5 Favorite Apps to Get Dinner on the Table

***Guest Post by Amy Cousin***

It’s happening again. I peer into the abyss of my refrigerator. . . 

and wonder what I can make out of a jar of pickled herring 
(where did that even come from? I don’t remember buying that!), a few old bread bags containing only the ends (ongoing battle with a few of the kids), a red onion, and a piece of dried-out ginger.


WTF??? I went grocery shopping and bought ingredients per my weekly meal planner. Oh, yeah, nobody (myself included) felt like eating anything on my pre-planned menu, so I winged it all week. And now there’s nothing in the fridge. Except a jar of pickled herring. . . sigh.


I scour my cookbooks, but everything that looks good, also requires at least one key ingredient that I don’t have on hand. No, I’m not going to the grocery store tonight, because I know all too well the folly of shopping in a rush, on an empty stomach. You end up buying all sorts of crazy stuff that you think you’re going to use, but never do. . . like pickled herring. This must be my refrigerator’s day of reckoning.


Since I am a wee bit app-addicted, I utter my familiar oath of determination, “There’s gotta be an app for that!” and turn to the internet for help. If your search terms are ‘what’s for dinner’ you will get is a wide variety websites, blogs, and apps for grocery lists, recipes and meal planning. That’s great, but what I need is help making something edible (and nutritious) from ingredients that I have on hand right now. This criteria narrows the field quite a bit more than you’d expect. I did find a few apps and websites that try to understand my dinner dilemma. Here are my favorites:


  • MyFridgeFood (http://myfridgefood.com)  allows you to check off ingredients that you have on hand – the more ingredients you check, the better your results. You can choose items from the Quick Ingredient list or the Detailed Kitchen list, and eventually it suggest something doable. One interesting meal suggestion was peanut butter and carrot sandwiches, even though I hadn’t check peanut butter as one of my available ingredients. Yes, MyFridgeFood noted that I didn’t say I had peanut butter in stock, so I wasn’t going to hold that against the site, until I realized that only one of the suggested recipes was made from my existing ingredient list. On the plus side, MyFridgeFood includes useful information like cooking time, calories, fat, carbs and protein for each recipe. There is a lot more to this website, and I will use it again, especially when I have ingredients that I want to use before they expire.
  • SuperCook (http://supercook.com) like MyFridgeFood, you can choose your ingredients from a window, but you can also add items. Again, the more ingredients you choose, the better the recipe/ meal gets. . .  in theory. Some of the meals were so bizarre that I just had to shake my head and laugh. One meal suggestion was Mushroom-Walnut Pate’, Bread Crumbs, and Catalytic Scent Lamp Fuel. I kid you not. It also directed me to ‘recipes’ for Tea Tree Oil Deodorant, Squeaky-Door-Hinge-Be-Gone!, and How to Season Cast Iron Pans. That quirk aside, I will use SuperCook again, when I have the time and patience to sift through its more edible recommendations.
  • What The Fuck Should I Make For Dinner is the actual name of this website. Yep. I would definitely use the site to celebrate “Curse Like A Drunken Sailor Day,” but that’s just me. It’s a fun site if you have time to play: it throws out a random meal suggestion, which you can either accept or rate. If you accept the suggestion, What The F**k Should I Make For Dinner will re-direct you to Cookstr.com where you can look over the necessary ingredients and get to cooking. If you decide to rate the recipe using their own scale – I Don’t F**king Like That; I Don’t F**king Eat Meat; or I’m F**king Thirsty – the random suggestions and snarky comments continue. All of the recipes chosen for me were connected to Cookstr.com, which also has a “surprise me” random suggestion button, minus the swearing.


  • I heard FoodOnTheTable had a good meal suggestion section on their web site, so I headed over to see for myself. While they recently announced that they’re closing their website, FoodOnTheTable will continue to maintain their app for iPhone and android. This app seems best used for its comprehensive meal planning features, including shopping list and links to discounts at the grocery stores you choose. I’m going to keep the FoodOnTheTable app.

  • Whole Foods’ website has recipes tailored to their products, naturally. It also has an app for iPhone and iPad (android app coming soon) that has an On Hand tool, so I gave it a try. The app allows you to choose 3 ingredients on hand, but again, the suggested recipes require many more ingredients. I am going to keep this app for the days when I’m more prepared, because the recipes are health oriented, have a wide choice of cuisines, and include nutritional information.

  • I’m adding Pinterest to the list because it has amazing food porn! You can get lost in this site for hours, drooling over pictures of food that will never look that good when you make it. Pinterest now links images to websites, so you just might get lucky and find a useful recipe.

While my search did not produce the super solution that I was looking for (which secretly included an in-home chef to do my bidding), it did remind me that I must maintain some order in my meal planning. Otherwise, I can expect these meal time disasters to continue. For now, I vow to keep bread (well, at least crackers) and soy butter in stock.

Note 1: I was not the least bit scientific about my research. That means I did not use the same list of ingredients while searching the different sites. I tried common foods and uncommon foods to judge the range of helpfulness and creativity of the each site.


Note 2:  While none of these sites or apps allowed me to include pickled herring in the ingredient lists, I eventually found a recipe for Layered Pickled Herring Salad with Tart Apples and Red Onion on Epicurious.com. It sounds good, but since this dish needs to marinate overnight, my jar pickled herring remains in the fridge to taunt me another day.


I’m sure I missed some great tools, so please feel free to share!
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