At just $5 a month for the service, the $5 Meal Plan is super affordable. The recipes tend towards family-friendly comfort foods, but always include a health balance of fruits and veggies. The weekly meal plan comes with a grocery shopping list, as well as bonus desserts, drinks, or other treats. The plan also offers a weekly gluten-free plan option.
More recently, $5 Meal Plan has introduced a Meal Plan Builder tool. This is great for pickier families, as it lets you build your own meal plan based on the site’s bank of cheap meals. Then, it will generate your shopping list for you.
Pros: This service is affordable, and it focuses on affordable meals. The plans take advantage of seasonal products and what’s likely to be on sale. So most meals cost around $2 per person. The plan is also great in that it always includes at least one crock pot meal and one 20-minute meal per week. Many of the meals can also be prepped ahead of time for easier weeknight cooking.
Cons: The meals aren’t customizable and neither are the recipes. (The website, however, offers a few six-week specialized menus, including a paleo option.) In other words, you can’t bump up a four-person recipe to accommodate six people easily. You’ll have to do the math–and adjust the grocery list–on your own.
Who it’s for: The $5 -Meal Plan is good for average-sized families who are neither super-picky nor super-adventurous. If you don’t mind some cooking on weeknights and your main meal-planning goal is trimming that grocery budget, this might be the plan for you.
Unlike the above meal plans, Plan to Eat doesn’t provide the recipes; you do. This app and online recipe planner collets your favorite recipes from anywhere. Then, you drag and drop your recipes onto your calendar-like meal planner. Plan to Eat then generates a grocery list for you.
Once a Month Meals
This meal-planning service used to be known as Once a Month Mom, and it’s taken off for a reason. At $16 per month (or $170 per year), subscribers to Once a Month Meals get access to a menu, grocery list, and planning materials. You set aside one day a month to cook, stock the freezer, and then have meals for the whole month. Menus include traditional, whole foods, paleo, diet, vegetarian, gluten free/dairy free, allergen, mini, and baby.
Pros: If you’re just too busy to cook on a typical weeknight, this is a great service. It offers customizable menus that make it easy to change serving sizes for your meals. The service actually plans out your entire cooking day to a T, making cooking as efficient as possible.
Cons: At $16 per month, this is one of the more expensive services around, though it has more features. Cooking a full month’s worth of meals in one day makes for one very long day and also requires that you can buy a month’s worth of groceries at one time. Also, you’ve got to have a fairly large freezer to store all the meals.
Who it’s for: This service is great for people who don’t like cooking on weeknights, but can bring themselves to cook once a month. It’s even better if you can team up with a friend, lighten the load, and split the meals for the month.