It’s a New Year, and it’s time to start off right. Is part of your New Years Resolution to get organized? Perhaps you want to get fit? Or maybe you want to save some money? If any of those are your goals, it’s time to start meal planning.
We are big proponents of meal planning here at The Kitchen Chalkboard. The benefits are huge. But starting out can be daunting, to say the least. There are so many ways to meal plan it’s hard to know what to do.
Technology to the rescue! We reviewed twelve different meal planning apps and the experience varied from life-changing to frustrating. Want to learn what the best meal planning apps of 2020 are?
Let’s go to The Chalkboard.
Why Meal Planning?
First things first let’s define meal planning. Meal planning is when you take some time to think about what you are going to cook. From there you food shop so that you have all of the essentials to create the meals. The length of the plan and the type of meals varies, but the idea is the same for everyone. You pick recipes and plan to cook them.
The benefits of meal planning are plenty. You will save a ton of time by not having to think about what to cook every day and stop unnecessary trips to the store to grab missing ingredients. You will also save money by utilizing the ingredients on hand and not throwing out all of those vegetables you optimistically purchased.
How To Meal Plan
There are a lot of factors to consider when creating a meal plan for your family. Each will be as unique as the family it is for. If you are interested in learning how to meal plan check out our Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning. In it, you will learn how to create a meal plan that is filled with recipes everyone loves and that you will stick with. A quick outline can be found below.
- Review your calendar. Check to see what your time allotment to cook is along with any commitments you have.
- Do a kitchen inventory. Check your refrigerator and pantry for items that need to be used up soon.
- Find recipes that fit your time allotment and include any ingredients you wish to use up.
- Fill your calendar with those meals.
- Make a grocery list using the ingredients in your chosen recipes.
- Cook and enjoy!
Do You Need A Meal Planning App?
You can certainly plan meals without the help of an app. We’ve been doing it for years with no problems. That being said, an app can certainly save you a bunch of time, especially if you are new to meal planning.
When you are just starting out, you may not have many recipes that you like to cook. These apps often come with huge recipe databases. You simply pick what to cook and it populates a shopping list — it could not be easier!
Also, we found that meal planning apps were very accommodating to various diets and food aversions. They allow you to choose which foods leave out of recipes and offer simple food swaps to help accommodate.
The bottom line is that meal planning apps can save you time and money.
Meal Planning Apps Vs. Recipe Organizing Apps Vs. Meal Prep Apps
With the plethora of options out there it is important to note that there are apps to help you meal plan, organize recipes and meal prep. They are not one and the same.
Meal planning apps are meant to help you with that process. They have calendar features and often come preloaded with a database of recipes so you can simply click and go. Recipe organizers, on the other hand, are first and foremost there to do that job (we’ve reviewed them here). Sometimes they offer the option to plan meals but their main job is to be a digital recipe box. Meal prep apps assist you in making full meals ahead of time to eat for several days. These apps will mostly provide recipes for this type of cooking.
What Makes The Best Meal Planning Apps of 2020?
There are so many options out there. We reviewed the top 12 apps and could have certainly reviewed many more. So, what does it take to become one of the best meal planning apps of 2020? We evaluated them on the following criteria.
Ease of Use
Nowadays people’s expectations of technology are high. Especially if you are using it with the intention of saving time, the app needs to be intuitive and simple to use.
Bang For Your Buck
If you are forking over your hard-earned cash, you want some return on that investment. We looked to see if the cost was appropriate based on the features it offered and the potential savings the user received.
What does the app offer you as the user? Do the features add to the experience and help you reach your goals?
Without further adieu, let’s get to it and learn what are the best meal planning apps of 2020.
Best Free Meal Planning App with Recipes – Mealime
There’s a reason this app has over 29,000 reviews on iTunes. It is a powerhouse. Mealime is super simple to use and the interface is slick. You start by inputting any food dislikes, allergies, and special diets. From there, you can have them make you a meal plan or chose from the recipes their database populates. You then add the recipe to the day and Mealime creates a shopping list for you.
Mealime does a lot right. The recipes are well-written and include what to prep as you go as well as the amount of the ingredient needed within the instructions. This may seem so simple but it saves you from scrolling up and back to see amounts. If you are a new cook especially, these simple tweaks are huge. Why aren’t all recipes written this way?
The app has the option to integrate your shopping list with online grocers. When we tested it, only Walmart worked. If Mealime can get Instacart, AmazonFresh, and others to integrate, that would be huge! Although with algorithms constantly changing from these companies it may be a tough task to have that feature consistently working.
There are a few things that Mealime doesn’t do. You are only able to create meal plans for two weeks out. I know a lot of people that aren’t big fans of meal planning and prefer to do this chore just once a month. The photos on the app are all taken with similar backgrounds and the same filter. While it makes for a beautiful look, it makes it tough to distinguish between recipes and chose the right one for you since no one recipe really stands out. Also, while Mealime is very accommodating to special diets and allergies, other apps have the option for family-friendly meals which Mealime doesn’t.
Mealime’s basic app is free to use. If you upgrade to their Pro version it’s $49.99 a year or $5.99 a month. The Pro Version allows you to import recipes, access pro-only recipes, track the nutritional value of meals, sync with Apple Health, as well as advanced recipe filters.
Best Meal Planning App For Families – Plan To Eat
Another popular app is Plan to Eat. The idea is simple. You add your recipes to the app and then add them to the calendar. The import feature works better than most other apps we have tried, and the shopping list is organized well. It is the best-looking list we have seen. You can easily see what meal is added to a day and plan a month’s worth of meals in no time. After testing the app you can really tell that the developers are a team that understands what it takes to be successful at meal planning.
Other unique features of Plan To Eat are the options to create freezer meals and plan for leftovers as a meal. These go a long way in saving time, money and reducing food waste. You can make the app social by adding friends to share recipes. We can’t see that being used very often and we wish the app included some recipes as inspiration for our meal plans. But those are minor gripes for this overall great meal planning app for families.
Plan To Eat has a free 30-day trial with no money required to start. After that, it is $4.95 a month and $39 a year.
Best Meal Planning App For Those Trying to Lose Weight – Meal Prep Pro
Developed by the creators of the popular Fit Men Cook website, Meal Prep Pro is a wonderful app to use if you are trying to lose weight or want to complement a fitness goal. Don’t let the meal prep in the name fool, you this app is for meal planning with those with specific nutrition and fitness goals in mind.
You enter your goals along with how many meals you would like to plan for and how much time you have to cook them. Meal Prep Pro then creates a customized meal plan just for you. The recipes are simple and well-written and list complete nutrition information. You can track water consumption as well. The app is easy to navigate and provides you with all of the data you would want it there. They manage to give you a ton of information while not overwhelming you.
If your goal is to lose weight and or get fit, this app is worth checking out. Meal Prep Pro offers a free 7-day trial and from there it is $47.99 a year or $5.99 a month.
What Are The Best Meal Planning Apps of 2020?
Overall in a large group of meal planning apps, these three apps stood out and were very impressive. We would happily recommend Mealime, Plan To Eat, and Meal Prep Pro to anyone looking to use technology to help them plan their meals.
What do you think? Do you meal plan? If you have any tips or tricks that help you to be successful, comment below. We would love to hear them.