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Can Technology Take the Work Out of Meal Planning?

posted Aug 7, 2015, 10:18 AM by Julia Quam   [ updated Nov 4, 2015, 12:32 PM ]


This month, we’re all about fresh ideas to make it easier for you and your family to eat better. Meal planning is the key to making healthy weeknight meals happen, and our newsletter is chock full of tips for getting started. But whether you’re overwhelmed by managing your family’s favorite recipes or you’re a novice cook and don’t know where to get started with homemade meals, meal planning apps can help!

There are two main types of meal planning apps: the first category is more appropriate if you already have a collection of favorite recipes or if you like searching for new recipes on the web. These apps let you import recipes from the web or input your favorite recipes by hand. Once your recipes are in the app, you can tell it which dishes you want to cook on which days. The app will then generate a grocery list that you can take to the store to make sure you don’t forget anything.

There are many apps in this category, but four came up several times in our internet searches. Plan to Eat and Paprika are both considered easy to use, but unfortunately, neither app is free. Pepperplate is free and its distinguishing feature is that it will walk you through each recipe step-by-step when it’s time to cook. It even includes multiple timers that will remind you when it’s time to check the pasta or pull the casserole out of the oven. MealBoard also costs money and is only available for Apple devices, but it can help you keep track of what you have in the fridge and pantry, helping you plan meals based on leftovers. This can reduce food waste and save you money.

The second category of apps is for people who want a more detailed meal plan. Rather than having you import your own recipes, these apps ask you your dietary and cooking preferences, then give you a meal plan for the week complete with recipes and shopping lists. This can make meal planning a snap, but some users may miss the ability to use their own family favorite recipes.

Two popular apps in this category include Cook Smarts and Meal Planning by Food on the Table. Cook Smarts isn’t free, but it provides step-by-step video tutorials for recipes, making it a good choice for novice cooks who want to improve their cooking skills. Each meal plan also makes use of leftovers.  Meal Planning by Food on the Table also costs money and is only available for Apple devices right now, but it is a nice option for the budget conscious because it can help you find deals on ingredients at stores near you.

For more information, check out these reviews of meal planning apps: Five Best Meal Planning Apps, Ten Meal Planning Apps. And if you give any of them a try, let us know how it goes the next time you see one of our dietitians in your café!

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