For some, choosing a meal planner can be almost as confusing as planning a meal on their own. To choose the best one for your situation, start by determining what your dietary needs are, such as food allergies or weight-loss goals, and then search online for an assortment of planners that will work for you. Once you have a decent amount of options, look at the features that each program has — automatic grocery lists and eliminating certain foods are all good options to have. To make your final decision, you can either go by price or read reviews from customers to find the best meal planner.
The first step to finding the best meal planner is to write down what you are looking for in your meals and then search online for companies that will meet your needs. Low-calorie or low-carbohydrate meals are common requests by those looking for these types of programs, as are vegetarian, gluten-free, or allergy-related plans. For many people, a meal planner is meant to help them save money at the grocery store; if this is the reason that you need a plan, make sure that you look for one that has budget-conscious options. If you need to make your meals quickly, you can look for plans that have an estimated time of completion, such as 30-minute dinner recipes or 10-minute breakfasts. Search for meal planners that suit your initial criteria to make sure that the program will work well for you.
After you have a few options for your dietary needs, start looking into the features that each program offers. One of the most beneficial is an automatic grocery list, which can save you time and money when you shop for food. Typically, these meal planners provide you with a set amount of recipes and generate a grocery list for everything that you will need to make the meals. Another good feature to look for is a planner that uses a grocery store near you as a price guide for making the meal plans, especially if you stick to a strict food budget.
Finding a customizable meal planner outside of your dietary needs can also be a good idea, especially if you or a member of your household is an especially picky eater. These plans will allow you to set up your account to exclude any foods that you do not eat, and will only provide recipes that do not include these ingredients. One step further are planners that also allow you to input your favorite foods and types of dishes, which can give you a better chance of receiving a meal plan that you enjoy.
Once you have one or more plans that will provide you with everything that you desire, you can base your final decision on reviews, cost, or a combination of both. If you only need something simple, a free planner will often be best; however, if you have strict needs or really want something that will save you a fair amount of time during the week or month, you may have to pay a fee for the service. If you have a plan that fits your budget, make sure to check the customer reviews before committing to anything, or choose a program that is offering a free trial.