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Meal planning apps are a digital trend that’s here to stay—and with good reason. They allow users to choose specific meal plans and recipes, create shopping lists, and track nutritional information, all from the ease of a mobile device.
There’s an app for almost any dietary need, whether you’re crunched for time to plan for meals, looking to shed some weight, or if you prefer to prepare meals in large quantities. Read on for our picks for the best meal planning apps.
Best Meal-Planning Apps of 2023
- Best Overall: Paprika
- Best for Time-Crunched Cooks: Mealime
- Best for Weight Loss: PlateJoy
- Runner-Up, Best for Weight Loss: Eat This Much
- Best for Social Media Fans: Prepear
- Best for Meal Preppers: MealPrepPro
- Best for Using Up Leftovers: BigOven
- Best for Shopping on a Budget: MealBoard
- Our Top Picks
- Eat This Much
- See More (5)
Best Overall : Paprika
We chose Paprika as best overall because the company provides flexibility and customization with the free version of the app.
Free version of app
Customizes chosen recipes and easily scales them up and down
Seamless cloud sync across devices
Saves recipes from food and wine sites
Creates grocery lists
No built-in nutritional info
No recipe database
Paprika is our top pick because it gives you tons of flexibility and customization with the free app option. However, there’s no database of recipes or pre-set meal plans so you have to build up your own recipe collection first. Thankfully, Paprika’s recipe clipper makes it easy to save recipes directly from the web. And you can manually type in your own family recipes or cookbook favorites too.
When organizing saved recipes, users can name their own categories. So instead of just Beef or Chicken, you can have names like 30 Minutes or Less, Instant Pot, or Kids’ Favorites. If you tend to use recipes as guidelines instead of gospel, you can edit the recipes and add notes, but it’ll still have the link to the original in case you need it.
The app displays nutrition data from recipes that include it, but it doesn’t have a built-in program to calculate data for recipes that don’t have it. But it can automatically scale ingredients up or down depending on how many servings you want to make, and can automatically convert from metric to imperial measurements too.
It’s easy to create a weekly or monthly meal plan using the recipes you’ve saved. The free app version allows you to download up to 50 recipes (you can upgrade for a fee to get more). It will automatically create a customized grocery list based on your plan, consolidating ingredients when necessary and allowing users to add anything else they might need, like paper towels.
Best for Time-Crunched Cooks : Mealime
Mealime's quickly-generated recipes, shopping lists, and promise that the meals can be cooked in 30 minutes or less is why we chose it as best for time crunched cooks.
Free basic version
Easy to use
Curates recipes based on user inputs
Generates shoppings lists for digital purchases
The upgraded version requires a monthly payment
Doesn't allow manual addition of recipes
If you want to eat healthier but don’t have time to scour the web for recipes or spend an hour cooking, Mealime is the app for you. Create a profile, add your food preferences, then choose your week’s meals from recipes the app curates just for you. The company promises they can be cooked in 30 minutes or less, and it’ll even generate a shopping list that can be imported into Amazon Fresh or Instacart for delivery.
The recipes all have a healthful bent and can accommodate many dietary restrictions, such as keto, paleo, and vegan. And you can import favorite recipes from the web, too, though adding recipes manually isn’t an option. The app is free, but if you upgrade to Pro you’ll get access to many more recipes, nutrition information, and the ability to filter meals by calorie count, save your meal plans, and add notes to a recipe.
Best for Weight Loss : PlateJoy
- Cost: $69 for 6 months and $99 for 12 months, but some health insurance providers will pay
- Creates Grocery Lists: Yes
- Recipe Database: Yes
We chose PlateJoy as best for weight loss because of its nutritionist-designed meal plans and focus on food preferences, fitness and calorie goals, allergies, and even accommodations for those who are diabetic or on a low FODMAP plan.
Nutritionist-designed and supported
Free with some health-insurance providers
Generates shoppings lists
Seamless cloud sync across devices
More expensive than competitors
PlateJoy’s highly personalized meal plans are a boon to those with specific dietary restrictions. Users take a lifestyle survey, which includes things like food preferences, fitness and calorie goals, allergies, and schedules, and the app uses 50 data points to create a unique meal plan just for you. It even accommodates those who are diabetic or on a low FODMAP plan.
The meal plans are designed by nutritionists, who are available by phone or chat too, and recipes include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. The meal plans will automatically generate a shopping list, which can be integrated with Instacart or other grocery delivery services. You can also add your own recipes manually.
Users can sync the app to their FitBit, so it’ll automatically add their meals’ nutrition info to their calorie tracker. Even better, if your health insurance provider has joined the company’s PlateJoy Health division, you can get a free subscription, free Fitbit, and free scale.
Runner-Up, Best for Weight Loss : Eat This Much
- Cost: Free basic version
- Creates Grocery Lists: Yes, for paid version
- Recipe Database: Yes
Runner up as best for weight loss is Eat This Much. We chose it because its custom meal plans use your preferences and calorie goals as a guide. There’s also a calorie tracker and ability to import recipes.
Good nutritional info per recipe
Easy to use
Large database of restaurants and packaged foods
Barcode scanner for nutritional info
Not ideal for families with varying nutritional needs
No shopping lists or grocery deliveries in free version
Shopping list cost estimates aren't always accurate
The app will generate custom meal plans from its database using your preferences and calorie goals as a guide. It also allows users to import recipes from the web or manually add them. It’s also a calorie tracker with a database of popular restaurant dishes and packaged foods, which you can add to manually or with a barcode scanner.
However, the app only allows daily meal plans unless you upgrade to the Premium account for $8.99 per month or $3.99 a month when billed annually. Premium allows for weekly plans with nutrition targets for each day, automatic shopping lists, and grocery delivery.
Best for Social Media Fans : Prepear
Prepear is our pick as best for social media fans because of its partnership with popular food bloggers.
Thousands of free, personalized recipes
Nutritional info on recipes imported from websites
Easy to add recipes
Allows you to connect with others
Generates smart shopping lists
Better features require purchase of the Prepear Gold upgrade
Lengthy process to add ingredients to recipes
Many of the web’s most popular food bloggers have partnered with PrePear to offer their recipes and meal plans to users. With one click, you could have a month’s worth of recipes from one of your favorite bloggers added to your calendar complete with shopping lists. The caveat is you’ll have to upgrade to Gold to access those plans.
But even if you opt for the free version, you’ll still have thousands of recipes to choose from in the app’s database. The recipes have been uploaded by the community of users (including many bloggers) and often have reviews or star rankings. There’s everything from classics to keto, and if you set up a few preferences the app will curate what you see. You can easily add more recipes from the web or manually add your family favorites. The Food Feed tab is where you can create your own network of friends, kind of like a foodie Facebook group, to get inspiration from what everyone else is cooking and share your own.
Cooking from the app is very user-friendly: You can check off ingredients as you go and a split-screen format allows you to see ingredients on one side and the instructions on the other. You can also add reminders to alert you to defrost meat or start prepping.
Best for Meal Preppers : MealPrepPro
MealPrepPro’s ability to create recipes designed to cook large batches of healthy food is why we chose it as the best option for meal preppers.
Easy recipes for weekly or daily cooking
Nutritional information on all recipes
Syncs with fitness devices
Generates smart shopping lists
Designed for batch cooking
Complying with suggested plan takes time
MealPrepPro is designed for people who want to cook large batches of healthy food so they just have to heat and eat later in the week. The recipes are quick to make and designed for you to make a big batch one day, and then you’ll eat it for several days after. Sure it’s repetitive, but if you’re watching what you eat and don’t have a lot of time, you’ll always have a healthy meal waiting for you. If you’d rather cook fresh every day, or cook an even bigger batch to freeze, you can set the app to do that too.
Set up your preferences according to your diet (keto, paleo, plant-based, etc.) and either let the app determine your macro goals based on your health stats or you can set them manually. The app will create a weekly plan of lunch and dinner (plus breakfast and snacks if you want them) from its collection of recipes. While the app focuses on lunch and dinner, you can easily add breakfast and snacks.
You can customize the plan if you want. It’ll even offer suggestions if you want to swap out a dish with something else. The recipes are easy to follow with step-by-step videos, but they’re made for one or two people, so if you’re feeding a family you’ll have to increase the serving size to scale up. You can also add your own recipes. The plan generates an organized shopping list, and you can cross things off as you pick them up.
The app syncs with Apple Health and the Apple Watch, so you can keep track of your calories/macros, water consumption and follow the shopping list from your wrist.
Best for Using Up Leftovers : BigOven
As best for using up leftovers, we chose BigOven because of its feature that allows you to type in up to three ingredients and the search tool will find recipes that include them.
Free recipes that cater to your likes and dislikes
Use what's in your pantry with the leftover feature
Easily scales up for bigger amounts
Add non-recipe ingredients to grocery shopping lists
Most features require paying the annual fee
You have to pay to upload more than one paper recipe
Limited features for organizing your recipes
BigOven’s app is stocked with more than 1,000,000 recipes from home cooks, food bloggers and cooking sites all over the web, plus you can easily upload your own using the Recipe Clipper tool. You can easily add ingredients from each recipe to a grocery list with the click of a button, share the list and cross off what you buy.
But there are a couple of things that really make BigOven special: First, you can add clipped recipes and handwritten family favorites by simply taking a snapshot instead of having to type it in manually. The app will translate the photo into the app’s recipe format in 2-5 days. You get one Recipe Scan for free, after that you have to pay. There are a few bundles to choose from but the minimum is 12 scans for $9.99. The paid versions of the app come with 25 scans.
The other cool feature is the Use Up Leftovers search button. Type in up to three ingredients and the search tool will find recipes that fit them.
The one drawback is that to use the meal planner function, you have to upgrade to Pro. But with the upgrade, you also get more ways to organize the recipes into folders, more refined search options, and the opportunity to add unlimited recipes.
Best for Shopping on a Budget : MealBoard
We chose MealBoard for those on a budget because you can add prices for items, allowing you to stay on budget while shopping.
Small one-time fee
User-uploaded recipes; scan from books and magazines is also enabled
Digital grocery list with manually added prices to stay in-budget over the week
Personalized pantry is edited when you use any of your ingredients
Syncs to all devices; user-friendly web interface
No built-in recipe database
Building and editing your pantry takes some work
MealBoard doesn’t have a database, but it allows users to upload recipes from pretty much anywhere on the web, and categorize them how they see fit. When you’re ready to make a meal plan with your collection, just add them to the calendar where you can drag and drop them to specific days.
The app will generate a grocery list based on your meal plan, but the best part is you can add prices for items so you can see if you’re staying on budget each week. Also, its Pantry function allows you to catalog all of your staples and sync them with your recipes. When you make a recipe, click the update pantry link and the amounts used in the recipe will automatically be subtracted from the amounts in your pantry. Setting up the pantry takes a little extra work on the front end, but it means you won’t end up buying more than you need and wasting it.
Compare the Best Meal-Planning Apps
|Company||Cost||Generates Shopping List||Nutrition Info||Recipe Database|
|Paprika Best Overall||Free basic||Yes||Existing recipes||No|
|Mealime Best for Time Crunched Cooks||Free basic||Yes||Limited||Yes|
|PlateJoy Best for Weight Loss||$69 for 6 months $99 for 12 months Free w/ some insurance||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Eat This Much Best for Weight Loss Runner Up||Free basic||Yes except for free version||Yes||Yes|
|Prepear Best for Social Media Fans||Free recipes / upgrade features||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|MealPrepPro Best for Meal Preppers||$6.99||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|BigOven Best for Using Up Leftovers||Varies from free to $25/year||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|MealBoard Best if You're Budgeting||$3.99||Yes||No||No|
What Is a Meal Planning App?
Meal planning is the process of gathering recipes and deciding on meals to prepare in advance. A meal planning App takes this process digital offering meal plans based on your activity level, food preferences, and dietary goals. Many Apps provide different tools, such as the ability to scan recipes, search functions, and more, to aid the meal planning process.
How Much Does a Meal Planning App Cost?
Many Apps offer a free basic version with additional charges for premium services.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Meal Planning App?
Meal planning Apps are beneficial for anyone wanting more variety in their meal plans. Those looking for specific diet plans such as low carb, diabetes, or low sodium benefit from not having to figure out macros for each meal or snack and having a meal plan to keep them on target and not bored with repetitive meals.
In researching the best meal planning apps, we looked for options with the greatest features mixed with ease-of-use and a variety of planning options. For example, Meal Board’s App helps you stay on budget by allowing you to add prices to items. Big Oven’s App allows you to search for recipes based on up-to three ingredients you provide. MealPrepPro and PlateJoy allow you to choose a specific diet plan (keto, paleo, Mediterranean, etc.) and it will automatically calculate the macros for your meal plan.