Online Meal Planners

Family meal time

You can take the stress out of planning weekly meals by subscribing to an online meal planning site. Many of these sites are free to use while others require a fee. Whether you are feeding just you and your spouse or a family of five, there are sites that can tailor meals to fit not only your dietary needs but also your budget.

Types of Online Meal Planners

Meal planning online makes it easy to choose meals that you and your family will enjoy. Many online sites not only help you plan meals for a week but also provide you with recipes, grocery lists and nutritional information. Some sites to check out include:

eMeals

Clean Eating Meal Plan
Clean Eating Meal Plan

eMeals is an online meal planning site that can help you not only plan out meals but also save money at the grocery store. Subscribers receive recipes for the week as well as a budgeted shopping list based on specific eating habits and store preferences.

To use the meal planning, you must register as a subscriber then pick a plan and your desired subscription length. Based on what you choose, there is a fee to use the site. For example, a basic dinner plan for three months costs $21, for six months it is $35 and for one year it is $58. For an additional $4 per month, you can add a lunch plan as well.

eMeals provided me with free access to check out their meal plans firsthand. I was able to try out the following plans:

  • Low Fat for Two: This meal plan provided healthy, nutritious meals that were low in fat. Some recipes included Veggie Pita Pizza, Warm Chicken Pasta over Salad with Cheesy Pull-Apart Bread and Chicken Quesadillas. I was also provided a detailed shopping list.
  • Classic Family Plan: With this plan, I chose to shop at any store. This plan gave me meal ideas such as Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce, Elegant Chicken & Pasta and Shrimp Bisque along with detailed grocery lists.

For both plans, the information was clear and concise. Each meal has a set of ingredients and instructions making it easy to prepare. I liked this feature and also liked the shopping list where it listed the necessary staples for each day's meal. This made it easy to make sure that I had the key ingredients on hand. I was able to switch my meal plan after trying it out after two weeks of meals. This is a nice feature for users who want to try something different. I would have liked to be able to customize meals after I was given the plan, but eMeals does not include this feature.

Paleo Meal Plan
Paleo Meal Plan

eMeals founder Jane DeLaney states "The most popular plans include the Classic Family Plan and the new Clean Eating plan. To meet everyone's needs, eMeals offers 50 meal plan variations. Options include Paleo, Simple Gourmet, Low Carb, Low Fat, Portion Control, Natural and Organic, Gluten Free and Vegetarian."

If you decide to try the sample plans on eMeals, use the discount code LOVETOKNOW for 15 percent off a subscription.

Popularity of Online Meal Planning

Jane DeLaney is not only the founder of eMeals but is a busy mother of four. She knows firsthand how to plan meals while working and caring for a family. She got the idea for her site because she found it time consuming and complicated to plan meals for the family while sticking to a budget. She states, "Web-based meal planners are popular because they simply your life."

Sites like the ones listed here do not provide you with thousands of recipes and leave you to do the rest. Instead, they do the time consuming work of sorting through recipes to build healthy, practical and coordinated meal plans with simple to prepare recipes. For those living a busy life and juggling work and family, this type of planning is ideal.

Meal Planning Tips

Grocery list

In order to make the most out of meal planning, there are some basic tips to keep in mind.

  • Have a Plan: A plan should include making a list and sticking to it. According to DeLaney, "The worst thing you can do is go to the store without a list. This is like throwing money down the drain. Not only do you waste money at the store without a list, but you will most likely come home without anything to make for dinner."
  • Save Money: When planning for the recipes in your meal plan, shop for the best deals. Since you will most likely have your plan in advance, you can use coupons and check stores for the latest sales and deals.

Tailor To Your Needs

Since there are many sites online, find the planner that works best for your family and specific dietary needs should be simple. Most meal planners allow you to tailor plans to fit your needs and lifestyle. There is no need to stress out over meal planning when there are sites online that will take the guesswork out of the task and make it easy for you.

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Online Meal Planners