The 3 Best Meal Planning Apps You Should Know About

updated May 29, 2019
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(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Truth be told, when it comes to meal planning, I’ve long taken the old-school pen-and-paper approach. In part because I’m a list maker at heart who loves a good notebook and colored pens, and also because I believed it to be the simplest approach. But turns out I might have really been missing something along the way.

Until now I’ve been resistant to move to a meal planning app (of which there are so many!), for no other reason than I’m a creature of habit. But the tide has turned, and I’ve learned that using a meal planning app might just be the easiest, most efficient and streamlined way to approach meal planning.

I’ve weeded through many of the meal planning apps out there to find the ones that are truly helpful, and for some, even worth the $5 price tag. Here are the three you should know about.

(Image credit: Mealime)

Cost: Free (with an optional in-app upgrade purchase)
App Store Rating: 4.8/5 stars with 13.7k reviews

Google “best meal planning apps,” and this app is the top result. After using it for a bit of time, I can tell you that it’s super convenient and a huge time-saver. And with the free version, you can use the app without actually creating an account.

Mealime walks you through building a personalized meal plan, starting by narrowing their pool of recipes by the type of diet you follow (whether you eat everything, or you’re keto, pescatarian, vegan, and more.) It also takes into account your food allergies and dislikes, and the number of servings you need. A grocery list is autogenerated from the recipes you choose, which is grouped by section of the grocery store, with the option to cross off items you already have at home and add additional items you need. Prefer grocery delivery? It can also connect to Instacart or Amazon Fresh.

The upgraded Pro edition ($6 monthly, or $50 yearly) gives you access to additional recipes, nutritional information, ability to upload your own recipes, and more.

(Image credit: Anylist)

2. AnyList

Cost: Free (with an optional in-app upgrade purchase)
App Store Rating: 4.9/5 stars with 24k reviews

The app comes loaded with a handful (literally) of basic recipes, so it’s up to you to save recipes from your favorite cooking sites, which you can ultimately organize into collections. Once recipes are added, it’s easy to add recipe ingredients to a grocery list, which is organized by grocery store department. And if multiple members of your household do the grocery shopping, you’ll appreciate the app’s ability to share lists via email or text.

The app is a favorite of Kitchn contributor Patty Catalano. She started out using the free version mostly for grocery (which the app can import from recipes), and recently upgraded to the paid version ($8 yearly for an individual or $12 yearly for a family). “I like that you can make collections, as they call it, by season or type of meal, for example, so I can sort through the recipes that I’ve uploaded,” says Patty. “I eventually upgraded because the free version was pretty limited in the number of lists and how you could specify the ingredients — like by weight or count.” Other benefits of the upgrade include the ability to scale recipes and utilize the meal plan calendar.

(Image credit: Paprika)

3. Paprika

Cost: $4.99 to $29.99
Rating: 4.2/5 stars with 481 reviews

We first wrote about Paprika when it stole our hearts as a recipe organizer, allowing users to download and organize recipes from all over the web. But it’s also super helpful in creating personalized meal plans and grocery lists.

Unlike other apps, Paprika doesn’t come preloaded with in-app recipes, but rather relies your own curation from your favorite websites. While Paprika is pricier than the typical $3 app ($4.99 for the iPhone version up to $29.99 for the Mac version), reviewers agree that it’s worth the price. And with a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate interface and extra features (including Cloud syncing across multiple devices!), we agree.