Over the years, current technology has made many different areas of our lives more convenient. We can use an app to keep up with our schedules, chat with customer service online, call a ride with the push of a button, and more. For some people, these conveniences brought on by technological advances and new ideas are part of our everyday lives.
Thankfully, meal planning has also become easier as apps and online services have grown in number. For some years now, food subscription boxes have been one of the most popular ways for people to plan their meals. Just signing up and paying online makes it possible to nearly forget about what you’ll be eating. Shipments of planned meals can be sent to your home on a regular basis, eliminating stress from a daily task. And there are many different meal kit subscriptions a click away, so there are plenty of options
But it’s important to note that signing up for a meal planning kit online isn’t the only option. Though these boxes have become more and more popular, there are still other ways current technology can make figuring out what to eat for dinner less difficult.
Some of the other tech-related options you might consider for meal planning include the following:
- Meal planning apps
- Online meal planning services
- Grocery delivery through online orders
Meal planning boxes may be popular, and ultimately, one may be right for you. However, it’s important to consider your options. There could be a site or app out there that doesn’t necessarily send all the ingredients to you but that still offers a convenient (and likely inexpensive) service.
What you might think about
There are a number of things to consider when choosing how to plan your meals. Take a look at these questions and think about what you personally need.
How much does it cost?
Price is a major consideration when meal planning through an app, site, or subscription. Some apps and other services might be free (or have free versions), but many meal planning options can be costly. And when it comes to subscription meal kits specifically, the different subscriptions can range greatly in price. Also, you’ll want to consider how much money it’s worth to make things a little more convenient. Some meal kits do cost more than you would need to spend if you just went to the store yourself, but it might be worth it since you’ll get to skip a trip to the market.
Is time saving important?
Continuing what I mentioned above, time is a huge factor in your choice. If you’re typically short on time and you can afford it, a meal kit subscription could be incredibly useful. But if you can spare more time (for a trip to the store or to look over recipes), you might make up for it by saving money.
Does your choice fit your nutritional needs?
Some meal kits are wildly popular and seem like the right choice, but if you have specific needs, like a special diet, you’ll want to either skip the subscription meal kit or make sure you find one that can consistently meet your dietary and nutritional needs. Some focus on a more general diet, while some cater to a specific crowd. Don’t just go with a subscription because it’s well reviewed—consider using a different type of service (an app or site) if meal kits don’t offer the food you need.
Is the service enjoyable?
It’s important to make sure you actually enjoy your meal planning service. When it comes to an app or site, if it’s designed in a way that’s frustrating or stressful, then it’s not right for you. With subscription kits, you’ll also need to make sure you actually like the food. If the portions are too small or don’t taste good, or if you just find yourself not enjoying your food, you’ll want to try something else.
Apps, programs, and websites
There are plenty of apps and other services that you can use to make meal planning easier. Here are just some of your options!
Cook Smarts: This service helps you plan your meals, try new recipes, make grocery lists, and more. With their meal planning service, you get meal plans based on your specific needs. This can include things like special diets and certain portion sizes. Their meal planning includes suggesting how to prep certain things over the weekend so you don’t have to do it during the week. They also let you create shopping lists, reduce waste, and more. You can try Cook Smarts for free, after which it costs $6 to $8/mo. depending on the plan you choose.
eMeals: With eMeals, you can get meal plans and grocery lists based on a number of different needs. You can choose from many different categories, including clean eating, low-carb, paleo, vegan, budget friendly, gluten free, diabetic, and more. Once you choose your recipes and build your meal plan, you can get a grocery list and even transfer the list to services that deliver (including AmazonFresh and Walmart Grocery). You can try eMeals free for two weeks, and then you can subscribe for $5 to $10/mo. depending on the plan you choose.
FoodPrint (for Android or iOS): This app is a particularly useful meal planning app for people who are dieting. You can input your specific information, like whether you’re trying to lose weight (and how much), allergies, special diets (including vegan and vegetarian), and more. Then FoodPrint will suggest many different things for you, not just meal plans. With the meal plans, the app will offer personalized ideas for each meal and even for snacks. It will also suggest meals you can get at restaurants near you. The app is free, but a full subscription with all the features is $3.33 to $7.99/mo. depending on which plan you choose.
Mealime (for Android or iOS): Mealime is a popular meal planning app that creates personalized meal plans based on your information. It also creates shopping lists based on your planned meals. Its recipes are intended to show you how to cook your meals in a short period of time, even if you’re not a pro in the kitchen. You can get meals suggested based on things like a special diet, numerous different allergies, and ingredients you want to avoid. The app also works to reduce wasting food by trying to use up all of your ingredients that would otherwise go bad. The app is free, but for extra features, you can upgrade for $5.99/mo. or $49.99/yr.
Paprika (for most devices, including Android & iOS): Paprika is not just a mobile app, it’s also available to download for other devices. It’s a recipe finder, grocery list creator, and meal planner all in one. Using Paprika, you can find recipes you’ll like, add them to your meal plan, and use the grocery list to easily find what you need. You can also add your own recipes, as well as input what ingredients you already have so you won’t accidentally buy unnecessary things at the store. You can try Paprika for free for 30 days on some devices, at which point you can buy it for varying prices ($4.99 to $29.99, depending on the device).
Pepperplate (for most devices, including Android & iOS): This service offers features that make meal planning easier. You can add recipes, create shopping lists, make menus, and schedule your meals. When planning your meals, you can change the scale of the recipe to make the amount of food right for you. You can also share recipes with other people and customize how your shopping list is arranged, along with other features. This service is free.
Yummly (for Android & iOS): This app focuses heavily on offering access to recipes. With Yummly, you can find over a million recipes. You can save recipes and create grocery lists based on them. Yummly will also learn your needs, like dietary restrictions and taste, and then suggest recipes for you. This app can make it easier to figure out what you should cook for any meal. This app is free.
Meal subscription services
Meal kits can be particularly convenient. If you do decide a meal kit subscription is right for you, here are some popular (and varied) options you might consider:
- Blue Apron—Focuses on ingredients from sources that use sustainable practices and that avoid GMOs as well as hormones and antibiotics. Cost depends on how many meals you want and for how many people (it can range from $47.95/wk. to $143.84/wk.)
- Freshly—Focuses on natural, gluten-free ingredients and healthy, fully-prepared meals that take 3 minutes for subscribers to get ready. Cost depends on how many meals you want (it can range from $49.99/wk. to $107.99/wk.)
- Green Chef—Focuses on organic, GMO-free, sustainable ingredients that are fully prepped for your meals. Cost varies between the different plans and depending on how many people the meals are for (plans include vegetarian, gluten free, omnivore, keto, and more)
- Hello Fresh—Focuses on a variety of different meal plans and recipes based on your dietary needs (including low-calorie, vegetarian, and more). Cost depends on how many meals you want and for how many people (it can range from $8.74 to $9.99/serving)
- Plated—Focuses on meal plans for different dietary preferences and with season-appropriate ingredients that come from responsible, sustainable sources. Cost depends on how many meals you want and for how many people (it can range from $47.80/wk. to $159.20/wk.)
- Purple Carrot—Focuses on plant-based meals for vegans, vegetarians, or anyone who wants to go plant-free a few times a week. Cost depends on the plan (from $72 to $78/wk.)
- Sun Basket—Focuses on clean eating by using organic and responsibly sourced ingredients in their various different meal plans which include paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, and pescaterian options. Cost depends on how many meals you want and for how many people (it can range from $10.99 to $11.99/serving)
Whichever option you choose, make sure you evaluate how well it’s meeting your dietary needs and how much you enjoy the service! Some services may not be right for everyone.