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North Hills Monthly

Recipe and Menu Planning Apps Make Meals a Little More Manageable

Oct 31, 2019 11:12AM ● By Jennifer Monahan

One reason people love the holiday season is all of the delicious food. Planning special menus can be fun, but sometimes the unrelenting grind of weekly meal planning and shopping is less appealing. The preponderance of meal preparation services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh indicate that deciding what to feed people can feel overwhelming, and heading into the holidays often increases that stress. 

Happily, a few good apps can help home chefs create—wait for it—a few good apps (appetizers—get it?). Also, a few good dinners. Read on for some of the best recipe and menu planning apps.

Pepperplate is a personal favorite because the website and app integrate seamlessly. Users can navigate back and forth between a computer and smartphone or tablet with ease. Pepperplate provides a digital platform to store recipes from anywhere; pull favorites from CookingLight.com or create an online version of your great-grandma’s brownie recipe from your own old-school recipe box. Pepperplate allows users to share recipes with friends via email and Facebook, which can be helpful when struggling to find ideas for a quick weeknight meal or an easy vegetarian main dish. Pepperplate lets users plan meals for the week as well as plan menus for special occasions like Thanksgiving. One of Pepperplate’s best features is the ability to create shopping lists directly from the recipes listed in the meal plan. Although users must invest the initial time to import or create a list of favorite recipes, once established, Pepperplate is a huge timesaver. (Free; available for iOS and Android) 

Despite Mealime’s annoying name (Is it a typo for “mealtime”? Do you pronounce it “mee-lime” or “mea-lime” like “mea culpa”?), Mealime is one of the best meal planning apps around. Users rave about the ease with which they can select recipes and quickly generate a shopping list. Upon creating an account, new users choose a general menu like low-carb, vegetarian or classic. The app also prompts questions about food allergies and preferences, how many servings are needed and how many days of meals are required, then magically generates both a menu and a shopping list personalized for the user. If one or more of the meals looks unappealing, users simply click on that image and an alternative appears. One of Mealime’s best features is that it groups groceries that are likely to be found together in the store. It also allows users to eliminate ingredients they have on hand or to add grocery items as needed. For accomplished home cooks who already have a repertoire of beloved recipes, Mealime is not the best option—storing original recipes requires a paid subscription. However, the app is perfect for anyone seeking new meal ideas or looking to simplify the process of planning and executing simple, healthy meals at home. (Free; available for iOS and Android) 

The Tasty app is worth downloading both for its video illustrations and the clear instructions provided in each recipe. The app offers quick, step-by-step visual video instructions that make recipes look easy—and in fact, a variety of meals become more accessible when the explanation is so clear. Users rave about the app’s variety of recipes and ease of use. Newer cooks will love the way Tasty takes the mystery out of cooking. Experienced cooks will appreciate learning new tricks and having such an engaging resource for new meal ideas. Tasty is a winner on all fronts. (Free; available for iOS and Android) 

Where Tasty brings cooking to the masses, Epicurious is geared more toward foodies. Owned by Condé Nast (the parent company of Bon Appetit), Epicurious boasts a storehouse of mouthwatering deliciousness that allows home cooks to rival the best restaurants in town. The app has some handy features, including a digital recipe box to store favorite recipes, the ability to generate a shopping list from each recipe and a seasonal ingredient finder that lets users determine which items are likely to be on hand at the local farmer’s market. While the app is only available for iOS, anyone can access the Epicurious website. For those looking to impress others with an extraordinary side dish—or an entire Thanksgiving meal—composed of trendy ingredients and complex techniques, Epicurious is the perfect resource. (Free; available for iOS) 

The Cozi app—while geared more toward general organization of a family than specific management of menus—merits a shout-out for its Cozi Recipe Box & Dinner Planner feature. Among its many helpful elements, Cozi offers a shared shopping list accessible by all members of the family as well as a “recipe box” option that will add ingredients to the family shopping list with one click. For anyone already using Cozi, adding the recipe box and dinner planner feature is a no-brainer that offers one more way to keep families humming along. (Free; available for iOS and Android) 

Whether you are hoping to manage meal planning in order to stick to a diet, to entertain guests or just to survive the busyness of the holiday season, let one of these meal planning apps make the task a little easier.