Saving money on groceries isn’t just about finding the lowest price on tortillas. The quantity of food you buy is also important. There are some handy apps you can use to make your trips to the grocery store less stressful.
The key to getting the most out of the money you spend on groceries is meal planning. This allows you to optimize the ingredients you buy and limit the waste. When food goes bad, you’re basically throwing money away. So it’s best to buy ingredients that can be used for multiple meals.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at three meal planning apps that I’ve tried and like.
I’m going to say this right off the bat—Mealime is the best meal planning app I’ve used. It’s great as a free service, but there are a few key things that make it worth the $3 per month for a Pro subscription (for me).
At the core, Mealime is a repository of recipes created specifically for the service. These are not just recipes gathered from the web or other users. When you select recipes, Mealime automatically generates a grocery list of the ingredients. That list can then be exported to your favorite grocery store, making it super easy to shop.
You can create your own meal plan from scratch by choosing recipes, but the real magic happens with Mealime’s pre-made plans. The bundle of recipes are optimized to share ingredients and limit food waste. You can choose how many meals you want and browse the plans. With just a few taps, your weekly meals and grocery list is taken care of.
Mealime is great for while you’re cooking as well. The recipes are easy to follow and you can use a gesture to move to the next step without touching the screen with messy fingers.
The Pro subscription gives you more nutritional information about recipes, calorie filters, the ability to add notes to recipes, and access to the full library of recipes.
Download for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
Sorted Sidekick is a similar concept to Mealime, but a bit more limited. The basic idea is you can choose one “Meal Pack” per week. These Meal Packs are optimized to utilize the same ingredients and limit waste.
New Meal Packs are added regularly and they are typically based around a theme. For example, you might see a vegetarian pack or one with quick weeknight meals. One thing I don’t love about Sidekick is you are limited to just one Meal Pack per week. That makes choosing one difficult if you don’t like every single recipe in the pack.
Sidekick also creates grocery lists based on the Meal Pack you choose. You can either use the Sidekick app as your grocery list in the store or copy and paste it into a different app. There’s no ability to export the list to a grocery store’s website.
All of the recipes on Sidekick have been created and tested by the Sorted team. Recipes also have voice-guided instruction. Sorted Sidekick has a free one-month trial offer. After that, it’s £4.99 (~$6) a month or £49.99 (~$61) per year.
Download for iPhone and Android.
Whisk is primarily an app for saving recipes, but it can be used for meal planning and making grocery lists as well. Whisk’s catalog of recipes is community driven. You’ll find recipes from websites and user-submitted recipes, too.
Recipes can be added to your meal plan and designated to specific days of the week. This doesn’t automatically add them to your grocery list, though. That’s an extra step. Also, there’s no way to group recipes that use the same ingredients to limit food waste. You’ll have to keep an eye on that yourself.
Whisk’s app experience is not as nice as Mealime or Sidekick. Since the recipes are from all over the place, there’s a lot of variation in how they’re displayed. Sometimes you have to open the recipe in the web browser, which can be annoying.
Once you have your grocery list made, you can export it to Kroger, Target, Walmart, or Instacart. Whisk is completely free to use.
Download for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
The key to meal planning is to, well, have a plan. Any plan is better than making a bunch of small trips to the grocery store every week for specific meals or ordering takeout. A little bit of pre-planning will make your meals less stressful, more cost-efficient, and probably even healthier. Win, win, win.
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