seen them here.
          I’m looking forward to your recipe. I’ll have to pick up an acorn squash at the market tomorrow.


  7. I’m not organised enough to use apps for my meal planning – I’m lucky in that in Saint-Chinian we have a grocery store in walking distance, along with other shops (bakers, butchers etc), so I’ll do my shopping in the market on Sundays and Thursdays, and then do ‘fill-in’ shopping in between. A once-a-week big shop is not something I would want to do – I only buy what I need and that way I hardly ever have to waste any food. I do compost the vegetable peelings, and leftovers either get eaten up the following day or frozen.

    I’m almost a vegetarian, but sitting on the fence allows me to eat meat whenever I feel the urge 🙂 !! Having said that, there are so many delicious recipes out there without meat! A couple of days ago I made the most delicious pumpkin and lentil soup found at the chocolate and zucchini blog! Good protein and vegetables, and few carbs…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ha! I saw your post today with that big steak! I also was flexitarian before–mostly vegetarian, with some exceptions. I guess I still am, because I would go for a steak tartare once or twice a year.
      You can use the app for recipes without shopping….
      Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini has wonderful recipes. I also listen to her podcast. She seems to be a lovely person, and very talented.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. HOW WONDERFUL YOUR KID is GETTING INTO THIS!ALL of this FOOD LOOKS DELICIOUS!I like the wording from DOGGIE bag to GOURMET BAG!Does make you LOOK at it differently!
    KUDO’s to you for jumping on board with this…………I am moving that way SLOWLY but what holds me back is the ITALIAN!WE are eating way MORE FRUITS AND VEGTABLES and I like that!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not sure how you’ll fare with the French, but it does give lots of ideas for dairy-free and gluten-free meals; for the Italian, just add a piece of meat. I so prefer making a vegetarian meal and adding a piece of meat for those who insist, vs. having a meat-centric meal and taking out the meat for vegetarians (which is always sad and not well-balanced).


  9. I’ve meal planned for decades. I have a standard shopping list which gets checked off as we need things and then extras added when the meal plan is done. The meal plan isn’t rigid, so we make sure we use stuff up if there is an unexpected change. I don’t feel guilting about composting peels and so on, but I will make stock with carcasses and bones.

    Anyway, I played around with Jow and I agree with you. It’s a really useful tool for those who don’t come naturally to meal planning and aren’t in the habit. I was interested that I told it we ate everything, and out of the 5 meals suggested, only one was not vegetarian. It contained prawns so I requested to change, and chose a chicken dish from the suggestions. I like that you get a price to indicate how much you are going to spend. Of course, I will buy some of it at the market, so it’s not exact, but it could be a useful budgeting tool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! It is useful. I hope it succeeds. The French really like to do their shopping here and there, but among younger people, I know many who do Leclerc Drive. I didn’t try the “everything” option, so I’m not sure what they offer. Now that I did it on my two devices, they remember me; I’ll have to clear cookies and try again.
      If it’s a sneaky campaign to get people to eat vegetarian a few times a week, then more power to them.


  10. I, too, am a sort-of vegetarian, but I do eat some meat a few times a week. I found that “pure” vegetarian didn’t work for me. That app sounds very interesting, and I’ll ask around, see if there’s something similar in the US.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Zucchini fritters with fresh salsa!!!! I’m salivating here! Since I’m a Texas girl, we put salsa on everything! Vegetarian meals are much more colorful than a meat eaters diet, and I love the crunch of the vegetables. Tomorrow I’m making a minestrone soup. I can already taste it. xoxox, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Delicious food pics! I’m not much of a supermarket shopper but I have noticed there’s a strong trend here as well to linking recipes with your (online) shopping these days but it’s not as sophisticated as you describe. Online food shopping baffles me as a concept and I see the elves running about with the printed lists and filling baskets with stuff at the independent market where I do much of my food shopping. I’d much rather choose my own bunch of grapes than get a uni student to do it for me! That said, I use the websites for price comparisons before I set out with my list, and the place I’m describing has a weekly newsletter with a “market update” on seasonality and availability and (surprisingly honestly) quality and value-for-money, plus recipes to suit what’s in season and a choice to shop for all the ingredients online. It’s a good system but not as amazing as what you’re trying out.

    Food planning goes in and out of vogue with me and I swing wildly between recipe-based pan-cultural phases and basic Fridge/Pantry Surprise cooking, where I’m plonked right now. Mr. P is working evenings these days so it’s all rather un-motivating when you’re cooking for one. What I am pretty consistent with, however, is minimal wastage and eating or utilising in some way as much of the plant or animal as it comes into the kitchen, even if it just means diverting material to our communal worm farms. But I’m always improving! I’ve just recently discovered that radish tops are edible, as are carrot leaves (I now sauté the former and make “pesto” from the latter). Pumpkin skin is most often eaten in this house when it’s roasted and if I’m feeling fancy, the seeds will get roasted and salted for nibbles or “pesto”, too. Pesto seems to be the modern solution to what to do with any languishing herb or seed these days! … Oh, I looove potimarron pumpkins! I grew them when I had a garden specifically for velvety soup, often with some tinned French chestnut puree added to really emphasise the theme. A French visitor once gave me the idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fridge/Pantry Surprise Cooking is just the term for it. There’s another app, Magic Fridge, that let you put in what you have and it spits out suggested recipes.
      I agree on picking one’s own produce, and it’s so much prettier, cheaper and more social when doing it at the outdoor market rather than at the supermarket. We do very little online shopping; even for books, I’ll go to the local bookstore to order through them rather than give business to the Giant A That’s Destroying Retail.


  13. Am I particularly stupid? I downloaded the app but can’t get past the ‘delivery or pick-up’ service. I don’t want and can’t order and get the ingredients. I just want to get to the suggestions and menus. Are there several apps? Jow + maybe?! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I just picked something. It doesn’t matter if you don’t place an order. You would have to put in your bank card info (they don’t ask in advance, which is nice), so there’s no risk of a surprise.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I just received this email today – 2/7/2020 yet all the posts and replies ate dated 2019. Is this a trick/malfunction of my computer or email account?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Genius Meal Planner” is a post I did last year on the very cool app Jow. I linked to it in today’s post, about a bunch of recipes I’ve made recently. Maybe that’s why?


  15. Thanks for clarifying. Being somewhat on the elderly side (72) I often think I’ve lost my last marble. I do always enjoy reading about France and seeing pics of what you do and your home and of course the dogs!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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