5 Meal-Planning Apps That Make Dinner Easier

One of these apps might just become your new favorite kitchen companion—and for good reason.

Whether you're looking to save time, eat healthier, lower your food bill, or reduce food waste (and who doesn't want all those things?), meal planning can really simplify your life. However, sifting through a bunch of recipes and making shopping lists can seem daunting—and time-consuming. That's where these handy apps come in. With simple platforms that let you create custom menus and subscription services that take care of almost everything for you, these five apps can make meal planning a breeze.

Meal-Planning Apps That Do Everything but Cook

Full-service meal-planning apps are great because they handle all the details—recipes, prep tips, grocery lists, portioning, scheduling, and in certain cities even grocery delivery. Worth the splurge for a subscription? We definitely think so.

eMeals

Perfect for busy families and those new to meal planning.

Perfect for busy families, eMeals creates weekly meal plans catered to your lifestyle, such as 30-minute meals, kid-friendly dishes, and paleo or vegetarian options. You begin by choosing a theme. (Check out the Better Homes & Gardens plan for recipes handpicked by our editors.) Then each week, eMeals builds a customizable seven-day menu based on your preferences. Use the provided grocery list to pick up everything you'll need for the week at the store you specify, and when dinnertime arrives, simply follow the instructions for a delicious, stress-free meal. Want to take it a step further? eMeals also offers weekly breakfast, lunch, and dessert plans for an additional charge.

Available for free on IOS and Android. After a 14-day free trial, the eMeals meal-planning service costs $60 a year or $10 per month for a three-month subscription.

PlateJoy

Appeals to new or occasional cooks and those with diet restrictions.

When it comes to meal planning, one size definitely does not fit all. PlateJoy is an accessible app that gets to know your personal preferences and goals right off the bat with a short survey that covers factors like the amount of time you have for meal prep and your culinary likes and dislikes. From there, the planning service creates personalized weekly menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks. Once your meal plan is created, the app lets you review it and swap out any recipes you're unsure of. When your menu is perfected, the app creates a grocery list and provides easy-to-follow recipes.

Available for free on IOS and Android. After a 10-day free trial, the PlateJoy meal-planning service costs $99 a year or $69 for a six-month subscription.

DIY Menu Planning

For those who want a little more freedom, these apps offer the tools you need to build your own meal plan from scratch.

Paprika

Ideal for extreme planners and longtime cooks.

Recipe manager, meal-planning resource, sous chef—Paprika is an all-in-one kitchen assistant. Type A cooks will love this app because it allows you to import recipes from your favorite websites, curate those into menus (you can schedule meals up to a month in advance), and fly through the grocery shopping with lists organized by store aisle.

Available for $4.99 on IOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.

Pepperplate

Advanced cooks and party planners will love the interface and extra features.

Party planners, rejoice. Pepperplate is one of the more attractive apps for organizing and storing all your recipes in one place—including those time-tested index-card recipes, dog-eared cookbook selections, and annotated magazine recipes. It also pulls in recipes from the Internet, so you can easily plan a menu for the week ahead. Having a dinner party and want to accommodate extra guests? The app lets you customize portions based on how many will be eating—meaning no more guesswork or wasted food.

Available for free on IOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.

MealBoard

A no-frills app for list-lovers and the budget-conscious.

It's the dreaded situation: You're walking down the grocery aisle and suddenly can't remember what staple pantry item it was that you needed to restock. With MealBoard, you won't have to worry. This app has the same meal-planning resources as the others—schedules, planners, and recipe storage space—but it also lets you inventory your pantry items so you know exactly what you have on hand. Perfect for shoppers easily influenced by impulse buys, this app lets you go back and forth between your mobile device and MealBoard's Web interface so you always know what meals are on deck and which pantry components are running low.

Available for $3.99 on IOS.

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