Do you often find yourself staring into a half empty fridge desperate for inspiration on what to cook for dinner? Join the club.
If so, you’re gonna love these meal planning apps!
There are so many advantages to meal planning but, best of all, it keeps the cost of your weekly grocery shop down, saves time and reduces food waste.
I was once a fan of printable meal planners to get my kitchen in order, but I’m a sucker for a good app and the meal planning ones have so many cool features to make mum life easier.
Let me tell you all about them, including:
- What exactly is meal planning
- What a meal planning app actually does
- What to look for when choosing a meal planning app
- My pick of best meal planning apps
What exactly is meal planning
Meal planning is deciding in advance what meals to serve and ingredients to use for the day, week or month. Planning ahead is important to keep meal prep and shopping organised, especially if you are busy.
Meal planning is brilliant If you are a single mum (schedule grocery shipping when it’s convenient), you are trying to lose weight/eat healthier (track calories and nutrients), you are following a food budget (avoid food waste by doing a pantry inventory before grocery shopping) or you are preparing large amounts of food.
According to the Eat for Health Australia:
“Thinking ahead and planning meals and snacks for yourself or your family based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is the key to healthy eating and also the best way to lose weight. Planning helps manage the budget, makes shopping easier and maximises foods that are high in nutrients, but lower in kilojoules.”
What a meal planning app actually does
An app makes meal planning so much easier! Ingredients, shopping lists, menus and calendars are at your fingertips and you can customise meals based on your goals (lose weight, save money, etc.).
Most apps have a calendar feature that lets you plan meals for a day, week or month. Prepare meals for weeks in minutes with a few taps, reuse old menus and add notes. Some apps even track freezer meals, such as date cooked, serving size and number of meals.
This feature is super handy. Apps lets you create shopping and ingredient lists. Before you shop, list all the ingredients, track those already in your pantry and only buy those you need. See: 10 Ludicrously easy ways to save money on groceries.
Meal planning apps show recipes with nutrition information to make it a breeze to track kilojoules, carbs, fats and protein. Perfect if you’re following a specific diet or meal program.
Weekly meals will never be boring because you’ll never run out of ideas. Meal planning apps have thousands of recipes and menu suggestions. Plus tutorials if you get stuck …we’ve all been there!
Customise each meal
In the mood for comfort food? Or maybe it’s winter and you want some warming dishes to enjoy when you get home from work. Whether it’s for weight loss or healthy eating for the entire family, meal planning apps let you customise each meal.
Is your family tired of eating the same food every single day? I get it. It used to happen a lot in our house. Meal planning apps take the pain out of cooking up a delicious variety of dinners, lunches, breakfasts and snacks.
Easily track macros
For those who are on a special diet (diabetic, vegan, coeliac, etc.), meal planning apps make it super easy to monitor macros and nutrients. And if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s absolutely essential to plan meals and snacks ahead of time so you don’t consume excess calories.
Save money by only buying the ingredients you need. Check what’s already in the fridge and pantry before you head to the store, then schedule your shopping. Log promotions at your local Coles or Woolworths or favourite online store so you can take full advantage of specials.
What to look for when choosing a meal planning app
- Price. Many meal planning apps have a free version with basic features, which is enough for most users. Try out the free app or sign up for a free trial before you buy premium.
- Features. Shopping lists, recipes, nutrient tracking, videos, community support…choose the ones you need based on your goals.
- Goals. Whether you are following a specific diet or batch cooking for an event, there’s an app for that.
- Ease of use. Get a meal planner that’s easy to use if you’re a beginner.
My pick of best meal planning apps
If you need a solid meal planning app that’s free to use, Paprika is for you. The free version lets you create shopping lists, customise recipes and scale servings depending on your needs. While there is no recipe library, you can easily save your favourites from the internet and sync them to your laptop or desktop.
My favourite feature on Paprika: Free version that’s flexible and lets you download recipes.
Yummly’s recipe database (over 2 million) and video guides make it a must for the adventurous meal planner who loves variety. You’ll never run out of cooking inspo with the nearly endless options available, plus more features to be unlocked with a monthly fee. Other highlights: virtual pantry to track ingredients, calendar syncing, and online shopping integration.
My favourite feature on Yummly: Huge recipe library and virtual pantry to track and shop for ingredients.
Prepear allows you to organise your favourite recipes into shareable cookbooks, create customised meal plans, and make grocery lists in a snap. It's like your personal 3-ring recipe binder, but digital! It's available on Android and iOS. The free trial is good for 14 days, and they you will charged $9.99 per month (billed annually).
My favourite feature on Prepear: Definitely the integration with Walmart. You can have your groceries available for pickup or delivery straight from the app.
Plan to Eat is a paid meal planner with grocery lists, flexible meal plans and a great recipe organiser. It’s easy to add your own recipes, save your favourites from the internet and even share meal plans with your friends. You can try the app for free for 14 days, after which you get charged $4.95 per month or $39 per year.
My favourite feature on Plan To Eat: Detailed meal planner and recipe organiser.
Mealboard is an easy-to-use meal planning app for people on a budget. I love the feature that lets you add prices for ingredients and see the running total so you can stay on target and avoid waste. There’s no recipe database, however, and you have to build your pantry up from scratch. Mealboard is available on iOS and Android for $3.99.
My favourite feature on Mealboard: I like being able to stay on budget by adding prices to my grocery list.
Mealime (odd name isn’t it?) is another free meal planner with all the basic features, including grocery lists and a recipe library with quick and easy meals. This is a great app for time-poor mums or anyone who wants dinner on the table fast. The only downside is that you can’t save recipes from the web.
My favourite feature on Mealime: All the recipes I’ve tried are fast and easy to make. No disasters … yet.
Preparing healthy meals in large batches is a challenge that MealPrepPro makes manageable. This batch cooking app costs $6.99 and includes recipes, nutrition information, smart shopping lists, and syncing with Apple Health and Apple Watch. I’d recommend this meal planning app for busy people who don’t mind trading lack of variety for ease of meal prep.
My favourite feature on Meal Prep Pro: Ability to sync with other devices.
My final words: Great meal planning apps for families
Concluding this exploration of meal planning apps, it's clear how they've revolutionised my cooking and shopping routine. From a once-empty fridge, I've transitioned to effortlessly organised meals, all thanks to these tech-savvy solutions.
Just as a recipe thrives on well-chosen ingredients, selecting the right app is crucial. The marriage of technology and meal prep has birthed options catering to single parents, health enthusiasts, and budget-conscious shoppers. Customising meals to family preferences while adhering to financial limits has become a breeze.
Paprika offers robust versatility, Yummly opens the door to culinary exploration, while Mealboard provides budget-friendly planning. Each app has left a yummy mark on my cooking experience, making light work of planning, shopping, and cooking. With these apps, my dining table is set for delicious experiences ahead.