Meal planning apps can help save money, work around food shortages

Inflation and supply chain slowdowns are making some foods either scarce or very expensive in the grocery store. One solution to save money, and find what you need, is meal planning apps.

How often do you go to the store only to find items you want are out-of-stock, or the price has skyrocketed?

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Some meal planning apps say they can help you plan meals, based on what's actually in stock and lower-priced options.

"To see what's in the grocery store, what's not," explained Registered Dietitian Sarah Crawford with eMeals.  

eMeals is a meal planning app that lets you choose from 15 different types of meals, such as clean eating, budget-friendly, and kid-friendly.  

Crawford says it sends you a week's worth of recipes and a grocery list based on what's actually available in stores.

"We are able to send our recipes and grocery lists to grocery store providers. That way, you’re able to see what’s on the shelf through the app before you even go there," said Crawford.


If a recipe calls for an ingredient that's out-of-stock, eMeals finds a substitute.

"Cream cheese is nowhere to be found. So substitute with something like creme fraiche," said Crawford.

You can take the grocery list to the store yourself, have the ingredients delivered, or check that the ingredients are available while shopping online.

We put this to the test.  We found an eMeals recipe for Pan-Seared Steak with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce.  

We found all the ingredients available online at The recipe suggests a Flank Steak, also known as a London Broil, which we found for about $5 a pound. If that's not available, eMeals listed two substitutes: boneless top sirloin, which we found for $7.44 a pound and a flat iron steak, which was available for $8.84 a pound. eMeals suggested the lower cost meat.  

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The app can also save you money by choosing recipes that use the same ingredients.

"If you were only using a half a can of diced tomatoes, we use it somewhere else, so we're using up all those ingredients instead of just throwing everything away," said Crawford.

eMeals has a free trial period, then starts at about $5 a month.  

These are several other meal planning apps on the market. Some of them are free.

Eat This Much
Plan to Eat
Cozi Family Organizer