It would be impossible to get organized with meal planning and meal prep without a little help from technology.
Before I found the method for meal planning that I swear by now, I used to use good ol’ pen and paper. That definitely worked for a while.
But as I got more serious about making a plan and sticking to it, I realized that I needed a more 2017-friendly system. You know, one that I can take with me everywhere on my iPhone and link recipes to.
You might be wondering, why is staying organized so important anyway?
Well, I know from experience that if you DON’T make a plan or use organizational tools, you’re likely to…
- Buy too much or too little food for the week and end up wasting food or wasting time running to the grocery store every day.
- Come home with a bunch of random groceries you have no idea what to do with.
- Fall off track with your healthy eating, because you need to plan ahead if you really want to stick with it.
- Forget all the recipes you like and waste time having to look for them every week.
- Lose your mind trying to do all the scheduling in your head.
I don’t want you to have to experience any of that. So to give you a nudge in the right direction, I wanted to share some tools that can help.
Below are four of my favorite free tools that make grocery shopping, meal prep and meal planning so much easier. Give one a spin and let me know how it goes!
1. Never forget anything at the store with Listables
There was a time in life when I insisted on writing my grocery list on a piece of paper before hitting the store. I think about 75% of the time, I’d forget the list at home and wander around the store like I was searching for the meaning of life. Not a great use of my time.
I wish someone slapped me and said, “It’s 2017 Talia, get with the program!” Because you can make lists on your smartphone now. And that’s what I suggest you do!
Listables is a free checklist app that allows you to collaborate with other people and work off the same list. That means you can be on the same page with your SO, family or housemates when it comes to stuff you need at home. How convenient!
As if that wasn’t already cool enough, Listables has a built-in community around list building. Aside from creating your own lists, you can see public lists that contain workouts and other health routines. It’s like a Type-A person’s dream.
If we’re thinking about grocery shopping and meal prep specifically, I love that Listables works on your computer AND phone. So if you’re like me, and you look up recipes on your computer, you can create your list on your desktop and boom! When you go to the store, it’s right there on your phone.
I actually went ahead and created two checklists in Listables for you to use.
The first one is a basic vegetarian grocery list. It includes non-perishable ingredients that should be in your pantry at all times to make meal prep a breeze. It also lists as my weekly staple items — the food I buy every week no matter what.
The second list is a meal prep checklist. If you’re new to meal prep, the checklist acts as a cheat sheet so you don’t do stuff out of order! For example, if you pick recipes after going to the store, you’re going to give yourself a headache.
Unlike other apps, which can be scary to look at, I like Listables because it’s super straightforward. Lists don’t need bells and whistles!
2. Use Trello to stay super organized
Maybe JUST list-making isn’t Type-A enough for you and you want to take your meal plan organization to the next level. Trello is another app/site favored by work teams and companies when collaborating on projects, but it also works well for meal prep.
I can’t remember what podcast it was, but I remember listening to one when I learned that people actually use Trello for meal planning. And I remember thinking that it was genius.
Trello is really overwhelming for me, but I think it’s a great method for meal planning compared to my slightly old-school excel spreadsheet method I’ve been using for years.
Working mostly from the website (not the app), you can easily save recipes to Trello and then connect your calendar to plan out which nights you’re going to cook what recipes. It’s a pretty seamless process if you want to put your meals on your calendar too, which I recommend even if you’re just starting out!
Here is a step-by-step post that breaks down exactly how you can use Trello for meal planning. I honestly couldn’t have written a better one myself, so I suggest you check it out!
3. Carve out time with Google Calendar
You know what they say: what gets scheduled gets DONE.
I never felt committed to weekly meal prep until I started actually scheduling it in my calendar. I love GCal because it’s so easy to use and connects with Gmail, but you can use whatever calendar makes sense for you.
If you’re someone who can never find time for meal prep or exercise, I want you to create it by literally blocking off time in your calendar.
Even if your schedule changes and you have to move it around to accommodate, it’s still more likely to get done.
Here’s my calendar from last week. You can see I schedule pretty much everything and that’s why I’m so damn productive!
Try it this week if you’re not already doing it already.
- Create an event in your calendar on Sunday for three and a half hours. That should be enough time for grocery shopping too.
- Copy/paste links to recipes you’re making and add them to the description of your meal prep event.
- Create a grocery list IN the event, too. That way you have it on your phone as well.
I prefer Gcal because I use it for my whole life (I don’t know what I’d do without it honestly) but you can even use a planner or agenda if that works for you too.
4. Find easy recipes with Buzzfeed’s Tasty app
I’m not a fan of Yummly, Pinterest and other methods of finding recipes that most people use. But Buzzfeed’s Tasty app changed that for me.
The Tasty app is super user-friendly and has everything you could possibly want a recipe app to do.
You can search for recipes by cuisine, meal or diet preferences… you name it. And because it’s Buzzfeed, you have access to all the fancy videos and detailed steps for each recipe. Whether you’re a beginner who’s nervous to start prepping or you’re an advanced cook looking to try new things, you’ll find something here to prep for the week.
Bonus, they have a library of meal-prep recipes too! All of which you can “like” and save to your collection.
I’ve tried many different recipe apps, and I believe this is one of the best ones out there. It’s consistent, reliable, and the recipes are simple. What more can you ask for?
There’s no one perfect way to meal plan. It’s all up to your lifestyle and preferences.
Keep in mind that these are just my suggestions from tools I have experience with. Whatever works for you is best, even if it’s not on this list.
It’s also important to remember there’s no BEST way to go about meal planning for meal prep. Pick a tool or system, try it out and move on. If it doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board and pick a new tool/method/system.
What is your favorite organizational tool or app to use for meal planning, recipe collecting and meal prep in general? Comment below!