A few months ago, I finally joined the rest of the world and got a smartphone At first, I wasn't sure if I really wanted or needed such a fancy gadget, but the ease and convenience of having the Internet at my fingertips quickly erased any doubts I might have had.

I mean, who doesn't need instant access to Facebook 24 hours a day?

Apps and Websites Help Busy Parents

Facebook jokes aside, a smartphone really can be a busy parent's best friend. New apps and websites are created daily to help us manage almost every aspect of our lives. Many of these apps and websites can help us streamline our to-do lists and accomplish our routine tasks more efficiently.

For example, one of the most stressful parts of my day comes when someone asks the inevitable question "What's for dinner?" They're three little words, but they have the power to strike fear in the hearts of mothers (and meal-preparing fathers) everywhere. For me, it isn't so much the cooking itself that I don't like, but rather the task of meal planning that makes me want to throw in the towel and dial up delivery.

Fortunately, to borrow the trendy new phrase, there's an app for that. I've been visiting recipe websites for a while, but only recently did I discover that there are many other meal planning apps and websites that offer so much more.

And, with my fancy new iPhone, these apps and websites are never more than a keyboard swype away.

Top Meal Planning Apps and Websites

Supercook

Supercook is a website devoted to helping you answer the "what's for dinner" question. After creating a free account, you can type in the ingredients you have in your pantry, and the Supercook recipe search engine will find recipes that you can make with only those ingredients.

The website is a great resource for those nights when you've got a package of chicken thighs in the freezer but no idea what to do with them, or when you need to make do with the ingredients you have on hand becase you don't have time to stop by the grocery store.

Once A Month Mom

At Once A Month Mom, you'll find a program designed to help you plan and freeze an entire month of meals for your family. You can choose from several menu options, including Traditional, Vegetarian, Whole Foods, Diet, Gluten/Dairy Free and even Baby Food.

One day a month, you will spend 8-12 hours cooking and prepping meals for the month ahead. I personally think this sounds like a daunting task, but I do like the idea of having my menu plan handed to me. I also like the idea of not having to scramble to put together a meal at the last minute.

Menu Planner

The Menu Planner app for your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad allows you to store your favorite recipes, create shopping lists and meal plans, and keep track of what's on your pantry shelves. All your meal planning information is kept in one place, and is aways easily accessible.

If you choose to use Menu Planner, you'll love that you can find tutorials and FAQs to help you figure out what the heck you're doing (especially if you're like me and you're still trying to understand all this new-fangled technology in the first place). But keep in mind that Menu Planner is not a free app, and from what I can tell, is not available for Android either.

Ziplist

Ziplist makes grocery shopping easier than ever before. At Ziplist, you can create a free, customizable, online shopping list. This list can be easily updated by email, instant message, text message, or on the web, whenever you remember items that need to be added. And if you need help with meal planning, you can search Ziplist's extensive meal planning database. Once you've found a recipe you like, you simply click, and all the necessary ingredients will be automatically added to your shopping list.

Ziplist also offers free apps for both iPhone and Android users, which will fully sync with your online account. With so many great features, this is one I definitely plan to use.

Relish

Relish is a meal planning website that operates on a subscription basis. For $7 a month ($5 if you purchase a year-long subscription), you'll receive weekly emails that offer a variety of recipe choices. Once you choose your meals, a shopping list will be generated for you.

At Relish, you get to choose 5 meals a week, and can expect to spend about $90 purchasing the ingredients. Personally, because there are so many other free meal planning options available, I don't know if Relish is worth the money. But I found many enthusiastic, positive reviews of the website, so you may find that it's worth every penny.

Do you have other meal planning apps or websites that you prefer, or personal experience using the ones listed above? Please share!

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