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, all totally free and ready to help out.
Mealime (forgive the play on words) is designed around planning family meals or meals for guests 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, whole families, and so on to make planning a little easier. You can then look for recipes that match all your 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.
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 meal and allows you to automatically generate a shopping list. An extra inventory-management system for the truly serious allows you to keep track of your current ingredients, and you can also make recipes from scratch if you wish. There are sharing features, but they are Android-focused.
Mealplan presents you with meal tags that you can drag and drop into a weekly schedule to quickly form your meal plans (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 if you have other plans. 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 put in 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.
Lose It! is also a weight-loss app, but instead of putting in the number of calories you want per meal, you just set general goals and a body weight target that you want to reach. Then you track what you are eating (remember to be accurate) 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.
Paprika Recipe Manager 3 (to give it its full title) is a very interactive kind of meal planner. In addition to the usual features like finding recipes online, building automatic grocery lists, and planning meals for the week or month, there are also tools that you can use to go deeper. Automatically scale ingredients, cross them off as you add them, add 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.
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 recipe, Yummly can also supply video guides, and even recommends food for your mealtimes. If you have your meal routine pretty well down but need some help finding the right recipes, Yummly is a great, albeit more casual, app.