11 Best Meal Planning Apps & Websites to Save You Time, Money & Effort
Last Updated on
Meal planning is all the rage these days. Whether you subscribe to one of the best meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron or you are just trying to plan out meals and shopping trips for the week; it’s safe to assume you’re game for anything that will make your life just a wee bit easier.
Wait! Don’t apps and websites typically make your life easier? I mean, they must - given our phones and tablets are riddled with them.
So, what if someone were to list their favorite meal planning apps and websites, so all you had to do was give them a whirl?
Lucky for you, I’ve done that here.
Just know that these are my personal picks for some of the best meal planning websites. Something about each of them spoke to me and my situation.
“Krause! Party of 6!”...
Yeah, that’s me.
So… it’s safe to say I’ve looked into a lot of meal planning sites.
(Side note: If you'd like to learn how to save money on groceries and other "life expenses," then check out this book that contains of wealth of ideas on saving money and put it towards your important life goals.)
One - to save money.
Two- to save time.
Three - to stop ordering out or cooking frozen foods so dang much!
But, and there’s always a but, simplicity is a must, and a budget is just as important as diversity.
I’m a mom trying to eat (somewhat) healthy, and I also have young kids who can eat whatever they want. I have a husband who thinks he looks good for his age (and he does!) Beer and hoagies don’t affect him.
Clue me into that superpower!
So, what I need is a meal plan that ticks all of these boxes. Yours may be different. Each family is unique and has their own set of guidelines and necessities, and that is why I’ve included something for everyone in my meal planning app review.
The 11 best meal planning apps and websites.
Save time and money with these 11 meal planning apps:
If you'd like to jump ahead to a specific app, then here's a quick look at all the meal planning apps featured on this page:
So, if you are familiar with the Cozi Family Organizer, this is a nice little add on feature. If you haven’t tried it, I highly suggest giving it a whirl.
The Cozi Recipe Box & Dinner Planner is available online and as an app. Both offer an import feature that allows you to surf the web for recipes and connect them directly to your profile.
You also have the ability to create shopping lists from your recipes, as well as add them to your weekly calendar - perfect for meal planning!
Specific to the app is a Cooking Mode feature, allowing your screen to remain lit so there are no interruptions (well, except for maybe your kids) when you’re making dinner. It also helps eliminate the greasy fingers on the phone when you are trying to get back to the recipe.
Also, Cozi allows you to link to multiple devices for extra convenience.
Free to try for 14 days, monthly fee after that
Groceries can be delivered via eMeals partnerships with Amazon Fresh and local grocers, but it is not required. It also may not be available in your area. In some instances, curbside pickup may be available in your area as well.
eMeals offers a choice of 15 different food styles, including:
- Clean eating
- Quick and healthy
- Slow cooker
These are just naming a few of what they currently offer. There are also options for families of all sizes. A weekly plan features 7 new meal ideas and allows for unlimited switching between food styles. A smart shopping list is generated and auto-populates as you select your weekly meals.
eMeal plan costs after the free trial are as follows:
- 3-month Dinner Plan recurring subscription: $29.99
- 12-month Dinner Plan recurring subscription: $59.99
- 3-month All-Day Bundle recurring subscription: $39.99
- 12-month All-Day Bundle recurring subscription: $99.99
3. $5 Meal Plans
Free recipes, meal planning service additional after free trial, so $5 dinners is a bit of a mashup.
There are a few neat things going on here. For starters, you can choose to simply view the recipes and then print them out and go shopping. It is as easy as that. Kicking it old school.
Another option is to sign up for the $5 meal plan, and this is where it gets interesting. For just $5 per month, the company will send you a delicious meal plan, where every meal costs about $2 per person - and in most cases less.
The meal plan includes recipes and well-organized grocery lists, and there are also free coupons available. Five dollar meal plans currently offers Classic and Gluten-Free meal plan options.
In addition to the standard weekly meal plans, they offer 6-week specialty meal plans at a significant discount to the regular price. Six-week specialty plans follow a theme, and the plans are sent to you all at once, rather than over the course of six weeks.
Currently, 4 specialty plans are being offered:
- 30-Minute Meals
- Slow Cooker Meals
- Paleo Meals
- Vegetarian Meals
*Keep in mind that this is an online service only.
Mealime is a truly personalized meal planning companion. It allows you to identify which types of recipes you are interested in, including:
- Classic (no holds barred)
- Flexitarian (easy on the meat)
- Pescetarian (vegetarian and seafood)
- Plant-based meal/Vegan
- Low Carb
- Paleo (Caveman Style)
- Keto (ultra-low carb)
You can also note any allergies, such as peanut and dairy, so those recipes are excluded, as well as tell the app which foods you don’t like.
Finally, you can pick your serving size (2 or 4), and then the number of meals you’d like to make for the week (2, 4, 5 or 6) on your plan.
Once you’ve been given your meal plans, the grocery lists are automatically generated to make shopping a snap. Imagine getting your weekly shopping done in one hour or less! And, bonus, most meals are made in under 30 minutes!
It is easy to use with its user-friendly and customizable meal plans; however, one of its biggest drawbacks is that you are limited to the recipes that are available on the app. You cannot import your own recipes. Also, you cannot save any previously used meal plans or customize calorie preferences unless you upgrade to the pro version.
Mealime is available on Google Play and iTunes.
Touted as having one of the most extensive recipe collections, Yummly prides itself on providing you with delicious recipes that match your dietary restrictions and food preferences.
It offers everything from appetizers to smoothies and everything else from main courses to desserts. They have a sort feature that makes it easy to filter through whatever you have a hankering for that day.
Most unique, however, is Yummly’s relationship with Instacart. Instacart is a same-day grocery delivery service that partners with local stores.
So, when you put your zip code into Yummly’s database, the ingredients in the recipes you choose are automatically generated into a grocery list that is sorted by aisle for the store of your choosing. This speeds things up, should you choose not to have the items delivered.
There is also a coupon link that will pull up offers specific to the grocery store you’ve selected. It will then apply those savings directly to the order.
Pretty amazing, right?
Yummly also uses an algorithm to generate recipes based on your likes and dislikes, with the simple tap of a “yum” button. If you’re diet-conscious, the nutritional information for all of the recipes is included (calories, carbs, fat, and cholesterol).
If you’re using an app like My Fitness Pal, iTrackBites or Weight Watchers, this is a primo feature! Yummly is both an app and a website so you can browse and save recipes that are specifically tailored to your own personal tastes and preferences.
It even provides you with the opportunity to filter your recipes based on skill level and those that have videos, so it is perfect for those novice home cooks looking to learn and refine their skills in the kitchen.
One of the biggest drawbacks to Yummly is that there is no calendar-style meal plan. However, this may not be an issue for you if this isn't a feature you are looking to have with your meal planning app.
The Yummly meal planning app is available on Google Play and iTunes.
This unique meal planning app brings social media into the kitchen with its collection of over 50,000 recipes created by home chefs. You can even follow your favorites for inspiration!
Your feed is personalized - growing smarter with every recipe you save and make, and which cooks you follow. You can rate dishes as well. And, as with similar planning apps, you can search by keyword and cuisine - even dietary restrictions.
But for me, the standout feature with this app is the one that allows you to enter your zip code to find “on sale” items at local stores that are relevant to your recipe and makes meal planning easy.
Now that’s nifty!
The Allrecipes meal planning app is available for download on Google Play, iTunes, Kindle, and Windows Phone.
Note: This is not an “ad free” app, and there are currently no upgrades available to make it so.
7. Pepper Plate
Pepper Plate allows you to login using your Facebook account, and even share recipes that way, not to mention Twitter and email as well.
Like its competitors, Pepper Plate allows you to import and sort recipes, as well as automatically generate grocery lists. However, a COOK NOW feature is where Pepper Plate stands out. This tool allows the use of multiple timers (on your smartphone or tablet) for all of the recipes on your menu. So, there is no need to worry about overcooking the pasta while sautéing the chicken.
Pepper Plate is available for download on Google Play, iTunes, Amazon App Store, Windows Store, and Nook.
8. Meal Planner Pro
Save Time. Save Money. Eat Healthy.
That is the Meal Planner Pro tagline.
It encourages healthy eating and incorporates that into your weekly meal planning routine by first allowing you to set up profiles for every member of the family.
Furthermore, their database includes more than just dinner ideas. Their menu also includes healthy breakfast and lunch recipes as well. And that’s something you don’t get with most meal delivery services.
The ProScore System is the app’s equivalent to having your own nutritionist. ProScore highlights the good and bad nutritional values of each item and then assigns it a score of 1-100.
The site also offers personalized meal planning and support for things such as:
- Diabetes (all types)
- Lactose intolerance
- Weight management and weight loss
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Digestive Health
- Gluten Intolerance
You can save your favorite recipes and put them directly onto your calendar for the week... even months!
This makes meal planning a snap! And when you’re creating your grocery list, you’ll be given images and nutrition information for all ingredients… even the warning labels, so you will know if it contains something you or a loved one can’t have.
9. Plan to Eat
Free to try for 30 days, $4.95/month or $39/year after that
Perhaps the most basic app at first glance, Plan to Eat has a few surprises for health-conscious meal planners.
First and foremost, by simply bookmarking the Plan to Eat webpage, you are able to scour the likes of Pinterest or Delish and simply click the recipes you like to automatically add them to your meal plan.
Additionally, the user interface is extremely intuitive, making it a cinch to drag and drop items to populate your meal planner for the week. This is also super helpful if one person is trying to eat gluten-free, while also planning regular meals for kids at the same time.
Speaking of kids - if you bookmark the site on their personal devices as well, they are able to log in and see what’s planned for dinner. Older kids may even be able to get the meal started with the recipe right in front of them.
Do I hear allowance money?
You can also add notes to the planner if leftovers are on the agenda, which cuts back on doubling the ingredients in the shopping list.
The Staples List is a great place to add common, and often forgotten, items to your shopping list. Just click to add the staple to your weekly shopping list, without having to re-enter it time and again.
Got questions? No worries. Plan to Eat has top-notch customer service agents willing and eager to help.
This app is ideal for people who already have a pretty decently sized recipe collection or even for those who love to look around on the internet for new recipes. This is because it does not come with a preset recipe database.
The Plan to Eat app is available online, as well as via Google Play and iTunes.
10. Big Oven
Free, pro membership available for $1.99 per month, or $19.99 per year
Yes, this meal planning app offers more than 350,000 recipes to inspire you! And, yes, it offers a snapshot feature where you can take pics of family recipes, and Big Oven will upload them into your recipe collection for you.
You can comment on recipes and receive notification of feedback, and then create a grocery list that can be shared by other members of the family. These are all awesome features, but cooking with leftovers is this app’s bread and butter, so to speak.
With Big Oven, simply choose up to 3 leftovers/ingredients and the app will tell you what you can create! For instance:
- London broil
I typed these in, and Big Oven suggested:
- Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
- Irish stew
There were other suggestions, but these three recipes utilized all three ingredients I typed in. Other recipes were just using one or two of the ingredients as a springboard to something else.
Either way, pretty cool.
2 weeks free, $4.95 per month after
Deals to Meals claims to be a one of a kind service! Touting itself as the only meal planning service online that bases its weekly meal plans around the best grocery deals in your area.
Basically, all of your meals will be planned around sale items, which will save you hundreds of dollars each month. The weekly meal planner provides you with one week’s worth of:
- Main dishes
- Side dishes
- Food storage recipes
The food storage specific recipes are perfect for those nights when you are short on time!
Meal planning doesn’t get much simpler. As for the shopping, you can elect to create your own grocery list... or have one generated for you.
Separate from the meal planning service, Deals to Meals offers an option to save up to 70% on groceries without using coupons.
Every week, you will be given a comparison breakdown of the major grocery stores’ deals to Costco, Sam’s Club, and Walmart. Then, Deals to Meals will tell you where the best deals are in your area to save you the most money; promising savings upwards of $100’s a month, all for just over $1 a week.
In fact, the company guarantees you save more than your membership rate, or they will refund you. Refund sounds like no-risk, and I like the sound of that!
WARNING: If you live outside the USA - this is not the app for you.
12. Make My Plate
Free version available as well as paid customizable meal plans
The Make My Plate app is the ideal meal planning option for those who are new to the world of cooking and meal planning. It is a simple app to use and makes it easy to get started. However, if you or your family get tired of the same entrees, then you may want to look for a different app.
With this app, you can select all your meals for the week and then have everything organized into a grocery list automatically. With the free version of this app, you can choose from 1200, 1500, or 1800 calorie meal plans and have access to the templates for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Have food allergies? You can customize according to these dietary restrictions as well.
Make My Plate has each of their meals represented with a photograph on a virtual plate. This helps if you are concerned about your portion control and learning what different portions actually look like.
One of the biggest disadvantages of this meal planning app would have to be the limited selection of food and recipes that are available. They are basic recipes and don't give you as many choices as some of the other apps may.
Available for download on iPhone and Android as well as an online version.
And now to sum it up…
Meal planning sites and apps are pretty much all over the place these days. And, quite honestly, they all offer many of the same features.
So, it’s really a bit of trial and error when it comes to finding the one that best suits you.
I’ve tried my best to wrangle up some of the better ones…
Regardless of which you choose, you should be on the lookout for these things:
- Free, or free trial
- Menu/recipe variety
- Automatically generated grocery list
- Calendar sync
- Available as an app
Most of the ones I suggested are free, so I implore you to check them all out if your data plan allows. Not to mention, many are accessible on the web. So, there is really no excuse.
Meal planning works! You’ve just got to commit to it. And if you haven’t got the time or desire, let these sites and apps do it for you! Especially when so many of them are FREE!
Finally, if you'd like to learn a few simple hacks for saving money at the cash register, then be sure to check out my book "Stack Your Savings".)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.