Meal Planning Apps that are 100% free and will get you organized in the kitchen. Detailed instructions with photos show exactly how to get started using them.
Do you meal plan? While I've admitted in the past that planning and organization can be my Achilles heal, I've really made meal planning a priority this year, and am surprised at what little time it takes and what a huge change it has had on dinner time at our house.
If you're on the fence about meal planning, I can't recommend it enough! Meal planning has so many benefits, including:
- saving you time (no more last-minute trips to the grocery store, or madly trying to thaw food at 5-pm)
- saving you money (less food wastage, and you're less likely to order take-out)
- reducing your stress levels (trying to figure out dinner in a panic is stressful)
- it's better for your health (you can jump into action as soon as you're home from work rather than diving into that bag of tortilla chips)
- it's actually fun (for real)! I get really inspired thinking about what we are going to eat for dinner, and it's fun to look forward to it throughout the day
Try meal planning apps to keep you organized!
I always thought that meal planning was going to require a ton of time and energy to get into. But the truth is, all it takes is a small commitment of 15 minutes or less once a week. You can use old fashioned pen and paper, or a personal organizer.
But what I've found really works for me are the meal planning apps on my phone, so I thought it would be useful to share the ones I use most often with you!
1. How to use Pinterest for meal planning
Yes. Pinterest. I'm sure you've heard of her?
You might not think of Pinterest as a meal planning app, but it's absolutely awesome way to gather mealtime inspiration and organize your recipes.
In case you're not familiar with Pinterest, it allows you to 'clip' images from any website using a browser extension, and collect them on 'boards' in your account. You can pin your pins onto differently categorized 'boards', and because you have an image, it is a great way to remind you of a recipe you had saved for later.
I love saving recipes by course (dinner, snacks & sides, dessert), by protein source (vegetarian, chicken, seafood), and by the type of meal (work lunch, 30 minute dinners, slow cooker, make-ahead meals).
And there you have it! A whole lotta easily accessible (and very visual) recipe inspiration at your finger tips!
2. How to use Yummly for meal planning
Yummly is similar to Pinterest in that it is a visual recipe box. Hit the 'yum' button and you have stored the recipe in you recipe box.
Where Yummly differs from Pinterest is in its ability to learn your taste preferences, with the ability to recommend new recipes with similar flavor profiles to you.
Another awesome feature of Yummly is their custom search bar which allows you to search for recipes by dietary constraints, allergies, cooking level, and cuisine.
And possibly the best part of the Yummly website/app, and the part that makes it an amazing meal planning app: the ability to build customized shopping lists from recipes you've collected. And you guys: you can send yourself this list by text message or by e-mail!
3. How to use Evernote for meal planning
My favorite!! I don't know what I'd do without this app!
Evernote is not specifically a meal planning app, but rather a general note taking/organization app that you can access from computer, tablet or phone. I use it to keep track of all the crazy ideas I have for this site, but also for planning my weekly grocery list...It is SO easy to type up a grocery list on your computer, which syncs to your phone (no more drop-box or e-mailing to yourself!!)
Another feature of Evernote, which makes it suitable is a function as a meal planning app is the ability to clip recipes or articles from the web using a browser extension. Some people use this to store recipes into different 'notebooks' based on recipe type. You could also add your own notes and comments to the recipes as you make them. I don't personally use this feature as I find it quite 'clunky', the app pulls the entire article and displays 'featured images' that are not related to the recipe. I prefer Pinterest as a meal planning app for its aesthetics and image quality.
Evernote has a ton of other features including the ability to store photos and audio, an AWESOME search tool that will find any word within the document (and even words within a photo!), and the ability to set reminders. I can't say enough about this app!
4. How to use Wunderlist for meal planning
Guys, there are a TON of grocery list apps out there. And I think I tried them all. Kidding! But I did try quite a few, and none of them were as simple and easy as Wunderlist.
Again, not meal planning specific just a bare-bones, simple as it gets list-making app that you can access from multiple devices. If you want something really user-friendly, this is the one for you.
5. How to use Google Calendar for meal planning
When I finally started inputting my meal plan into my Google Calendar, that's when I really got organized. I LOVE being able to see a visual outline of our meal plan while I'm on the go.
Plus, using the alarm feature is awesome for remembering to do the tasks you might otherwise forget. Set alarms to take frozen food out of the freezer to thaw, or to get that chicken in the marinade. Or to turn the crockpot on.
1. The first step to using your Google Calendar as a meal planning app is to create a new calendar. Find the 'create new calendar' button from the drop down arrow on the left-hand side of your desktop Google Calendar.
Give your calendar a name and color, and share with other family members if desired.
2. Enter your meal plan, recipe by recipe, filling in whichever fields apply. In this case I set a time for the meal, and entered the link to the recipe for easy access.
I also set a notification to remind me to turn on the crockpot 6 hours before dinner. This way I will receive a little pop-up notification on my phone at 11:30 am telling me to turn on the crockpot. So much easier to stay organized!
Important: if you are setting notifications, make sure that your phone is set to receive notifications from your Google Calendar!
3. Voila! A whole week of recipes planned out, accessible from your desktop, tablet and phone, and shareable with other family members!
That's a wrap
While this list of meal planning apps is by no means complete, these are the 100% free meal planning apps that make organization so so SO much easier for me. I'd love to hear what tools or apps you use to stay organized! Let me know!
And. If you are interested in meal planning and once-a-week meal prep but don't know where to start, consider joining our FREE Meal Prep Challenge, where we commit to spending one hour on the weekend preparing our breakfasts or lunches for the week! For more information on the next meal prep challenge, check out this page.
It's the perfect way to ease into meal planning and once-a-week meal prep, and we're all in it together to keep each other accountable.