If you are like most people who eat a whole foods diet, you spend a lot of time looking for recipes and doing meal planning. It is often arduous! As time consuming as it can be though, I know that it is worth the effort to eat real foods, which are nutrient dense and properly fuel the mind, body and spirit.
Who doesn’t want to save time though? To that end, I recently decided to test out several meal planning tools to see if one of them would fit our requirements. Here is the low-down on a few of them, so you can research the tools that most suit your needs. I am not affiliated with any of these companies, and I evaluated them based on ease of use/functionality, ability to deal with specialized diets, and cost.
- Plan to Eat – overall this was my favourite planner and showed the most promise. It includes a recipe url import tool, the ability to browse recipes, then drag and drop them onto a calendar to create weekly meal plans. Users can also create shopping lists easily and track leftover meals to the freezer. There is a 30 day free trial, then a yearly fee thereafter. Currently it is browser-based only and has no smartphone app. There is a “recipe clipper” tool that is supposed to work with multiple browser types, which I was initially very excited about. I could not get this add-on extension to work successfully however, in either IE 11, Chrome or MS Edge. In order to allow this tool to work properly you have to enable 3rd party cookies, which I am not a fan of. That left me with the url import feature, which can be cumbersome, as not all details are imported successfully, so manual editing is required to get the full recipe details. Given that the yearly subscription fee is in US dollars however, I decided not to purchase this tool given the current exchange rate.
- Pepperplate – this was my second favourite tool, and has many of the same features as PTE, but this tool is free! There have been suggestions online however, that support is minimal to nonexistent; but remember, it is a free tool. There are mobile apps available, which I did not evaluate. This tool also has a add-on browser extension for importing recipes auto-magically, called a “bookmarklet”, which again, I could not get to work due to not having 3rd party cookies allowed in my browser privacy settings area.
- eMeals – although this has a free 14 day trial, it only provides users with proprietary recipes. Being that I have a substantial amount of my own recipes already, there is seemingly no way to import my own collection, so that all of my recipes are in one place. Additionally, because I (and many of my clients) have multiple food allergies, I need to be able to pick recipes that are gluten, dairy, egg and almond free. With eMeals, you can seemingly only pick one category, such as gluten free, or vegetarian. You can change the category, but it makes it more challenging to find suitable recipes for those with more than one dietary requirement. Customers have to sign up for a minimum of 3 months at $10 (US) a month; however, the cost decreases if you choose the 6 or 12 month plans. This tool does not have near the functionality of the other two above, so I personally don’t feel it is worth the money.
- MealBoard – if you’re looking to use your Apple device for most of your meal planning, this app may interest you. Supported devices are the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, but if you are not an Apple fan then you are out of luck. The app costs $3.99 US and it allows you to import recipes, keep track of pantry items, create meal plans & shopping lists, and, even sync your recipes between your devices using your cloud account settings. Sharing your shopping lists with someone else is possible, but that person also need to buy the app; however, you can share the same cloud sync account. Alternatively, you can send them the shopping list via email. You can also import recipes using a web browser, but you need to sign in with the cloud account used when purchasing the app to do so.
- Paprika – here’s another option if you’re looking to use mobile devices. Supported devices include the iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, Kindle Fire, and Android. This app allows for cloud syncing, web importing of recipes, grocery lists and meal planning. It also allows users to view their recipes offline, which can be helpful, and, share recipes via email. Cost varies depending on the device; however, a free trial version does exist for Windows and Mac, but the purchase price is $19.99 US.
- RealPlans – this is the hot new kid on the block, so to speak. It’s getting endorsements from many folks in the wellness industry, and a lot of the recipes in the database have been contributed by them, so I thought I would check it out. It has a lot of functionality and allows for drag and drop meal planning, and auto shopping list creation when recipes are chosen. When you move meals around, or delete them, the shopping list and timelines/instructions for prep update on the fly to reflect only what you need to buy and do based on your plan. It also caters to virtually any and all dietary restrictions and requirements, which I have to commend the company for. Portion sizes can be adjusted for recipes too, which is handy. There is no trial for this tool, but there is a 30 day money-back guarantee and you can cancel your subscription at any time. The monthly cost goes down if you choose the 12 month plan, and works out to be $6 US per month. Oh yes, and of course, there is an app for that (iPhone and Android).
Have fun exploring some of these tools on your own, and see what works best for you and your family.