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meal planning made simple: 10 hacks & shortcuts from my favorite app

I wrote previously about our experience with the CookSmarts meal planning service. After cancelling our subscription, I was in pursuit of meal-planning bliss: a tool that would organize our favorite recipes, quickly arrange them into weekly meal plans, and export a grocery checklist in the blink of an eye. On a whim, I downloaded the Paprika app.

That was arguably the best $4.99 I’ve ever spent (with the exception of my son’s hilarious 3-month passport photo, forever to be a family memento, and that time I REALLY needed pralines at 9.5 months pregnant and made an emergency Kroger run).

Here’s the rundown on my favorite meal-planning app. (For the record, these are my own enthused ramblings; this is in no way sponsored by Paprika.)


How it Works

The Paprika app has 4 built-in tools – Recipes, a Browser, Groceries, and Meals. The “Recipes” tool allows you to view, edit, and organize recipes; the browser enables you to download new recipes; “Groceries” is an interactive checklist of grocery items organized by category within the grocery store; and “Meals” provides a customizable weekly or monthly meal plan.


How to Get Started

In my pre-Paprika days, I maintained a two-Pinterest-board situation: one board with recipes to try, and another with tried-and-true recipes. After downloading the Paprika app to my phone, I imported my favorite online recipes using the “bookmarklet” tool in a Chrome browser on my desktop computer. As far as I know, there’s not a one-click method to download all recipes from Pinterest at once; I opened each recipe from my Favorites board and clicked “download.” This sounds exhausting, but took less than one episode of Modern Family, so it wasn’t that painful in the big scheme of things.

Once you’ve “downloaded” your backlog of recipes in a browser, they’ll sync with the app on your phone. At that point, you’re good to go! In the future, it’s easy to import single recipes through the app your phone; I haven’t used the bookmarklet since getting my Paprika account set up.


10 Hacks & Shortcuts from the Paprika App

  • Organize recipes by category and sub-category. All recipes default to “Uncategorized” when you export them into the app. Create whatever categories your heart desires, including sub-categories. And sub-sub-categories. (My favorite sub-category is Entree > Guilty Pleasures > All The Pasta & Cheese.) As you’re browsing the recipes, they’re listed alphabetically next to feature photos. I dare you to meal-plan on an empty stomach.


  • Edit and review recipes, add notes, and mark as favorites. Paprika will import all relevant recipe information from the website or blog, but here you can make modifications, categorize a recipe, etc. The “Favorites” tab is an easy way to head straight to your vaunted tried-and-true dishes.


  • Create a weekly or monthly meal plan with scaled portions. Say farewell to meal plans scrawled on PostIts or ambitiously emailed to yourself. While Dara and I make the 5-minute drive to our nearest H-E-B for groceries, I quickly assemble a meal plan with time to spare. If I want more or less portions than the default yielded by a recipe, the app allows me to adjust the number of portions, and automatically scales the recipe ingredients and instructions accordingly. Sheer magic.


  • Create a menu for a holiday or event. Elaborate upcoming potluck with friends: handled.


  • Generate a grocery checklist sorted by grocery aisle. This, with the meal planning tool, is what saves me the anguish and headache of trying to plan a week of healthy meals and write up a grocery list with limited time. The app allows you to click on each recipe in your meal plan, add any (or all) ingredients to your grocery list, and check off the grocery list once you’re at the store. If several ingredients contain the same ingredient, it’s consolidated into one line item (e.g. 3 yellow onions). Ingredients are listed by grocery aisle, e.g. produce, dairy, etc. to make your shopping trip more efficient. Pure, patented genius, eh?



  • View recipes in a simple, condensed format.  I puffy heart love many food blogs (Smitten Kitchen, Minimalist Baker, and Love & Lemons, to name just a few) but I admittedly despise scrolling through paragraphs of fluffy filler content and photos to get to the recipe. Paprika pares out that content and extracts the recipe. Hooray!


  • Set a timer while cooking. Any ingredient step that is timed includes a blue link to set a timer on your phone; you can create your own timers or manage multiple timers simultaneously. This is especially helpful when you’re cooking Christmas dinner for 20 people and ambitiously planned a 6-course meal.


  • Auto-lock your phone or iPad screen while you cook. If I had a dime for every time my phone screen turned off while I’m knee-deep in cooking and I’ve smeared flour or soy sauce or some dubious ingredient across the screen while trying to check on a recipe, I’d be living in a villa on the coast of France. Paprika automatically locks your phone screen on while you’re using the app, which is the best hidden ability you never knew you needed.


  • Convert measurements. Need to convert teaspoons to tablespoons in a pinch? There’s a quick converter tool pinned to the bottom of the app for easy access.

  • Email a recipe to a friend. When we’re talking about chili recipes at happy hour and someone asks for my perennial tailgate favorite, it’s easy for me to export it from the app in a cleanly formatted email.


Are you on board yet? If you have another beloved method of organizing recipes and planning meals, I’m all ears!

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