The Best Meal Planning Apps for 2022 to Make Dinner Easy

Making dinner just got super simple

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Phone with image of food

BYRDIE / Design by Amelia Manley

We've all been there—staring at a field of ingredients in our pantry or fridge with no idea of what we actually want to make. Technology has made many things in the kitchen easy (from grocery delivery to pressure cookers), but knowing what to cook and having the ingredients on-hand is another hill to climb.

Of course, meal planning is nothing new. Maybe you had a chalkboard with the week's meals planned out as a kid. Or, maybe you've been planning on paper after skimming Pinterest. But with meal planning apps, you can plan your meals from anywhere, seamlessly.

Here, we compiled the best meal planning apps to take the guesswork out of any meal of the day.

Best Meal Planning Apps of 2022

Best Overall: Mealime

Mealime

 Mealime

Key Specs

  • Cost: About $50 per year or $6 per month
  • Platforms (iOS, Android, etc): iOS, Android, Chrome extension and on Alexa, Google Assistant, Bixby
  • Free version (y/n): Y

Why We Chose It

Saving time is the number one reason most people meal plan. With easy recipes suited to many diets, Mealime is a great starter app—especially the free version.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • The free version is a great option if you don’t feel like paying for an app

  • The meals are super easy for home cooks to make

  • Easy to get rid of options you don’t eat or like and customize

Cons
  • Can’t customize recipes as easily in the free version

  • Making a shopping list in the free version can be harder

  • Free version doesn’t offer nutrition information

Overview

Meal planning is all about saving time in the planning stages. But Mealime is about saving time at every stage, from planning to cooking with recipes finished in 30 minutes or less.

Like many planning apps, Mealime asks questions about your dietary restrictions and preferences. Mealime also allows you to set a reminder alert to plan your weekly meals at any time that's convenient for you.

There are two app levels available: the free version and Pro. Pro allows access to nutritional information, the ability to add your own recipes, exclusive recipes, and more for about $50 per year or $6 per month. Even without the Pro plan, there are plenty of quick and healthy recipes to add to your weekly plan.

Best Budget: Whisk

Whisk

Whisk

Key Specs

  • Cost: Free 
  • Platforms (iOS, Android, etc): Requires iOS 13.0 or later.
  • Free version (y/n): Y

Why We Chose It

Whisk is a great, all-around app for those who enjoy seeing what others are cooking and want to explore. Integrated videos from recipe creators offer help for those that are more visually-oriented. Plus, Whisk offers a lot of bang for zero bucks.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • One of the best free options

  • Easy to access since you can use Alexa or Google Assistant

  • It’s easy to add dietary preferences

Cons
  • It can be a little bit hard to choose recipes because there’s no guidance

  • Unlike other meal planning apps, it doesn’t take into account what you already have

  • Whisk doesn’t plan menus for you but it does offer options to choose from

Overview

Food is all about sharing, right? Whisk takes the idea of social media and sautees it with recipe collections and shopping lists, all in one handy (and free!) app. Whisk doesn't plan menus for you, but it does offer plenty to choose from, with organization reminiscent of Facebook groups.

Whisk offers a variety of ways to find recipes. Users can browse or join the groups to see continuous content; they can also save their favorite recipes from websites or find recipes in groups organized by cuisine, cooking methods, dietary restrictions, or events.

Content creators like The Korean Vegan, What Zoe Eats, or Taste and Traveler also offer content groups. Once users find a recipe they like, it's easy to save it to their recipe box. All recipes also include a health score with nutritional information included.

So, where does the meal planning come in? The planner tab offers a weekly calendar where you can add your planned recipes. Need a shopping list? Click "Add To" on the recipe, and it autogenerates a shareable list, which can be updated in real-time. You can also send your list to area shopping services or grocery pickup options.

Best for Specific Diets: PlateJoy

Plate Joy

 Plate Joy

Key Specs

  • Cost: Plans for six months (about $69) or a year (roughly $99).
  • Platforms (iOS, Android, etc): Android and iOS 
  • Free version (y/n): N

Why We Chose It

When it comes to personalization and your health goals, PlateJoy stands head and shoulders above the rest. Recipes are enticing, and the instructions are clear. Plus, it will base your menus on your budgetary and health goals.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Nutritionist-created recipes

  • Highly personalized

  • Easy shopping app integration

  • Batch recipe options

  • Recipes can be easily tracked in the Fitbit app

Cons
  • A bit expensive compared to other apps

  • Not transferrable to all fitness apps (e.g. MyFitnessPal, Noom, etc.)

Overview

PlateJoy begins with an extensive survey of your household: who you are feeding, their weight goals, and what they like. The survey analyzes carb and meat preferences, as well as special dietary concerns such as sodium, gluten, dairy, kosher, or pregnancy/nursing. You can even exclude ingredients that you don't like.

With these categories in mind, PlateJoy generates various recipes to choose from, complete with nutrition information. You can choose batch cooking recipes to minimize prep time or individual meals with one to two servings for each of the people you're feeding.

Once you've selected your meals, the app autogenerates a shopping list, taking into account what you have already in your fridge and pantry. It will also group recipes to lower food waste. Once your list is set, head to the store, or send your list to Instacart or Amazon Fresh for delivery since both are integrated.

PlateJoy is a paid service, with plans for six months (about $69) or a year (roughly $99).

Best for Gourmet Chefs: Yummly

Yummly

Yummly

Key Specs

  • Cost: About $5 per month
  • Platforms (iOS, Android, etc): iOS and Android
  • Free version (y/n): Y

Why We Chose It

Not everyone is focused on time and health. For those looking for a greater culinary experience, Yummly offers accessible but aspirational recipes and knowledge with the ease of a planning tool.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Recipes from all-star chefs including Carla Hall, Andrew Zimmern and Ali Rosen

  • If you have a smart kitchen, you can connect your devices to Yummly

  • Take a photo of an ingredient you have and the app finds recipes

Cons
  • Features more complex recipes for experienced chefs

  • The meal planning portion can be difficult to find

  • If you have the free app, there’s pressure to upgrade to the Pro version

Overview

Not everyone is held to the 30-minute meal standard. For those who don't mind stirring a simmering risotto for 45 minutes and want to be inspired by famous chefs, Yummly offers culinary inspiration and valuable organizational tools.

Yummly stands apart from the crowd in that it doesn't shy away from more complex recipes. There are technique tutorials that will help level up your skills as well, and you can find your favorite recipes by searching by cuisine or ingredients.

Two features really elevate Yummly. The first is the ingredient search tool: Take a photo of any ingredient in your pantry, and the app will find recipes that use that ingredient. The second is the timing feature added to every recipe. Want dinner on the table at 5 p.m.? Your recipe will tell you when to start prepping.

Yummly Pro is where the star factor comes in. The paid version (about $5 per month) gives access to celebrity chef tutorials and recipes from Carla Hall, Stephanie Izard, Andrew Zimmern, Ali Rosen, and more. And if you have a smart kitchen, you can connect your devices to Yummly for even more intuitive functionality.

Best Eco-Friendly: Cooklist

Cooklist

Cooklist 

Key Specs

  • Cost: Pro version is about $50 per year or roughly $6 monthly.
  • Platforms (iOS, Android, etc): iOS and Android
  • Free version (y/n): Free trial 

Why We Chose It

Being able to comparison shop between stores is a huge benefit that comes with Cooklist. Plus, the yearly fee is relatively low for such a big basket of benefits.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • The app has recipes, makes a shopping list and allows you to order groceries online

  • Subscribers waste less food because of pantry inventory and expiration 

  • Recipes are based on what you already have

Cons
  • The Pro version is much better than the free version

  • Without the Pro version,users can’t order groceries in-app or compare prices

  • Building the pantry takes a lot of time at the beginning

Overview

If you aspirationally buy fruits and veggies only to throw them in the trash three weeks later, Cooklist is here to save the day. Does it have recipes? Yes. Does it make a shopping list? Of course. Does it allow you to order groceries online? You betcha.

But the thing that sets Cooklist apart is that it not only organizes your shopping list, but it keeps track of your fridge, freezer, and pantry, alerting you when ingredients are about to expire. You can import purchases from your favorite retailers or manually add ingredients. Getting close to expiration? Cooklist will send a notification with suggestions for those ingredients.

Meal planning is simple as well. In addition to building your own menu, Cooklist offers suggested menus based on specific goals or diets, which can be customized to your tastes.

There's a Pro version for about $50 per year or roughly $6 monthly, which adds some serious value. Once you've added your recipes to your shopping list, you can compare local supermarket prices. You can also add store loyalty cards to your account for when you order.

Final Verdict

All of these apps save you time and money, because you’ll let less groceries go to waste. The best overall, however, is Mealime because it’s the perfect way to get started meal planning, and the free version is top-notch. Mealime’s free version works almost exactly like the paid version, letting users explore recipes created by chefs and registered dieticians. 

Mealime’s wide variety of options are designed to be quick, healthy, and accessible to most home cooks. Best of all, a food preference quiz eliminates options that you don't want and asks about your dietary restrictions, making it easy to customize. The recipes also take less than thirty minutes to make, so you’ll free up your weeknights - get ready to watch some Netflix. 

If you’re more health-focused, both Whisk and PlateJoy are easy to navigate and give the nutritional information you’re looking for. Cooklist and PlateJoy offer tools to save money for the budget-conscious, whether you're comparison shopping or choosing in-season recipes to lower costs. 

Whisk and Yummly provide inspiration beyond just time- and calorie-saving, allowing cooks to plan splurge-worthy meals. All of these meal planning apps are perfect ways to save time spent meal prepping and also reduce waste, because you’ll know exactly what’s in your pantry and refrigerator.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Meal Planning App?

Meal planning apps help to organize and schedule meals for busy families or singles. Typically they include searchable recipes based on diet or flavor preferences. Sometimes they even help you create recipes with the ingredients you already have.

How Much Do Meal Planning Apps Cost?

Meal planning apps range from free to an average of about $50 to $100 a year. Free versions usually limit the functionality. If you're looking to save time searching for dinner options, the right app can make a huge difference.

Do Meal Planning Apps Come With Food?

Meal planning apps are organizational tools, so they don't send ingredients to your home like meal delivery services.

Methodology

To select the best meal planning apps, we closely examined the cross-section of price and functionality and selected the apps that were easiest to customize for busy home chefs. All of our apps include grocery ordering and a shallow learning curve. After all, you're not saving time if you're spending it all learning how to use your time-saving app.

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