Meal planning is one of those things that once you start, you say, “How did I ever live without it?”
There is literally no downside to meal planning. It eliminates decision fatigue each day because you already know what’s on the menu, plus it saves time, headache, hassle, and ultimately, money. No more last-minute sprints to the local, more expensive supermarket because you’ve forgotten an ingredient. No more ordering takeout because you don’t know what to make or have a bare pantry. No more awkward silences when your kids ask incessantly, “What’s for dinner?”
Meal planning is literally one of the easiest ways to make your life, well, easier. And fortunately, there are plenty of apps to help you do meal planning exactly the way you want to do it. We’ve rounded up the top 10 meal planning apps on the market, so whether you want an app that will create meal plans for you, store your recipes, order ingredients online, or help you stay healthy, you’re sure to find one that’s right for you.
Mealime is a great meal planning app for anyone who wants to maintain a healthy way of eating. All you need to do is create a profile, add your food preferences, and the app will then curate a list of meal choices, including keto, paleo, and vegan. You then choose your weekly meals and the ingredients can be automatically added to Amazon Fresh or Instacart.
Mealime is a free app but can be upgraded to Pro for $5.99/month or $49.99/year.
Paprika is a recipe manager and meal planner in one. You can build your recipe collection by inputting your favorites manually or saving them to the app directly from the web. One nice feature is that recipes can be automatically scaled up or down to suit the number of servings you need. Other extras include keeping your screen lit when you’re working from a recipe and built-in cooking timers. One of the best features is that Paprika creates a customized grocery list based on your meal plan, consolidating ingredients when necessary so you don’t overbuy.
The main drawback of Paprika is that it’s not free. The cost ranges from $5.99 to $29.99, depending on the device you use. And your membership can’t be synced across devices. If you purchase for Windows, you’ll need to purchase a separate app for your iOS or Android device.
PlateJoy is the most accommodating app for people who want to eat healthy, don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen, and have specific dietary restrictions. When you register, you take a lifestyle survey, which includes questions about your food preferences, allergies, calorie goals, fitness routine, and general schedule. The app then creates a unique meal plan for you, complete with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Plans are created by nutritionists who are available to consult via phone or chat.
And what meal planning app would be complete if it didn’t offer an automatically generated shopping list based on your meal plan? The shopping list can be directly integrated with Instacart and other grocery delivery services so you kill 2 birds with 1 stone.
PlateJoy offers a 10-day free trial, but after that, this health-conscious service will cost you. Users can choose between a 6-month subscription for $69 and a 12-month subscription for $99. However, if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, some insurance policies will cover the cost of PlateJoy’s Diabetes Prevention Program.
Launched 10 years ago, Plan to Eat is an easy-to-use recipe organizer and meal planner that’s all about staying organized, eating healthy, and saving time and money. It’s marketed as an app for DIYers, meaning, there is no database of recipes, but rather, you choose what you eat and how you plan your week. You can upload your own recipes or import from the web. As you create your weekly menu, ingredients get added to your shopping list, which you can arrange according to the layout of your supermarket. You can also create a Staples List, where you can add common staples so you never have to worry about forgetting them or entering them over and over again.
Nutritional information is given for each recipe, and you can add notes and comments. Plan to Eat also allows you to share recipes and meal plans with friends and family.
The cost is $4.95/month or $39/year after a 30-day free trial.
Cozi is most known for being a family organizer that includes shared calendars, to-do lists, a family journal, and other features. One of those other features is the Cozi Recipe Box & Dinner Planner, which allows you to save recipes from your favorite sites, add the ingredients to your grocery list, and create your family’s weekly meal plan. Cozi has a few nice extras, like Cooking Mode, which allows your screen to stay lit as you follow the recipe, and the ability to link multiple devices.
Cozi Family Organizer is a free app, and its entire meal planning feature can also be used for free. However, if you want an ad-free version, you can pay a few extra dollars a month.
Pepperplate is a meal planning app that allows you to organize your tried-and-tested recipes, while at the same time, receive suggestions of new recipes you might like. Pepperplate can become your go-to digital recipe book, not only storing recipes but also helping you build menus and plan your week.
Like some of its competitors, Pepperplate allows you to share your favorite recipes with family and friends. Plus, it allows you to generate shopping lists from your weekly menu plan (although it doesn’t direct you to an online grocery delivery site). Pepperplate also has a Cook Mode that keeps your screen lit so you don’t have to touch your phone with greasy hands.
There are 2 standout features of Pepperplate: it’s available on many devices, including Google Play, iTunes, Amazon App Store, Windows Store, and Nook. And, it’s free. In other words, it offers a lot of the same features that other meal planning apps offer, but at zero cost to you
BigOven is a meal planning app that includes its own collection of half a million recipes to choose from. At the same time, it allows you to import recipes from the web or take photos of handwritten recipes and upload them to the app. Recipes can be organized by category and filter so you can easily find the meal you’re craving. As you add meals to your schedule, you can add ingredients to your shopping list.
One really cool aspect of BigOven is the Use Up Leftovers feature, which allows you to type in whatever ingredients you want to use up, and the app will generate recipe options for you. The main drawback of the app is that not all features are available in the free version.
If you want to get the full list of benefits from BigOven, it pays to splurge for the $2.99/month plan or $24.99/year. There’s a free trial available for both so you can try it out with no commitment.
Eat This Much is a combination meal planner and calorie counter. When you sign up, you enter personal data, including height, weight, and health goals. You also provide information about your food preferences (paleo, vegetarian, vegan, Mediterranean, etc.), how much money you want to spend, and your schedule. The app then generates a meal plan for you, along with a list of ingredients that can be purchased from online grocery sites.
You can also import recipes from the web or manually, calculate the calorie count of popular restaurant dishes, and use the unique barcode scanner to find out the nutritional value of packaged grocery items. Eat This Much also includes a pantry feature, so once you finish shopping, you can record what items you have in your pantry so you don’t overbuy.
With Eat This Much you have to opt for the paid version to take advantage of the meal planner. The Premium plan costs $4.99/month when you pay annually, or $8.99/month when you pay monthly.
Allrecipes has been around for years and has established itself as an authority on user-reviewed recipes. Its Dinner Spinner app has a community of over 50 million cooks and 50,000 recipes. Essentially, it’s a social app that revolves around food — it has a feed that gets smarter the more you use it, providing suggestions based on cooks you follow and recipes you make. You can search for recipes based on keywords, ingredients, dietary restrictions, and time constraints. You can also create shopping lists based on your recipes, and the really nice touch is that Allrecipe shows you which ingredients are on sale locally.
Allrecipes is available on multiple devices and it’s completely free.
Prepear is considered the meal planning app for foodies, so it’s no wonder that many popular food bloggers have partnered with it. Prepear has a database of over 100,000 rated recipes that have been uploaded by its community of users. You can also upload your own recipes and set up your food preferences so you’re only shown recipes that are relevant. Once you’ve found recipes you like, you can put them into your weekly meal planner. Ingredients get added to your shopping list, which you can order from within the app.
Like Allrecipes Dinner Spinner, Prepear includes a social feed that allows you to interact with and draw inspiration from fellow foodies.
Prepear has a free version and a paid version for $59/year.
As you can see, every one of the top 10 meal planning apps has its own unique angle and area in which it shines. The one thing that all of them have in common is that they will save you time, money, and frustration. While it might take a brief adjustment period to get into the habit of planning your meals, once you do, your life will never be the same.