Planning out meals is one of the best ways to eat healthier, cut calories, lose weight, and feed the whole family fast. It’s also pretty hard to do — but the right app can make your modern meals a whole lot easier to create, shop for, and prepare. Take a look at the best meal-planning apps that are ready to step up to the plate to give you a helping hand.
If you need some help and some company in the kitchen, Allrecipes Dinner Spinner’s food-centric social app, with its community of more than 30 million home cooks, can help you put some variety in your dietary life. This personalized app gets smarter as you follow, save, or prepare various dishes. Tailor your selections by searching by keyword or ingredients to focus on dietary needs and time restrictions and then use the app to save, create, organize, and share recipe collections. You can also economize by cooking what’s on sale near you, and the app can suggest recipes when you walk to certain stores. Tap to add full recipes or ingredients to your shopping list, which you can cook with the help of some 1,000 step-by-step cooking videos, complete with cooking instructions.
Veganized is a plant-based diet meal planner that lets you search, create, and share vegan recipes and track your nutrition. It helps you plan meals and create shopping and grocery lists to gather all the items you need to prepare vegan recipes. As a recipe app with a social networking platform, you can find new recipes and create and share your own recipes with the community. A nutrients function lets you check all energy, macronutrient distribution, fiber, vitamin, and mineral information for each dish. Veganized helps you plan your meals every day and personalizes nutrient intake according to your age, gender, weight, and level of physical activity. And it generally helps to promote a vegan diet and lifestyle.
Mealime (no, not a typo) is designed around planning family or guest meals the easy way. You can create profiles of everyone you are cooking for, which can list likes, dislikes, general eating habits, allergies, and so on. You can also create profiles for couples or whole families to make planning a little easier. You can then look for recipes that match all those requirements. Pick one, and it gives you full instructions and can automatically add the necessary ingredients to your grocery list. Most recipes are focused on fast prep times around 30 minutes, so you may be able to save even more time in the kitchen. Recent updates to the app include new recipes, retooled older recipes, six-person servings and custom serving sizes, improvements to delivery integration with Instacart, revamped recipe descriptions and history, and the ability to share your list with other apps, print from your phone, or share with your family members inside the app.
FoodPlanner is based around recipes. It allows you to browse the web for healthy recipes and download them onto the app. It gives you the nutritional data for the meals and allows you to automatically generate a shopping list. An extra inventory-management system for the truly serious foodie allows you to keep track of your current ingredients, and you can also make recipes from scratch if you wish. There are sharing features as well.
MealPlan presents you with meal tags that you can drag and drop into a weekly schedule to quickly plan your meals (and even email them to other people). The tags make it easy to search for specific meals, and can automatically generate grocery lists for you. You can also tweak meals to add snacks, put in links to specific recipes, or remove certain meals entirely. You can search for new meals and generate a tag for them, too. There’s a learning curve, but it’s a fun system, particularly if you have an iPad or an Apple Watch.
Do you love to customize every little detail? Then MealBoard may be the app for you. It acts like many of the other apps on our list, with a search function for meals pulled from the internet, the ability to plan out meals on a calendar, and the option to generate a grocery list. But a couple of features make it unique: The interface is particularly pleasant to use and easy to customize, and there’s a pantry mode that allows you to move ingredients to your pantry when you buy them and remove them when you run out.
Here’s a different approach: If your primary goal is to lose weight, then Eat This Much encourages you to enter your food preferences, how much money you want to spend, your schedule, and how many calories the meals will contain. It will then generate meal plans for you and provide grocery lists for the ingredients. If you like cooking (as opposed to meal delivery) but want to develop healthier eating habits, this app could help you do just that. Recent versions add the option to count and generate food based on net carbs. Subscribers can now order groceries online through AmazonFresh. Food Search has been overhauled, allowing you to browse multiple categories of foods at once, with your favorites easier to find, while clarifying the distinction between different food genres.
Lose It! is a weight-loss app, but instead of recording the number of calories you want per meal, you just set general goals and a bodyweight target that you want to reach. Then you accurately track what you are eating and what sort of exercise you are getting. The app includes a food database with millions of options to choose from, a scanning function so you can instantly add purchased foods, and even some photo recognition for basic foods. It’s ideal if you like to combine planning with tracking. In recent updates the app now sends recipe ingredients as separate food items to the Apple Health App.
Paprika Recipe Manager 3 is an interactive meal planner. In addition to the usual features like finding recipes online, building automatic grocery lists, and planning meals for the week or month, it provides tools that you can use to go deeper. Automatically scale ingredients, cross them off as you add them to your dish, post photos to your recipes, and customize your grocery categories based on how you like to shop — there are tons of ways to make sure everything is just the way you like it. Newer versions add the ability to search recipe descriptions and better sync performance.
Yummly is a food-sharing and recipe-finding app that features plenty of vivid photos and a rating system to help you find the most popular (or at least the most talked-about) recipes online. When it comes time to actually make the dish, Yummly can also supply video guides, and even recommends food. If you have your meal routine worked out but need some help finding the right recipes, Yummly is a great, albeit more casual, app. Recent updates include Ingredient Recognition wherein Yummly uses real-time image recognition to detect the ingredients you have on hand and recommends the best recipes to make with them. A new Pro version is now available for $5 per month that features hands-on cooking lessons from famous chefs from around the world.