Meal Planning: Basics

1 Feb

In my opinion meal planning is one of the best ways to have more nutritious balanced meals, save time in the kitchen and save $$$ on groceries.

Here are the steps I take when planning the meals for one week.

Step 1: Figure out what you want to eat

This isn’t always a simple tasks.  Maybe you have a favorite cooking book, website or blog you like to go to for recipes.  Check them out, but remember – you want to have a good balance in each meal.

In your meals you want to cover each of the macro nutrients: healthy carbohydrates, lean proteins and good fats.

First I think about my lean protein sources I want to have in the upcoming week.  This week I decided on chicken x2, fish, flank steak, turkey/chicken sausage and beans.  From there I create my menu.

Meal 1: BBQ chicken pizza on a whole grain crust
Meal 2: Crispy chicken nuggets and sauteed broccoli, carrots and kale with a side of pineapple
Meal 3: Foil baked pesto black bean cod with roasted red and yukon gold potatoes and red bell peppers
Meal 4: Broccoli white bean cheddar soup with roasted curry sweet potato rounds
Meal 5: Turkey/chicken sausage with homemade veggie tomato sauce and brown rice pasta
Meal 6: Spinach salad topped with flank steak, red onion and orange segments.  Wheat squash roll on the side.
Meal 7: Dinner out.

Each meal contains a healthy carbohydrate (whole grain pizza crust, whole grain chicken nugget breading and pineapple, black beans and potatoes, white beans and sweet potatoes, brown rice pasta, wheat squash roll).

My good fats are usually in the form of olive oil used when cooking, but the walnuts and pine nuts in my pesto are good fats too.

Lastly I like to round out the meals with vegetables and/or fruits (spinach, corn, red onion and red bell pepper on the pizza, broccoli, carrots, kale and pineapple with my chicken nuggets, potatoes and red bell peppers with my fish, broccoli in my soup and sweet potatoes on the side, zucchini, mushroom, onion, yellow and green bell peppers with my pasta, spinach, onion and orange with my salad).

Step 2: Write a grocery list

Now that you know what you want to make, check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you already have on hand.  Before I add anything to my grocery list I write down categories on the page: produce, meats/dairy, frozen, bulk and pantry.  This makes the shopping trip easier so that I don’t have to go from one end of the store to the other more than once.

My grocery list for the dinners

Produce: Mushrooms, sweet potatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, spinach, arugula, broccoli and pineapple
Meats/Dairy: Fresh mozzarella, sharp cheddar and cod
Frozen: Nothing
Bulk: White beans
Pantry: Fire roasted diced tomatoes

This dinner grocery list is pretty short because I had a lot of the ingredients on hand already.

So you can probably see  that there are items pictured above that weren’t on that list.  After I write out my dinner grocery list I add the items from my “running out” grocery list kept on the fridge.

This included bananas, butternut squash, eggplant, half n half, millet, wheat berries, brazil nuts, red wine and whole wheat tortillas.  If some other fruits or vegetables look great and are a good price I tend to pick them up too.  That’s one thing I make sure to always have in my kitchen — lots of fruits and vegetables.

Step 3: The execution

When it comes time to actually make your meals it helps to keep the recipes you plan to make in the kitchen.  I like to keep a list of what meals I’m going to have on each day.  That way I don’t have to think about which meal to make when I come home.

The great thing about having a meal plan ready is that if you don’t feel like having the meal you planned you know that you have options to choose from and your ingredients will be there waiting for you.

This past week’s execution was tasty 🙂

Meal 1: BBQ chicken pizza


Meal 2: Crispy chicken nuggets

With sauteed broccoli, carrots and kale

And some fresh pineapple

Meal 3: Foil baked pesto black bean cod

With roasted red and yukon gold potatoes and red bell peppers

Meal 4: Broccoli white bean cheddar soup with roasted curry sweet potato rounds


Meal 5: Turkey/chicken sausage with homemade veggie tomato sauce and brown rice pasta

Meal 6: Spinach salad topped with flank steak, red onions and orange segments.  Whole wheat squash roll on the side.

Each of these meals took about 20 – 45 minutes to make, except for the pizza.  Since I knew the pizza would take longer I planned to make it over the weekend because I’d have more time.

I hope these few steps help you out during the week.  Figuring out what to make can be challenging, but if you plan ahead it can make the world of a difference.

Happy eating!

PS If you haven’t entered to win some Designer Whey protein powder you still can.  Click here to enter before Friday.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
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10 Responses to “Meal Planning: Basics”

  1. David Dierking February 1, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    Meal planning is where I have always struggled. Too often I’ve ended up just steaming some vegetables or grabbing something I shouldn’t out of the fridge. This is great advice!

  2. sophia February 1, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    Wow, those are very detailed and practical and realistic tips to meal plan Heather. Thank you! I don’t really meal plan, which may explain why I’m such a sporadic grocery shopper and always spending too much!

  3. Andrea@WellnessNotes February 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    Great meal planning steps! I agree, meal planning is essential to make healthy, affordable meals in a short amount of time!

    Have a great week!

  4. Lisa @ Early Morning Run February 1, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Great post! It definitely takes a bit of planning, but then it’s pretty easy to put nutritious meals together throughout the week! These all look delicious, but I’m curious about your crispy chicken nugget recipe.

  5. Nicole February 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    Great advice! I’ve made a habit of this and I feel so much more prepared for the week and prepared to make healthful decisions throughout the week!

  6. marla (Family Fresh Cooking) February 3, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    Great and very thorough post. I too plan ahead. I always want to be prepared so I don’t grab the wrong foods. I always have stuffed prepped and ready to go on a whim.

  7. carol February 12, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    can I get the recipes for the brocolli white cheddar soup and pototoes, meal 4. Also for the spicy pork sandwhiches from another post. thanks. Not sure how i’ll go with 200 sit ups. I still need to do Fridays sit ups. I’m a few days behind schedule, so i’ll do my 200 attempt on monday. Good luck!

    SInce you’re interested in hiking, check out the world heritage listed Overland Trail in Tasmania. Bruce flew down to Tassie this morning and is starting the 5-6 day hike with 2 friends tomorrow morning.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Posted on February 2, 2010 by Heather I’m glad so many of you enjoyed my post on the basics of meal planning.  It’s something I truly believe in and enjoy doing so if you have any other questions about […]

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    […] Aug Last weekend I made sure to meal plan for the week (click here for how I do my meal planning).  I didn’t want to make a trip to the grocery store so I […]

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