There’s no doubt about it, if you want to save money on your shopping, reduce your food waste, eat better and a wider variety of foods, you need to be meal planning. There are several tools you can use to help with your meal planning – whilst I use a note app on my phone, I start my clients off with a simple template until they get into the habit and used to what to think about and include. Some people prefer a chalkboard in the kitchen, pen and paper or a special combined family calendar and meal planner stuck to the fridge and I know that some of you will be considering using meal planning apps.
This month I’ve been downloading free meal planning apps to my Android phone and road testing them. Are they simple to use? Do they make meal planning a quick task? Do they allow you to plan a variety of meals and snacks? Can you plan more than one week at a time? Which ones are worth trying?
Here’s a review of just a few, there are many more out there for you to try if you think an app is right for you.
Probably the best of the apps I tried simply because you can include your own meals and recipes as well as choose from their library of recipes.
It allows you to create a shopping list from your meal plan to which you can add your own items or remove items it has added if you already have them.
The inventory (another plus point for this app) means that you can keep track of what you have in your store cupboard, fridge and freezer, either by manually adding them or by scanning the barcodes on your products.
You can choose the day and date on which to start your meal plan, save meal plans to reuse and you can plan breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks or create your own meal category.
Recipe calendar – meal planner
Another one which allows you to choose from a library of recipes or add your own. It also has a library of ready-made meal plans for you to use.
Create multiple meal plans, covering breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks or select your own categories for weekdays and weekends. Generate a shopping list from your meal plan to which you can add or remove items.
Paying for the pro version offers even more functionality such as setting dietary preferences, time available for cooking or budgeting a price per portion.
I didn’t find this as easy to use as the Food planner app and the interface isn’t as polished or intuitive.
With Yummly, you create collections of recipes from the library, then add meals to your calendar and it’ll tell you on the day when you need to start cooking. Select a recipe to add the ingredients you need to your shopping list. Choose from a range of interesting recipes with mouth-watering photographs for breakfast, dinner, dessert, sides and drinks. Strangely no lunch ideas.
The app took me a while to fathom, but it has some good features and could be helpful if you stick with it.
Plan meals – meal planner
Create meal plans for multiple weeks by adding your own meals and recipes to the app, there is no library of recipes.
If you upgrade to the paid version of the app, once you’ve added a recipe, you can create a shopping list. Recipes, meal plans and shopping lists can be shared with others.
This app is simple and there’s not a lot to it. Get straight on with creating a meal plan by choosing the days it is for, adding breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks as you wish and repeat.
Creating a shopping list is manual since you add the name of a meal and there is therefore no recipe or ingredients list from which to derive the shopping list. There was a lot of back and forth between the meal plan and shopping list making this an arduous task.
You’re supposed to be able to search a recipe library for ideas, but it didn’t work and just crashed the app.
I’d seen sponsored ads for this app across my social media so thought I’d check it out. When you first log in, you assign relevant dietary and allergy information and can choose ingredients that you don’t like so that all of this is avoided in the recipes presented to you.
It’s easy to choose meals and add them to your plan (a list of chosen recipes), after which you go through the list and assign the recipes to a day in the calendar. You are alerted on the day about your chosen meal.
It is an American app and as such ingredients have the American names, the recipes are for dinners only, limited and uninspiring.
This is another one where you can assign dietary information and dislikes so that relevant recipes from the library are presented to you. In addition, you can select whether you want to two or four portion meals to prepare so you can think about cooking for four instead of two, for example, to allow for extra to go in the freezer or for lunch.
You choose the dishes you’d like for the week and it automatically creates your shopping list then prompts you to review the list and remove anything you’ve got. You tick off the dish as you’ve made it, you can add it to your favourites or say whether you’d make it again. All meals are apparently possible to prepare in 30 minutes.
It is another American app with American food names and quantities. There are a very limited number of recipes in the collection, made even more limited as many of them are for the paid for ‘pro’ version. If you pay for the pro version you can import your own recipes and create multiple meal plans.
Whilst I wasn’t impressed with any of them and will stick to my tried and tested methods, there may be something here that works for you. Remember, it doesn’t matter what you use or how you approach it, what’s important is that you are meal planning!