7 Super Sites to Make Meal Planning a Snap
Cost: $21 for three months; $35.70 for six months; $58.80 for one year
Concept: When you sign up for Relish! (if you’re gluten-free, try their sister site Gfree), you’ll receive weekly menu options every Thursday morning. Pick and choose which recipes appeal to you, drag them into your weekly menu plan, then scale your recipes for anywhere from two to eight servings. The site will generate a grocery list that you can edit according to your needs and print out to take to the store.
Cool features: You can save personal recipes to your favorites folder for more options if nothing stands out to you one week. The site also offers monthly recipes that you can freeze in advance for rainy (or lazy) days.
Pro tip: “For gluten-free eaters, planning ahead is crucial,” says founder Ann Bender. “Since gluten-free products can be hard to find and/or more expensive, deciding what you want to make ahead of time will give you time to prepare your own GF breads, dressings, marinades, and desserts.”
Cost: $8 per month or $72 per year
Concept: This clean, mobile-friendly site helps you cook restaurant-style meals at home with four gourmet dinner recipes per week—choose from paleo, vegetarian, or gluten-free options to suit your diet. And you can ensure you’re buying exactly what you need (no more rotten veggies!) with the grocery lists that are generated with one click.
Cool feature: Enhance your kitchen skills with Cook Smarts' collection of short how-to cooking videos.
Pro tip: “Think of planning your meals as a way to set your eating intentions and health goals for the week—and recording these goals will make you much more likely to reach them!” says founder Jess Dang. “With a weekly meal plan, you’re taking charge of your health by controlling for the quality of ingredients and calories you consume.”
RELATED: Your Post-Weekend Detox Meal Plan
The Six O’Clock Scramble
Cost: $3 a month for a two-year subscription; $6 a month for a six-month subscription
Concept: Ideal for busy moms with hungry mouths to feed, the Scramble sends members weekly meal plans with detailed recipe directions, cooking tips, and an organized grocery list. All of the recipes are community rated, nutritious, and wholesome, and don’t use any crazy ingredients that end up going bad in your cupboard. Bonus: All recipes take 30 minutes or less of actual prep work!
Cool feature: Each recipe features complete nutritional information and Weight Watchers points.
Pro tip: Buy basics in bulk. "When you see items you frequently cook with on sale, stock up," suggests founder Aviva Goldfarb. Stores often have deep discounts on meat, chicken, and fish, so divide larger packages into smaller portions and freeze. Same with blocks or large bags of shredded cheese. Also look for larger containers of items like yogurt, applesauce, or dried fruits, which are less expensive than single serving sizes, and divide them into reusable containers yourself.
Cost: $30 for 3 months; $48 for 6 months; $58 for 12 months
Concept: When you subscribe to eMeals, you can choose from a whopping 50 meal plans that range from paleo to clean eating to Mediterranean. Each week’s menu includes recipes with corresponding shopping lists arranged by grocery section for easy once-a-week shopping. You also have the option to add weekly breakfast, lunch, or dessert plans for $3 or $4 more per month.
Cool feature: Specify your local supermarket, whether you shop at ALDI, Kroger, Publix, Safeway, Target, Costco, Walmart, or Whole Foods, to take advantage of sale prices and save even more on your grocery bill.
Pro tip: Stick to simple sides. "A side dish can cost just as much as the main dish if you are not careful," says co-founder Jane DeLaney. Buy 32-ounce or larger bags of salad mix (or veggies), which can be used divided over several meals for less than a few dollars per meal. For example, one apple diced and tossed with 16 ounces of salad and homemade dressing makes a simple, cheap, and fresh side for four. [Tweet this tip!]
The Fresh 20
Cost: $18 for a three-month subscription
Concept: True to its name, The Fresh 20 mixes and matches a mere 20 seasonal ingredients per week to create five balanced, satisfying, homemade meals. Menu variations include vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, lunches, and meals for one, so whether you’re single or have a bunch of picky eaters at home, you’ll be sure to find exactly what you want to eat.
Cool feature: A $12 Lunch eBook will give you six weeks’ worth of healthy lunch ideas to pack for school or the office.
Cool feature: "Choose fresh, in-season fruits and veggies, which boast higher nutrient levels and cost much less than out-of-season produce," says founder Melissa Lanz. And ask questions at the farmers' market or in your grocery store. Farmers and produce managers know all the tricks of storing and preparing produce, and they can also let you know what's coming in, so you can plan meals ahead.
No More "To Go"
Cost: $7 per month; $18 for three months; $34 for six months; $64 for 12 months
Concept: Designed by a busy mom to keep you and your family away from greasy takeout, No More To Go provides five complete dinners and easy-to-use shopping lists each week. You’ll also have immediate access to more than a month’s worth of recipes as soon as you join—and recipes never disappear from the site. Plus, all ingredients can be found at your local grocery store, whether your go-to is a Whole Foods or a Walmart.
Cool feature: Each recipe comes with a beautiful photograph and personal notes from the founder, and you’ll receive a bonus recipe each week, usually themed for an upcoming holiday.
Cool feature: “The biggest trick to successful meal planning is keeping it simple,” says founder Stacey Stabenow. “Don’t over-commit with too many meals, and stick to healthy recipes that call for common ingredients and those that you will continue to use. Fancy ingredients don’t necessarily create delicious meals—the simplest recipes with the fewest and freshest ingredients are always the tastiest and the healthiest.”
RELATED: The Ultimate Healthy Grocery List
Plan to Eat
Cost: 30 day free trial; $4.95 per month or $39 per year
Concept: Pinterest addicts, this site is for you. While other services provide you with preset recipes, Plan to Eat allows you to choose from recipes that you’ve saved from across the web to create a meal plan. Simply select what you want to make that week or month, drag and drop the recipes onto the calendar tool, then easily view and print the plans along with automatically generated shopping lists.
Cool feature: Once you have your menu planned, you can use the convenient mobile grocery store assistant to check off items as you shop.