How (and why!) we built this site

Allie, our editor, explains why we decided to build a recipe site to make shopping quicker and easier. And how we went about it.

The Team

The team tucking in at one of our daily tasting sessions. That's me (Allie) on the far left.

Food shopping can be a joy, but it's not always easy. We know — these are the problems our team have had to deal with when shopping for their own families:

  • “Our team know all about staring at a blank shopping list, short on inspiration, or worrying about the cost of our shopping as we head for the checkout” Staring at a blank shopping list, short on inspiration.
  • Struggling around a supermarket pressed for time and distracted by the kids, crossing our fingers that the food in our trolleys will somehow add up to a reasonable run of nutritious meals.
  • Wondering anxiously how much all this is going to cost as we head for the checkout.
  • Wishing we could control grocery costs better, but suspecting that hours spent with a pile of recipe books and a calculator might only result in small savings (but big sacrifices in terms of flavour and interest, not to mention a mutiny by our partner or kids!)
  • Wondering what to do with the rest of these spring onions — having only used half a bunch in last night's meal.
  • Wondering why we've ended up throwing out good food again because it's passed its use-by date (especially as we hate waste and we're trying to be careful with money too).

These are pretty common problems, encountered by households all over the UK. If only, we thought, people could quickly plan their meals ahead of shopping, they'd be able to save money, minimise stress and reduce waste.

Things could be so much easier.

The thing is, the ideal meal plan requires a lot of work — it probably needs to share some perishable ingredients across more than one meal to keep costs down and to make sure everything gets used up before it goes off; it will need a bit of imagination to make sure that the meals involved are nice and varied; it will also need to avoid any store cupboard ingredients that are so uncommon there's little chance they'll be used in the future; and it needs to be carefully price checked if it's to meet a budget.

Hardly anyone has the time to plan even a few days of meals for themselves, let alone for a whole week. If there was a tool on the web that could quickly create free meal plans, and then generate a shopping list to go with them, well, that would make life a whole lot simpler we thought. (Oh, and if it could tell you how much you're going to be spending, even better!)

So we decided to set about solving the problem by getting together a small, enthusiastic team of researchers, chefs, and food enthusiasts. Our kitchen team is a mix of happy home cooks and professional chefs, so we've got the best of both worlds: a clear idea of what's manageable in a home kitchen, and that will be enjoyed by family and friends; plus loads of professional expertise when we need it. This makes sure that our recipes are reliable, straight-forward and delicious.

We're going to make life easier.

Our free meal plans are composed from combinations of recipes whose perishable ingredients together add up to quantities that match the pack sizes you can actually buy at a supermarket (or market stall or specialist retailer). This makes sure that there's no food wasted, and no left-over ingredients lurking in the back of the fridge at the end of the week. This simple strategy translates into big savings over the course of a year.

Unlike many recipe and cooking web sites, every single one of our recipes is tested, tasted and discussed, and then retested (and re-tasted), until we're sure we'd be happy to tuck into it ourselves or serve it to our families and friends. Then we photograph them just as they are, without adding any frills or garnishes, so you can see exactly the results you'll be able to achieve at home.

Food for family and friends

As well as our chefs and researchers, our tasting sessions also involve people like our programmers, our photographers and our admin team. That way, as well as giving them a welcome break from office work, we get loads of input from non-specialists who just like straightforward, tasty food. We know we're on the right track when we realize a tasting sessions on the quiet side — because they've been busy polishing off all the food.

It isn't all research, cooking and tasting here at the Resourceful Cook though; all our hard work is backed up by clever technology that you can't get anywhere else on the web. This technology is the backbone of the meal planner. It combines huge amounts of information about ingredients and products, with lots of clever tools, and it lets us (and you) easily arrange recipes into flexible, personal, meal plans.

It also helps us to be consistent in portion sizes and keep a careful eye on prices. That means that you'll always know the cost of the meals in your meal plan, so there shouldn't be any nasty surprises when you get to the checkout. Our site brings you all these features, and more, all for free!

Easy choices

Our meal plans are themed to help you quickly choose ones that suit your tastes and requirements. They're also grouped according to the numbers of people that they serve; but if you want to cook for more or less people on a given day, you'll “We've worked hard to make sure that the Resourceful Cook is easy to use and won't distract you from the enjoyment of cooking and eating great food”never have to do complicated maths — you can easily adjust how many people you're cooking for when you're personalising your meal plan.

We know that not everyone can spare the expense or space for a big store cupboard full of interesting ingredients, so you can choose meal plans that let you stick with the size of store cupboard you're comfortable with: a basic store cupboard, a typical store cupboard or a cook's store cupboard.

Building the site has been a huge technical challenge, but it hasn't distracted us from our passion for cooking and we've worked hard to make sure that the site is simple to use and won't distract from the enjoyment of cooking and eating great food. We think the result is a fantastic tool that will take the stress out of your meal planning, shopping and cooking. Bon appétit!

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