Meal Hero

a decorative symbol
Product Strategy
a decorative symbol
User Research
a decorative symbol
Design Systems
a decorative symbol
Mobile App
Helping families meal plan with easier scheduling and greater flexibility


Meal Hero is a meal planning app that helps families discover new recipes, plan out their meals, and easily shop for ingredients with automated shopping lists. We had a design team of 3 that collaborated on the discovery and research phase of this project. I was the sole designer for a small, cross-functional team that focused on the meal planning functionality of the app.

We already had a sense for our target users motivations and needs, but as the team grew and evolved into separate product functions, it was important to conduct primary research to test our assumptions, deeply understand our users and drive alignment.

Testing our assumptions with qualitative research

It was important to us to involve each of our teams in the interview and synthesis process to drive cross-functional alignment on what our core user needs were. Team leads, product managers, engineers, and even the founders actively participated in the interviews and synthesis sessions.
Mary and I partnered to develop and implement a research plan to understand our users' (who we call Home Chefs) current meal planning processes and needs. We recruited 9 participants that met our target demographic, and each facilitated a set of 2 hour in-home interviews.

Research objectives to better understand meal planning

• How do Home Chefs currently meal plan?
• What motivates Home Chefs to meal plan?
• What are Home Chefs’ goals/aspirations in nourishing their families?
• What are the challenges and pain points in achieving their goals?
• What are the barriers to executing a meal plan?


Research Artifacts

During our interviews we went through journey mapping and card sorting exercises with participants to understand the highs and lows of the meal planning journey, as well as the decision-making factors when picking a recipe to make. After each interview, we had team debrief sessions, followed by team synthesis sessions, finding themes, identifying pain points, and coming up with need statements.


Why do Home Chefs meal plan?

Most are motivated by saving money on eating out, saving time at the grocery store, and eating healthier. By planning ahead, they can skip last minute grocery runs and stick to a set plan so they don't fall victim to fast food on the way home, frozen pizza, takeout, or the same dish they've made hundreds of times.

"We've been gaining weight from eating out too much. We probably save hundreds of dollars a week by cooking at home instead"

Planning is on a spectrum, so scheduling should be more flexible

• Some are highly planned and schedule out meals ahead of time.
• Some have a general idea of what they’ll make but decide as the week unfolds.
• Some only plan the night before or a few days before.
• And some have no idea what they’ll make until they’re in the kitchen.
• Most like to gather ideas and a family consensus of meals they want to make, then, either schedule meals or pick meals throughout the week.

Meal decisions are largely driven by ingredients

• Many choose “base” ingredients (typically a protein or ingredients that need to be used up) and plan other meals accordingly.
• Ideally, ingredients are maximized throughout the week to avoid food waste.
• Budget-conscious planners tend to bulk purchase ingredients to save money.
• Home chefs are often purchasing repeating staple ingredients, then rotating protein and vegetables based on mood, sales, and seasonality.

Most families have a set of go-to meals, but seek inspiration and variety

• Home cooks have tried and true favorites that they’ve perfected over the years, along with saved recipes from various sources.
• When they do have the energy, they seek new recipes within their comfort zone.
• Recipes are used as loose guidance - to get inspiration or to get an idea of how something is made. They are often adapted based on the ingredients on hand,  or based on dietary needs and preferences.

Key insights


User Scenario

Home chefs need greater flexibility in the planning process. They often gather ideas, then either schedule them or pick meals throughout the week. Many decide what to make the day before or day of, and often make last minute changes because of a schedule or mood shift.


We wanted to allow users to add meals to a "queue", instead of forcing them to schedule a meal as soon as they added it to their plan. Scheduling is flexible - it's easy to choose from a the queue of meals, drag and drop them into a day, and reschedule them to a different day.

User Scenario

Meal planning often starts with ingredients that need to be used. Home Chefs often have "staple ingredients" at home, and want to make recipes that use minimal new ingredients.


With ingredient-based search, we match real behavior more closely by surfacing recipes based off of ingredients Home Chefs want to use. Since we could gather data on what users searched and added to their shopping list, in addition to data on the most common pantry staples, we could make smart assumptions on what they might already have at home.

User Scenario

Home chefs aren't choosing new recipes to make for every meal - they often have various sources for recipe inspiration as well as their own arsenal of "go-to-meals"


We made it easier to collect and add meals from different sources - whether it's browsing personalized recommendations, searching by ingredient, importing a recipe link, or creating a custom meal.