If you’re anything like me, food can be a hassle, turn into a spending frenzy, or even nightmare on some occasions. You’ve got food going to waste, you’re spending too much on food in the first place, or you don’t have all the ingredients you need when you need them.
You’ve heard of meal planning, but the thought of designing specific plans for every meal of the week seems so time consuming and energy sucking. You already spend too much time thinking about food. So, why would you want to spend even more time thinking about it?
Those reasons, and more, are why meal planning apps are worth considering.
WHY YOU SHOULD MEAL PLAN
WITH A MEAL PLANNING APP
There are a host of reasons you might want to consider installing a meal planning app on your phone, or tablet.
Here are just a few I’ve found most helpful myself:
While we’d love to think everyone can spend as much as they want on food, the reality is that most of us need to stick to a budget. And that can be tough when you don’t meal plan. When you go into a grocery store with just basic food items in mind, it’s much easier to pick up extras, get too little of a particular ingredient, or get too much.
With a meal planning app, you have created a list of meals that you’ll prepare for the week, based on the typical cost of the foods you like to eat, and therefore, you can make a list of ingredients, with enough portions in mind for the week.
Instead of going into the store and buying a loaf of bread every week, because that’s what you’ve always done, you can go into the store and not buy a loaf one week, because sandwiches aren’t on the menu.
Or, if you’re like me and gluten-free, you can get that extra expensive loaf of gluten-free bread this week because grilled cheese is the luxury item you’ve chosen for the week. And since you planned on it, that extra $7 won’t break your budget.
LESS FOOD WASTAGE
When you create a meal plan, you only purchase the food items needed for the plan for the week.
That means you don’t wind up buying three heads of lettuce because it’s on sale. And that means two of those heads don’t go bad because you forgot that you bought so much.
When you purchase only what’s on your ingredients list for the week, you’ll find you don’t overstock the cabinets, and don’t overbuy perishable items that may go bad before you can use them.
WEIGHT LOSS HELP
Meal planning helps you avoid overeating, which is a huge thing for those who struggle to lose the unhealthy fat on their bodies.
Meal planning builds in accountability, as well, and helps you put your willpower towards better tasks, since you didn’t buy any of the junk food and don’t have to now say “no” to that box of Cheez-Its every time you open the cabinets.
One of the big ways meal planning saves you time is through knowing ahead of time what you’ll be cooking. That means no searching the internet for recipes for the odd mishmash you’ve got left in the fridge on Friday night. It also means no time is wasted dawdling around, wondering what you’d like to order in.
Meal planning also allows you to make “bulk” meals in advance on Sunday night before the work week kicks in. If you’re going to have chili, for example, you can get a big pot of chili going in your crockpot on Sunday night while you’re tucking the kids into bed.
If you cook meals upfront, you might actually have time to watch a movie with your spouse, or have a game night that lasts more than 30 minutes.
EASIER GROCERY SHOPPING
Many meal planning apps create grocery shopping lists for you, based on the menu you create for the week.
If, for example, you decide you’re going to go way out from your norm and try your hand at sushi making, the recipes you choose for the California Roll and Spicy Tuna Sashimi will translate the ingredients to your advanced grocery shopping list.
Most of these apps organize your grocery lists into logical sections, as well, such as all proteins together, and produce together.
That means you’ll find that the vermicelli, sweet potato noodles, and sweet and sour sauce are listed together, which means easier shopping, since those are all going to be found in the Asian or international food section.
SOME OF THE BEST MEAL PLANNING APPS AVAILABLE
Free Meal Planning Apps
Mealime is specifically designed around planning meals for more than one person. It’s great specifically for families, or for those who host meals for others on the regular.
You can create profiles for everybody you cook for, meaning you can list likes, dislikes, allergies, and general eating habits. You can create profiles for couples, too, or a family as a whole.
So, if you invite the same family over regularly, you can plan around their needs and allergy issues without a problem.
Then, you can look through the recipes available to find meals that match all the requirements for family and friends joining you. Once you pick one, the ingredients automatically get uploaded to your grocery list.
Most recipes available through Mealime take about 30 minutes preparation time, meaning you free up even more time in life.
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Pepperplate is an app that focuses around organizing your recipe collection, and planning your meals on those. It also builds easy to use grocery lists.
You can easily import recipes from around the web by pasting the web URL into the given location, or manually enter recipes from your favorite cookbooks. Once you’ve got a great collection going, you can build your menus more easily, both for regular meal planning and for special events.
The app generates an easy to use shopping list to take to the grocery with you, and lets you mark off ingredients once you’ve grabbed them from the shelves.
Pepperplate also allows you to share your recipes, meal plans, and shopping lists with others, if you want to pass shopping off to the teenage daughter.
Pepperplate also has the unique feature of walking you through the recipe preparations, along with timers, to make sure you don’t burn foods, and keep things simmering long enough for the best result.
This awesome little app is perfect for planning your kids’ lunches to take with them. The kids are involved, helping you know what foods sound good to them, through a fun game-play format.
LaLa Lunchbox has dietary plans available to help avoid allergens, food sensitivities, and other food related issues.
The BigOven app is perfect for anyone who wants to use only fresh, seasonal ingredients. The database has over 350,000 recipes to help you prepare the perfect meals. Seasonal collections of the recipes on your home screen ensure you’re using fresh, in-season ingredients, for the healthiest, most environmentally friendly meals all year round.
The BigOven app also has the nifty feature for using up leftover ingredients. Type in the three ingredients you’ve got left, and a recipe will pop up, suggesting how to best use those ingredients.
Paid Meal Planning Apps
Mealplan+ is a super easy to use meal planning app that has meal tags that you can drag and drop into a weekly scheduler for easy meal planning. You can even email these to other people, if they’re looking for suggestions, or need an ingredients list. These meal tags make searching for specific meals super easy.
Mealplan automatically creates a grocery list for you, and lets you put links in for recipes, tweak meals to add snacks, or eliminate meals entirely if you change your plans.
There’s a little bit of learning curve for Mealplan+, but once you’ve learned, this is a fun system, especially is you have an iPad on which to use it.
Paprika is an especially interactive meal planner. It’s got the usual features for finding recipes online, building automatic grocery lists, and meal planning for the week or month, but it’s also got some tools that let you go deeper into planning.
You can automatically scale ingredients, cross them off as you add them to recipes, take photos of your meals, and customize your grocery list categories based on how you shop.
Basically, Paprika is a highly customizable, in-depth meal planning app that’s perfect for the highly visual person.
Mealime is specifically designed around planning meals for more than one person.
Pepperplate is an app that focuses around organizing your recipe collection, and planning your meals on those.
This awesome little app is perfect for planning your kids’ lunches to take with them.
The BigOven app is perfect for anyone who wants to use only fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Mealplan+ is a super easy to use meal planning app that has meal tags that you can drag and drop into a weekly scheduler for easy meal planning.
Why You Should Install a Meal Planning App
Meal planning can technically be done with an Excel spreadsheet, Word document, or pen and paper.
But if you want to save on time with things like the advanced grocery shopping list, which automatically adds ingredients to your list, and the automatic upload of recipes for the week to one place, you should definitely consider getting a meal planning app.
Your life will just be that much easier.
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