4 Really Useful Free Meal Planner Apps
I’ve written about meal planning in a previous Time Fairy blog post. The benefits of meal planning are huge – although it can seem time consuming at first, it can save you a lot of time and money because there are less trips to the shops and less wasted food. It also means you can have healthier meals and try new recipes, as well as not having to figure out every day what you can cook without having to go to the shops for anything.
There are a lot of different meal planning apps available to help make meal planning easier, quicker and cheaper. Some you have to pay for and others are free. I have picked a few of the best free ones to review, all of which have different advantages, so there should be one to suit you here.
All four of these have a meal planner, printable recipes, and make your shopping list for you with a click or two.
Some of the features:
|Pepperplate||Say Mmm||5 A DAY||Tesco|
|Use your own recipes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Import recipes with URL||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Save favourite recipes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Printable shopping list||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Shopping list collates ingredients||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
5 A DAY – www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/5aday.aspx
This one is by far the simplest and quickest. It is made by the NHS and based on healthy eating, and getting your 5-a-day fruit and vegetables. You can personalise the number of adults and children you are feeding, which none of the others appear to do. It also has meals in categories such as light meals, packed lunches, main meals and value meals, and has a counter to show how each day fares for your ‘5-a-day’.
It’s very easy to use (drag & drop) and lists ingredient quantities in British measurements (grammes rather than ounces, etc.)
Negatives: Because it’s so simple, it is very limited. You can’t import recipes and the bank of recipes it has is pretty small (I counted 40 main meals and 17 lunches). Also, it doesn’t seem to save plans, so once you print it and leave it, there’s no revisiting a plan.
Good if you want: simple, healthy and very quick
The Tesco meal planner is quick and easy to use. You can use a ready made meal plan, customize one, or start from scratch. It has a huge library of recipes, all of which have been reviewed and rated. It’s a UK app, so is all in British weights. You can pick your start day, meals, length of cooking time for recipes, and specific diets (e.g. vegetarian, low fat, gluten free, budget, etc.) It has a ‘surprise me’ plan if you want to produce a plan really quickly. It puts your ingredients into your Tesco shopping basket with the click of a button.
Negatives: It can be a bit slow, and you can’t add your own recipes. One of the biggest drawbacks is that you can’t print the shopping list – it puts it into the Tesco shopping basket, so you have to have a Tesco delivery to use this one. Recipes are based on 4 people and can’t be amended for more or less people.
Good if you want: simple, flexible, tailor-made and delivered by Tesco.
Pepperplate – www.pepperplate.com
The pepperplate meal planner is a very comprehensive app that has a lot of useful features. It allows you to choose recipes from a list (that you make) by either using URL links (from certain sites) or manually putting in recipes of your own. It allows you to simply scale recipes up or down for more or less people, and it neatly categorises your shopping list into sections to make shopping easier. The list also collates multiple ingredients so that, for example, if 3 recipes require carrots, it totals them. If you don’t want to cook a recipe every day and want something simple (e.g. pork chops, vegetables and rice) you can add it as a meal, input the ingredients you will need, and save it as a meal or recipe.
Negatives: Because it is so comprehensive, it takes a bit of getting used to and can be quite complicated until you get to know it. The recipes that it supports are mostly American, so weights of items are in cups, pounds and ounces, not grammes as we use in the UK. Also, it doesn’t seem to offer a printout of the plan itself, although I haven’t had enough time on it to fully explore.
Good if you want: comprehensive, flexible and tailored to your own preferences. If you don’t necessarily want to do home cooking every day, and if you have your own recipes. You need a bit of time to set up.
Say Mmm (Evernote) – www.saymmm.com
Another fairly complex meal planner with a lot of great features. This one comes with a bank of recipes, but also allows you to add your own manually, and with URLs. The recipes it has are searchable in great details, including cooking times from 15 mins up, ingredients you like and don’t like. There are hundreds of recipes to choose from. It also has a calorie counter and a cost indication (although this is in $). You can create plans, or use ready made ones for speed. The shopping list on this one can be printed, or you can use your phone in the store to tick off things as you go around.
Negatives: Again, it’s a comprehensive app that takes a bit of getting used to and is not that intuitive. It’s an American app so the features like restaurants and prices are no use in the UK, and ingredients weights of their recipes are in cups, pounds and ounces, not grammes as we use in the UK. Also, it doesn’t seem to offer a printout of the plan itself.
Good if you want: comprehensive, flexible and tailored to your own preferences. If you want ready made plans and recipes, or if you have your own recipes. You need a bit of time to set up.
So hopefully you have seen one that looks like it might work for you. You might prefer to do it manually, just like my previous blog explains. If you use a different app, tell us about it. If you try one of these, let us know what you think.
If you want to try one of the more complicated ones, but don’t have the time (or patience!) to get it set up or input your favourite recipes, The Time Fairy can help you.
Based in Southam, Warwickshire