Need Custom Meal Menu Plan Plugin for WordPress

10 replies
I have a friend who is having a new membership website designed and she wants to be able to allow the members to review the current week's meal plan and to be able to do the following:

1. Be able to modify an existing meal plan to recipes they want
2. Search site to add in other recipes to their meal plan
3. Create a shopping list of items needed for the selected menus
4. Options to members to output these documents as a PDF or printer friendly version

If anyone knows how to do this or if a plugin like this exists would you let me know.
#custom #meal #menu #needed #plan #plugin #wordpress
  • Profile picture of the author Mr. Enthusiastic
    Michelle, this looks like a cool idea. You don't say which type of technology will be used to build the site. Is that not decided yet?

    Pretty much any database-backed Website technology could be used to build the features you listed. If possible, I think it would make sense to use one of the main open source content management systems - like Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal - as the basis of the site. This would give you a lot of functionality such as memberships, blogs, forums, publication reviews, etc. for free, along with plenty of developers who could expand different portions of the system for you.

    I just took a look at the Wordpress collection of plugins they know about:
    WordPress › WordPress Plugins

    Nothing came up for a search on "meal plan" and for "recipe," there were 12 results - but only two were actually about recipes, and they were both the same plugin under two different names. And it's far from complete in terms of your wish list. It might give a developer a bit of a head start, but only the first 25% or so.

    The Joomla extensions directory at Search - Joomla! Extensions Directory does list a couple of more extensive recipe plugins - Rapid Recipe and Gary's Cookbook - that might get you 80% of the way there.

    For Drupal, there's one recipe plugin: Recipe | which is claimed to support USDA nutrition information in an upcoming version.

    I think this means that no matter what, you're going to have to hire a programmer to implement the system.

    From my experience, I think the biggest challenge will be feature #2. What search criteria will be offered to the user? Will recipes be searchable by category? Preparation time? Difficulty? Ingredients? Low sodium? Definitely include carrots, optionally have paprika and absolutely no cilantro? Will these search criteria be savable? Sharable between users? Who will put all of this information about recipes into the database? Who will maintain it? If users enter recipes with invalid tags, will a moderator correct the database entry? These are the kinds of questions that will have to be turned into a detailed specification, with screenshots. If your client doesn't specify these things, then developers will take their own best guesses - which may or may not be user-friendly or maintainable.

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    • Chris:

      Wow, thank you so much for the super detailed response.

      I forgot to note that it is being designed in WordPress. I know the guy who took over the hRecipe you saw and was thinking about approaching him to see what he thought he may be able to do - if he's even interested.

      The last paragraph you sent me, I'm going to send that to my friend and give her more food for thought.

      Speaking of developers - do you know someone who does this type of thing?
      Michelle Mangen
      Your Virtual Assistant

      "Why Work When You Can Play? YVA Will Get it Done the Right Way!"
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  • Profile picture of the author Mr. Enthusiastic
    You're welcome, Michelle.

    I think it's a great idea to ask the developer of the existing plugin if he'd like to extend it. Good place to start.

    If he's not interested, then I'd be interested in exploring the project myself. The real challenge is the analysis and design. Once the system is fully specified, it will be routine to build the database and implement the code.

    I'll share some more ideas here, since this is a good opportunity for other Warriors to learn more about database analysis.

    Here's what the database will have to include:

    Ingredients contain nutrients. Will you get that information from the USDA? Will have have organic and non-organic versions of the nutrition information?

    Recipes contain ingredients. That one should be easy. Who will put in the initial batch of recipes?

    Ingredients may be in season or on sale. How do you account for that in recommending recipes to users in different climate regions? If someone is from a southern state, do you recommend okra more often?

    Meal plans contain recipes. That's also easy, but someone needs to load up the database with meal plans in the first place.

    Given a meal plan, go through all the recipes, total the amounts of ingredients, create a shopping list and export that list to pdf. Also straightforward.

    Users have meal plans. Will they be able to share their meal plans with other users?

    Users have preferences like ingredients they like or dislike, recipes they like or dislike, how many times a week or month they'd like to eat something. Based on these preferences, the system can recommend recipes and meal plans the user might like.

    When a user tries a new recipe, there needs to be some way to give feedback about whether he or she liked it.

    Once you know all of the information that should be tracked in the database (quite a job!), the database developer should be able to design the tables and relations.

    I would recommend using stored procedures to get and store all the data, so that the tables can be redesigned for performance if necessary. This also eliminates the potential of SQL injection attacks, while improving performance.

    Next you'll need to make all the pages for searching, browsing results, viewing details, picking and choosing what to include and exclude, updating your settings, etc., along with the subscription and payment and customer service areas. The web developer can identify what data and controls have to go onto the pages, while your graphic designer can help make a consistent look for the site that is also easy to navigate.

    Ideally you would do about three rounds of focus group testing to find out if typical users can find their way around. After each test, change things that people found confusing. Jakob Neilson's site is a great resource here, if you don't have a usability expert on your team: Jakob Nielsen on Usability and Web Design

    Once all the code works, you can then test to find out if it is too slow for your business requirements. This involves testing with the volume of data and activity you expect to have on the actual site. If parts need to be rewritten for performance, this should be done. You may need to get a bigger server, or rewrite portions of the site to automatically scale across multiple servers.

    As you see, to really do this comprehensively for a unique business offer would likely take a few weeks to a few months, with a lot of back and forth questions about the details. I think it would cost a few thousand dollars in all.

    Yes, you may be able to find someone to take their best guess and toss something together in a week for a few hundred bucks - but will it be what delights users, is easy to use, easy to maintain, powerful enough and can be extended to stay ahead of the competition?

    If this seems like too much work or investment, then it might not be a valid business idea. Or, users might like to pay for a simple little recipe site... which might get overshadowed as soon as someone makes the bigger version I describe here.

    By the way, there are at least four absolutely killer ways I can envision to make additional businesses out of the same underlying code base. However, I'm going to save those ideas for clients or for my own use. :p

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    • That was awesome, I'm copying and pasting your reply into an email to her as I'm sure her web developer hasn't thought through all of it. She has found one other site that does something similar to what she wants so she also sent them a note to find out how they did it (but it's not a WordPress site). If they are willing to share what they have I wonder if it will work with WordPress.

      From your response it sounds as though you do the database work like that?
      Michelle Mangen
      Your Virtual Assistant

      "Why Work When You Can Play? YVA Will Get it Done the Right Way!"
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      • Profile picture of the author Mr. Enthusiastic
        Originally Posted by YourVirtualAssistant View Post

        From your response it sounds as though you do the database work like that?
        I do, but we'd need to take that conversation to private message. I want to keep the forum conversation educational for other people who want to learn about development principles.
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        • Chris - I don't have the required 50 posts yet to send a DM. Can you send one to me (hopefully I'll be allowed to respond to you with less than 50?)

          Michelle Mangen
          Your Virtual Assistant

          "Why Work When You Can Play? YVA Will Get it Done the Right Way!"
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          • Profile picture of the author Bellasys
            Hey Peeps,

            I see you're engaged in a dialog, and I assure you I'm not trying to hone in at this time. Professional courtesy.

            I happen to have developed the front end and the database functions for a client who balked at the price- after I planned and developed half of it. I have two levels of application, one using Flash as a super slick front end, and the other using standard page markup. Each of them are driven to a certain extent by XML and customized with CSS lending themselves to WordPress (and offering an alternate Flash solution for those who like that as a base application).

            But the point is, there is a dearth of good recipe managers, etc. out there. In a marketing fashion, combining resources to create something outstanding which actually serves the meal planners/diet/health coaches will keep the market from becoming saturated with weaker plugins which only distract from good ones.

            If you (Mr. Enthusiastic) would like to contact me and explore this, this is a definite popular plugin waiting to happen.

            Light and Language™


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        • Chris - not sure if you saw my message from last week that I can't sent PM's yet due to less than 50 posts. Can you send me one or send me a message through my contact page on my website (which should be shown under my contact details here on the forum).

          I tried to find your contact info outside of the forum but no luck. :-(

          Michelle Mangen
          Your Virtual Assistant

          "Why Work When You Can Play? YVA Will Get it Done the Right Way!"
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        • Profile picture of the author delikasi
          Originally Posted by Mr. Enthusiastic View Post

          I do, but we'd need to take that conversation to private message. I want to keep the forum conversation educational for other people who want to learn about development principles.
          Hi Chris,

          Was this inquiry ever resolved? I'm also looking for a simple meal planner that will run on Wordpress. I run a free Filipino recipe portal and I would like to offer the meal planner to my subscribers as a value add. Kindly advise. Thanks.
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          • Profile picture of the author TalkingZero
            Does such a wordpress plugin exist yet? I am looking for a meal planning plugin as well.
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