Meal planning is one of the best things you can do to make your life better. This helps those who are trying to save money on their food budget, eat healthier on a regular basis, or even anyone who wants to put in the time and energy spent deciding and cooking meals every day.
Most meal planners suggest a weekly or monthly approach, based on your lifestyle. There are two ways to tackle meal planning. Either you can make your own plans by adding items, or you can let the app or expert choose the dishes for you. Of course, they all come with a recipe.
Mealime (Web, Android, iOS): Best for Beginner Meal Planners
If you’re new to meal plan ideas, start with Mealime. That’s heavy lifting for beginners who want an automated meal plan handed to them on a plate, along with a readymade grocery list.
The setup process asks for food preferences, dietary preferences, and planning preferences. You can specify the portion size, and how much food you want. All of this can be changed later in the settings, of course. Mealime will then generate a custom meal plan for you, along with a handy grocery list consisting of all the recipes.
The app fetches the ingredient list from a recipe, but isn’t smart about combining them unless they’re labeled exactly the same. So you should use your own better judgment when shopping for groceries.
The best part? You can click the button at any point to generate a new meal plan, varying the meal from what you currently have. If you don’t like the plan, just change it until you find something you like. If you enjoy what you cook and eat, you will probably stick with the process.
Download: Mealime for Android | iOS (Free)
Budget Meal Planner (Web): Healthy Food for $5 Per Day
Budget Meal Planner is an excellent website run by one person, Dianna, who suggests weekly plans in a frugal way. Here’s a grocery list for an entire week that won’t go past $40, while still providing you with healthy, filling meals that aren’t boring.
Dianna sorted her meal plans into five categories: Thai, potato, Mediterranean, pineapple, and Tex-Mex. Every Friday, the site is updated with new meal plans for each category, so you can buy groceries and prep over the weekend.
The package includes a shopping list for the week, recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and snacks. Apart from Thailand, other parts also have vegetarian plans. Dianna recommends using substitutes and other recipes as well, so feel free to try the best vegetarian and vegan apps to mix and match.
Sidechef (Android, iOS): Customized, Manual Meal Plan
Sidechef is a cross between a meal planner and a recipe app. When you register, you have to choose between several preferences such as the diet you follow, the ingredients you don’t like, and so on. The app will then display a list of recipes based on that.
Jump to the Meal Planner section to decide on a week plan. Here, you can add recipes to your breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for each day. Sidechef creates recipes from many different websites and blogs, so you’ll have a wide variety of choices.
Tap on each recipe to see its list of ingredients in a neat format. Choose what you don’t have to add to your grocery list. The app is smart enough to increase the number of overlapping items instead of adding them twice, however, double check when purchasing.
Sidechef is also one of the few apps that lets you add your own recipes that you might find outside the app list. We didn’t find any other app that would allow this, which makes Sidechef that much more special.
Download: Sidechef for Android | iOS (Free)
Slow Cooker Meal Plan (Web): Best for Professionals and Single Students
A crockpot or slow cooker is the best investment for someone who wants to return home to eat healthy, without having to cook at the end of a tiring day. Karen at 365 Days of Crockpot has a simple monthly plan that offers variety while keeping it easy.
These recipes can be made in a slow cooker as well as an instant or pressure cooker. So if you prepare ahead of time, you can go home and cook your food whenever you want. As you might expect with a slow cooker recipe, it’s all easy enough for novice cooks.
Unfortunately, many days do not have vegetarian options. However, you can browse hundreds of recipes on websites for substitutes.
Meal plans are also smart enough to leave Friday as the day to eat or finish off leftovers. It’s very important to have one day of this cheat if you are going to keep cooking for yourself or a new diet. Don’t get too excited, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Family Freezer Plans (Web): 17 Free Printable Food Packages
Family Freezer is a fantastic recipe blog that balances frugal and healthy. Over the years, the blog has delivered several meal plans for various scenarios. You can check all of them on one page, and choose the one that suits your needs.
The focus, as you may have guessed by the name, is on foods that you can prepare ahead of time and freeze. These are all plans that serve weeks, not months. Freezer-based meals are one of the most popular ways for budding planners, as they let you cook up a storm for one day and live in peace for the rest of the week.
The 17 packages vary in needs and categories such as time-based meals, vegetarian meals, store-based meals, kid-friendly meals, and so on. There’s a handy large PDF with all the meal plans, which includes a grocery list, recipes, and everything you need. It was incredible.
Download: 17 Printed Freezer Food Packages and Grocery List (PDF)
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