Meal Planning Apps Review: Which Ones Best Focus on Positive Food Experiences?

Meal plan with fresh produce around it to represent meal planning apps

Meal Planning Apps Review: Which ones help to create positive food experiences?

With the advent of technology, there are many meal planning apps that speed up, or otherwise make efficient, that same process.

In our previous post about meal planning (Meal Planning: A Building Block of Positive Food Experiences), we took an in-depth look at meal planning, and provided an example of the process.

In this post, we review the top meal planning apps that help you to not only be more efficient with meal planning, but to help you create positive food experiences. We looked at meal planning apps through the lens of The Six Principles of Positive Food Experiences: Food, People, Environment, Knowledge Base, Interaction, and Motivation.

In total, we reviewed 12 different meal planning apps. Overall we selected 4 apps that were most helpful in creating positive food experiences.

As a disclaimer, we are not being paid or otherwise compensated in any way for reviewing these apps. The links contained herein are not affiliate links. This review is on our own accord as a service to our readers.

Meal Planning Apps

Big Oven

I really like this app because it’s very comprehensive. It addresses several areas of positive food experiences. It helps you to make food planning and preparation easier. To start off, you can choose from over 350,000 recipes from within Big Oven itself. Home cooks, who have gone through the rigors of making those recipes just right, submit these recipes. You can also follow friends and family within Big Oven to exchange recipe ideas.


An interesting feature in Big Oven is that you can create your own recipes, and include them in your recipe list. You can scan and take pictures of your recipes or any family recipes you use. That information will automatically be included in your recipe list. That feature alone puts you into the picture. You are not simply looking up a recipe from someone else; you are a part of that whole process.

The app also allows you to save recipes from the web. This forms a central collection point, so you can refer back to them from time to time as you cook. All of this information is then rolled up into a menu planner, which can be synchronized on multiple electronic devices.

Grocery Lists

A feature that addresses the People principle of positive food experiences (See the article, Principle 2: People – The Pulse of the Food Experience) is the ability to share grocery lists. This allows whomever you share the list with to help you pick up the groceries. They can also add to the list from time to time as needed. All of that information is synchronized among users and among devices. No more will you have to jot down grocery items on a piece of paper for someone, only to have that list become lost on the way to the grocery store. You don’t need to spend time calling or texting the person either – it’s all in the app!


An additional interesting feature is the ability to look up nutrition information about different recipes and different foods. This is perfect for those with restricted diets or food allergies.

Saving Time and Money

Overall, the app covers a wide range of features. Not only do you have the Food principle involved (See the article, Principle 1: Food – Achieving the Wow Factor ), as it would be with all meal planning apps, of course, but you also have the People principle in action as you exchange recipes and share grocery lists. You have the opportunity to have unlimited recipes (within the app and your own). You can select recipes based on what level of detail you are looking for (cuisine, skill level, etc.), and what level of Interaction (See the article, Principle 5: Interaction – Dancing with Food) you want with the food.

With the meal planner feature in Big Oven, you can focus on saving time by deciding what you will eat, and when. You can focus on the food in a more efficient and effective way. This app focuses on the whole food experience. It helps you to get excited about food and meal planning. If you happen to see a recipe on the web, on TV, or if you are thumbing through family recipes you haven’t cooked in awhile, this app helps you to do that. It also helps you to improve your attitude about food. You have access to nutrition data to help you make better food decisions.

The free membership gives you access to their recipes, and the ability to create a grocery list. You can also save up to 50 of your own recipes, and do up to 3 recipes scans. Their Pro version (for $20/year or $2/month) allows you the unlimited ability to save and organize recipes, the use of the meal planner, and the ability to share recipes.

Menu Planner

Menu Planner includes meal planning, recipe management, pantry tracking, and shopping lists – all in one app!

Apple Health App

A rather unique feature not found in other apps is the fact that is works with the Apple Health app to store nutritional data. That is extremely helpful if you are striving for different health goals or restrictions (lose weight, gain weight, maintain weight, watch cholesterol or sugar intake, etc.).

Even without the health app, you are still able to track nutrition information, which is helpful to monitor health goals or restrictions a little more closely.

Grocery Stores

With Menu Planner, you can even add different grocery stores in your local area, and divide up your grocery list by aisles.

Pantry Tracking

The pantry tracking feature allows you to update the quantity of each item in your pantry, and then adds the appropriate items to your grocery list. You can select a minimum amount of an ingredient or food item that you want to keep stocked in your pantry. Whether they be basic staples such as sugar or flour, or more specialized items such as sun-dried tomatoes, the pantry tracker has you covered. As you do that, the app keeps track of your usage and adds the items to your grocery list as you run low.

Menu Planner is available from the iTunes store for $2.99.

Meal Board

Meal board takes meal planning to new heights, as far as food experiences are concerned. Like other meal planning apps, it has a built in browser so you can pull recipes from the web or search for various dishes and cuisines. The app also generates a grocery list, where you can even view the list according to the layout of certain grocery stores. The app allows you to see different grocery prices within your list in order to ensure that your food budget is within the boundaries you set.

Meal Schedules

A unique feature in Meal Board is the ability to adjust meal schedules and add different notes to recipes as you make them. This feature is handy if you need to tweak recipes as food availability, eating preferences, and food allergy accommodations necessitate. If the people for whom you are cooking don’t like certain ingredients, or if you need to substitute ingredients due to food allergies, you can make and retain those notes within each recipe.

Preparation Reminders

Another unique feature of Meal Board is that the app lets you set preparation reminders. If you want to prepare sauces or dressings, or chop ingredients ahead of time, the app allows you to set alarms to complete those tasks. This is handy to help you keep on track with all the components of your meal.

Pantry Monitoring

In addition, the app has a pantry monitoring system, where you keep track of the quantity of ingredients you have on hand and how much you need to buy. This feature is very helpful so you don’t have to spend time searching your pantry for different ingredients needed for the meal. You also don’t need to buy ingredients unnecessarily.

Like other apps, you can synchronize the app among different electronic devices for ease in viewing and editing.

From a food experience perspective, Meal Board saves you time and money. The app removes the stress from meal planning in that you know exactly where you will buy the ingredients, what you will buy, how much it will cost, etc. You can then make good decisions regarding that meal plan.

Meal Board is available from the iTunes store for $3.99.

Pepper Plate

Pepper Plate is similar to other meal planning apps in that you can create your own recipes or import recipes from different websites. The app gives you the ability to organize your meals for the day/week/month.

Special Event Meals

A unique aspect about Pepper Plate is that you can designate whether the meal is for a special event or if it is for an everyday meal. That inserts the People principle into the situation in that you are accommodating the tastes and preferences of different groups of people, different occasions, etc.

Cooking Timers and Modes

The app also allows you to use different cooking timers. If you are preparing several foods simultaneously, or if you are trying to prepare one dish while another dish is in the oven, this feature is very helpful.

The app also has a cook mode setting for your electronic device. This mode prevents the screen from dimming while you are trying to use a recipe. Most smartphones dim or hibernate after a certain length of time if you are not actively using the phone. The cook mode feature ensures that the recipe instructions will stay visible.

Like other meal planning apps, you can also organize and share your recipes. You can also arrange the grocery list according to how you shop. If you prefer to buy produce first, followed by baked goods, the app will put your grocery list in the proper order.

Pepper Plate is available from the iTunes store for free.

So there you have it: the top 4 apps that will help in your meal planning process. If you choose to use a meal planning app, we encourage you to select the one that works best with your individual focal points.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Do you use meal planning apps? Which ones do you prefer? Is there an app that is not on this list, but should be? Let us know!

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