Productive Meal Planning with Basil and OmniFocus

As a stay-at-home parent who is tasked with cooking meals regularly, I had been looking for a way to add that aspect of my home life to my regular workflow. I’ve been using Basil for a while to gather recipes, and recently I came up with a way to use Basil in tandem with OmniFocus to ensure that I don’t drop the ball when it comes to preparing nutritious meals for my family.
My meal planning process is fairly simple. After conducting my weekly review on Friday, I’ll take a look at what we have grocery-wise and use Basil to search for recipes that contain what I’ve got on hand. For example, if we have chicken and broccoli, I’ll search those terms. This week I came up with a Curried Chicken and Broccoli Casserole that did the trick.1

I’ll save the various recipes for the week in Basil, and then I use the key to this whole workflow: Mail Drop.

Basil allows you to email recipes, so I use this feature to email the recipe for each day to my Mail Drop address. I change the subject line slightly, adding the day that the meal is to be cooked at the beginning (i.e. Wednesday: Curried Chicken and Broccoli Casserole). Then the recipe arrives as a task in my OmniFocus inbox. I’ll add a context to it (Home) and then give it a start date of the day it is to be cooked. If you have stuff to thaw, you may want to make the start date a day earlier – and I do that every once in a while.

Basil has reinvigorated my love for cooking and this workflow has created the perfect productivityist meal planning solution. If you don’t have Basil (iPad only), I strongly suggest you give it a go. And if you’re an OmniFocus user who happens to use Basil, then I recommend you give it a try (especially if you’re using the iPad version of OmniFocus)…and if you’ve got improvements or enhancements to it then please let me know in the comments below.

1 Keep in mind that my wife and I discuss meal planning together. I just do the “technology” side of things when it comes to the execution of the plan.


  1. AndrewClews says

    I thought this was an excellent article Mike. As I said on Twitter, I really love seeing how people use tech in their whole life and not just to be able to type out a post quicker on the move. Basil sounds a great app too, shame I only have an iPhone.As a stay at home dad myself feeding duties do fall on my shoulders sometimes too. We create a weekly (or sometimes longer) meal plan. There are two reasons for this, the first is it helps us do our online grocery shop and keeps costs down. If we go to the shop then we spend 20-30 more than if we didn’t, as the shops intend you to. When money is tight and you add nearly 50% to your weekly expense that creates a problem.The other reason is I now don’t have to spend time worrying what I’m going to cook. My wife can create magic out of seemingly pitiful ingredients, I on the other hand not so much. I would spend ages trying to come up with something remotely edible and healthy for the kids rather than getting on with the other things I need to in the short time they are at school/childcare.Currently I have a spreadsheet which I have listed in drop down menus (no pun intended – oh the wit) all the options we have had for breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. This is added to as we have something different or new. I have not gone as far as to list the ingredients for each but that is the next step.I have also been wondering whether Evernote Food can assist in anyway. I’ve yet to investigate further.YoumentionedOmnifocus reminding you what’s coming up which reminded me that I was considering putting the meals in a calendar (as I don’t haveOmnifocus so I am notified as to what is happening later. But if I am going to do this I need to find something that can send the info over to my Google calendar without me having to input again. There is probably an app that can do this or maybe use a task manager as you have, so more investigation is required.In essence though, we do the hard yards up front so when it comes to execution it is merely a case of executing. Now I’m sure I’ve heard that from someone before…

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