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January 11, 2021

What’s the Best Meal Planning Service?
Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

#3rd Best Choice

RealPlans delivery service

RealPlans

Whether you live a chronically busy life, are looking to save money, or embarking on a new diet approach like low carb or clean eating menus, meal planning can help you navigate a grocery store easily and keep things running smoothly. Outsourcing your meal plan creation to a meal planning service can make the process even easier.

Looking for a qualified meal planner and meal plans that will work for you and your life? Check out some of our favorite meal planning services to find out which one will work best for you.

Our Top Meal Planning Services

1. eMeals (Editor's Choice)

  • Best Match For: People who want a variety of budget-friendly, specialty, kid-friendly, dieting, quick-to-prepare, or other meal plans at the end of their fingertips for an affordable price.
  • Commitment Level: Subscription
  • Availability: Order delivery or pickup through Amazon, Instacart, Kroeger, Shipt, and Walmart
  • Value: $4.99-$9.99/month; 14-day free trial
  • Type: An affordable meal planning app

Creating satisfying meal plans can be difficult when you have dietary restrictions. Ingredients can be difficult to source or swap out. At eMeals, you don't have to plan on substitutions or meals that fall flat. With a wide range of plans available for many different types of diets — including vegetarian, keto-friendly, gluten-free, low-cal, and even kid-friendly — you can receive a custom meal plan package that really works for you.

In addition to a free trial, eMeals also offers an integrated app that lets you take your grocery list with you to the store and helps you keep track of all of your ingredients and recipes even while you're on the go. Need help getting the shopping done? You can also opt to pick up ingredients or have them delivered directly to your home through one of the companies they've partnered with, like Amazonfresh, Walmart, and Instacart.

Multiple plan options exist and a 12-month subscription comes with a substantial price break, so you can start enjoying convenient, healthy, and delicious meals without breaking the bank.

Check out our eMeals review for more information.

eMeals' subscription and delivery service

PROS

  • Meal plan options for specialty diets
  • Delivery and pickup for ingredients is available but not required
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans available
  • Free trial
  • 3 or 12-month subscription blocks available

Cons

  • A smart mobile device or phone is required to access the app while on-the-go
  • Pay per month subscription is not available

2. PlateJoy

  • Best Match For: Busy people looking to eat healthy with a personalized meal planner app that suggests recipes and prepares shopping lists based on preferences and dietary goals.
  • Commitment Level: 6 or 12-month subscription; 10-day trial
  • Availability: Available for Android and iOS
  • Value: $8-$12/month; Free 10-day trial
  • Type: Personalized meal planning and grocery shopping app

Have specific health goals you're looking to meet? At PlateJoy, you can experience a menu created by a dietary planner that's specific to your exact needs and goals.

Simply fill out a questionnaire that identifies any dietary restrictions, personal food and taste preferences, and which meals you're looking for. In return, you'll receive custom meal plans, shopping lists, and access to a library of recipes.

Frequently end up with repeat items in your cupboards? It can be a thing of the past with PlateJoy, which helps keep track of what you already have and won't put it on your grocery list.

Not only will you save money on ingredients, but your shopping list will be smaller, and trips to the grocery store will take less time as well. As a bonus, PlateJoy purposefully creates your individual meal plans to avoid food waste and use recipes that share similar ingredients.

For those times where you can't make it to the store yourself, you can always opt to have food delivered to you. Some shoppers and locations can even enjoy same-day delivery.

Read our full review of PlateJoy.

PlateJoy's meal kit delivery service

PROS

  • Great customization, including meal types, specific recipes, and how many they need to feed
  • Use a meal planner or plan your own by browsing their recipes
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snack recipes are available
  • PlateJoy offers you the ability to sync nutritional goals with apps and fitness trackers
  • Meals are planned smartly to avoid food waste and save money

Cons

  • It's a time commitment to set up your account and learn all the available features

3. RealPlans

  • Best match for: People looking for Whole30 compliant meals.

The official meal planners for Whole30, you'll have plenty of recipe options if you're following these (or similar) diets. In addition to clean eating, RealPlans allows you to enter any dietary restrictions or preferences in their questionnaire to create a menu that really suits you and your needs before matching you with their delicious recipes.

While RealPlans is more expensive upfront than some other options, there is a price saving when you commit to a full year of membership, instead of paying for a subscription per month. You can also save a significant amount of money while grocery shopping — up to $50 a week! — by using the corresponding meal planning app.

RealPlans is more than just a meal planning service for personal use. With a library of over 1,900 different recipes, it's also a great option for professional diet planners, nutrition coaches, and personal trainers. RealPlans also offers commission, so if one of your clients picks up a subscription of their own after working with you, you'll enjoy the perk of some passive income along with the delicious recipes.

RealPlans delivery service

PROS

  • A pricing filter helps you control exactly how much money you're spending on meals
  • Ability to remove certain ingredients and choose specific types of meals
  • Gift option available
  • Suitable for professional use with a client-friendly database
  • Money-back guarantee

Cons

  • More expensive for short-term commitments than other meal planning services

4. The Dinner Daily

  • Best match for: Financially savvy grocery shoppers.

Are you a proud coupon clipper who takes pride in being able to get a good deal? If you've avoided meal planning because you think you'll compromise your ability to shop smartly and get your meals at a good price, look no further than a meal planning subscription with The Dinner Daily.

This service will actually put together your menu and plan a meal for you and your family based on the sales your local grocery stores are having.

In addition to taking into account well-priced ingredients in your stores, meal plan menus are created using input about your personal likes and any limitations or allergies you've listed during a short lifestyle quiz. A smart interface allows you to change your selected recipes in a matter of moments, ensuring your grocery list is always up to date and you and your family have exactly what you're craving for dinner.

With plans starting at a very reasonable cost, this is one meal planning service where you'll see immediate savings in your grocery bills.

The Dinner Daily delivery service

PROS

  • Affordable subscription plans
  • Recipes use easy-to-find ingredients
  • It's easy and convenient to get the best deals on your shopping list ingredients
  • Customizable plans you aren't locked into
  • Free trial available

Cons

  • Only participating local grocery stores will be included in price comparisons

5. The Fresh 20

  • Best match for: Those who're looking to spend less time in the kitchen.

The Fresh 20 promises each one of its delicious recipes will have fewer than 20 ingredients — and it will take you less than 20 minutes to have your meal on the table.

Fewer ingredients mean you'll spend less time shopping (or searching) for items and you'll likely already have ingredients on hand. Of course, the fewer ingredients you're using, the less time you can anticipate spending in the kitchen preparing your meal as well.

Meal plans are released on Fridays every week when you'll receive the recipes for five meals to use as you see fit throughout the week. With the weekend to shop and prep for the week to come, the pressure is off during busy weeks. You'll have the time you need to get everything in order, no matter what kind of experience you have with meal planning.

In addition to their helpful walkthroughs, an active online and subscriber community helps keep you on track and gives you access to a wealth of advice, recommendations, and other meal planning hacks and tips.

The Fresh 20 delivery service

PROS

  • An included walkthrough helps you tackle a full week's worth of meal prep in just one hour
  • Specific diet meal plans are available
  • Weekly meal plans for one person or for larger families
  • Annual plans come with access to an additional recipe library

Cons

  • Family meals are intended for families of four — larger families will need to plan accordingly
  • Meal plan subscriptions cost the same per month, regardless of how many you need to feed

6. Cook Smarts

  • Best match for: Home chefs who are looking for a simple meal planning service that won't disappoint.

Cook Smarts is more than just a meal planning service. In addition to your weekly meal plan, you'll also be given complete grocery lists and the ability to send your shopping lists to Instacart for easy delivery. Smart nutrition information helps you understand the full scope of what your diet is providing your body with, so it's a great option if you're counting macros.

If you've been shying away from looking for a meals planner because you think a service will be too complicated for you or the recipes will be above your skill set, it's time to think again.

Cook Smarts has a lively community where you can ask questions and get tips. There's also a whole library of how-to videos, helping you learn better food prep techniques and encouraging the burgeoning chef to improve their abilities.

With Cook Smarts, you can customize the type of meals you want to see, letting you mix and match dairy-free, gluten-free, and other dietary restrictions as needed. Whether you're a household of one or have a large family, you can get an optimized meal plan created just for you.

You can choose to pay per month or see substantial cost savings by locking into a year's subscription. Cook Smarts does offer a trial period, so you can enjoy the full experience of a meal planner free of charge.

Cook Smarts delivery service

PROS

  • Great for new cooks
  • Fully customizable for the type of food and number of family members
  • Easy grocery list integration to delivery service
  • Easy-to-use
  • Subscriptions can be gifted

Cons

  • Cook Smarts does not currently offer an app

7. Eat This Much

  • Best Match For: People looking to eat healthily and become fit without having to search for recipes and learn about nutrition science.
  • Commitment Level: Subscription (free or paid)
  • Availability: All 50 states via Instacart
  • Value: Free plan; $8.99/month; $60/year; 14-day free trial for Premium subscription
  • Type: A personal diet assistant and meal planner app

Relying on meal planning services doesn't mean losing control over your diet or how you eat. In fact, it can give you better control over the kinds of foods — and how much of them — you're consuming. Meal planning can provide you with the best meal for your dietary and nutritional needs and goals once they've been identified.

To get started, you just select how many meals you plan to eat throughout the day and how many calories you want to consume. Follow a specific diet style or have restrictions? You can identify if you are looking for paleo, vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean, or ketogenic meals to get those calories. Up for anything? You can also opt into any and all meal types for even more variety.

While a subscription will give you access to all of the benefits of the service, you can still enjoy some of the features with a free account. A corresponding app helps keep things running smoothly while low carb and carb-cycling options can be worked into your meal planning approach. Eat This Much is even suitable for professionals to use with their clients.

Read our full Eat This Much review.

Eat This Much's delivery service

PROS

  • Calorie-driven meal planning is easy
  • Recipes for multiple diet types available
  • Features are accessible for free
  • Pay per month or receive a discount for an annual subscription
  • Grocery delivery is available — and can take less than an hour to arrive

Cons

  • Eat This Much does not currently sync with your pantry items to minimize your grocery lists

FAQS

Reading to make the leap and start looking for meal planning services that will work for you, but still have a few unanswered questions? Here are some of the questions we most frequently hear. Check them out before deciding which service will give you the best meal planning experience.

How do I plan meals for the week?

At its core, meal planning is easy. You choose the recipes you anticipate making throughout the week, shop for those ingredients, prepare them, and when the time comes, whip them up into a delicious meal. Of course, if meal planning were truly that easy, we wouldn't need to rely on a service to provide us with meal plans.

Using a meal planning service instead of doing all the legwork on your own helps you save time, so you can get back to the things you enjoy doing. Meal planning services can also help you save money and avoid food waste. For your best meal plan experience, identify the foods you want to eat, know whether or not you need an app or Instacart integration, and look for a service that ticks off all your requirements.

What is considered when planning a meal?

It can be surprising how much goes into creating a great meal plan. You'll want a variety of kinds and types of meals while also looking for recipes that use the same ingredients, so there are fewer items on your shopping list and you'll be spending less money at the grocery store. Streamlining grocery lists and your recipe needs will help prevent multiple trips to the store and help you avoid unnecessary food waste.

One of the other considerations you need to keep at the forefront of meal planning is how many people you need your recipes to feed. If you have a large family, you may need to adjust your recipes, and you'll want to know that's happening before you go grocery shopping or make your shopping lists.

Obviously, meal planning can be done at home without outside help, but you'll need to set aside a significant amount of time to curate your ingredients, shopping lists, and which recipes you plan to eat — and you'll need to do it every week.

How much does it cost for a meal plan?

You'll find a variety of price points out there for meal planning services. When weighing the cost of the service, though, don't forget that you can sometimes enjoy a price break if you pay ahead instead of choosing to pay per month. You'll also often see significant cost savings in your grocery bill as one of the perks of subscribing to a meal plan service is that recipes will be grouped to streamline grocery lists and avoid food waste.

The cost of a meal plan can vary depending on the add-ons provided by the company — calorie tracking, nutritionist availability, specialty diets, grocery delivery, etc. — and the number of people you need to feed. With plans starting at as little as $4.99 a month, there's an affordable option out there. If you're worried you haven't landed on the best meal plan for your family yet, choose one of the many that offer a free trial period before finalizing your choice.

Is eMeals worth the money?

The short answer here is a resounding "yes!" Plans with eMeals begin at just $4.99 a month. If you aren't ready to commit to a 12-month plan, you can always choose a 3-month subscription that comes in at $9.99 per month.

For the price of one or two trips through the drive-through for coffee, you can be enjoying great recipes that fit squarely in with your nutrition needs and goals. Whether you're dairy-free, working toward weight loss, or just looking to take the guesswork out of mealtime, eMeals can make that happen.

Beyond everything that's included with your subscription to eMeals, it's actually endorsed by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey. It will save you time in the kitchen, but can also lead to seeing grocery savings of up to $2,000 a year.

Even accounting for the $4.99 a month with a subscription, you can be looking at a total savings of more than $1,900 every year by having someone else plan your meals. That's money that you can put toward something else, all while enjoying exceptional recipes, meeting your health goals, and using your time to pursue your own interests.

Get Your Life on Track with a Meal Planning Service

Having a professional service plan your meals for you while giving you access to the best recipes, and even delivering groceries right to your door, can be nothing short of life-changing. While any professional service can be a game-changer in the kitchen and in your life, we have to go with eMeals as our overall top recommendation.

The vast number and variety of available recipes for every meal of the day, along with the smart integration of their app and the incredible cost savings you can see, make eMeals the best meal service, in our opinion, for a monthly subscription service.

eMeals' subscription and delivery service

eMeals

Our #1 Recommendation

  • Meal plan options for specialty diets
  • Delivery and pickup for ingredients is available but not required
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans available
  • Free trial
  • 3 or 12-month subscription blocks available

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