meal planning: week 1

cookbooks[source]

I talk a lot about meal planning, mostly because it is a great way to set yourself up for success when you’re trying to eat well and/or save money. But I get it – actually setting aside the time to plan your meals for the week ahead is HARD. When you have some spare time, you might not want to spend it browsing recipes. Plus, there are billions of recipes out there and it can be overwhelming.

So, I thought I’d do a series of posts with actual short meal plans for the week ahead. Since today is Friday, you’ve got the weekend to head to the store and get everything you’ll need – and the shopping list is included! I only included three recipes since not everyone eats at home every night or you might have leftovers, etc.

The shopping lists include every ingredient needed for all 3 recipes, so take a quick glance in your pantry to see if you can cross anything off that you already have before heading to the store. Things that people might already have (olive oil, spices, etc), I put in the “other” section at the end of the list and I assumed everyone has salt and pepper, so they’re not included; everything else is arranged by general section of the store.

Let me know if you try it out and be on the lookout for another week of meals next Friday!

week 1 shopping list
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It appears that winter is upon us. I am not a fan of being cold, so prepare for lots of recipes that will warm up both you and your home! Also, if you like checking out all the recipes but just can’t quite get yourself to put them into a meal plan, you are in luck. Check back here on Friday for the start of a 5 week series of meal plans complete with shopping lists!

sometimes you  just want warm food the second you walk in from the bitter cold and I can’t think of many things better than slow cooker chicken fajitas to have ready and waiting for you

healthier (but still delicious) oat + pistachio crumble topped sweet potatoes for your thanksgiving menu

shepherd’s pie, but easier

this maple bourbon pumpkin butter would make a fun holiday gift! or you could add it to these pumpkin spice overnight oats.

roasted broccoli is a staple in my house. it is such a quick, easy, flavorful way to make sure you have veggies on the table. plus, broccoli is usually only 99 cents/lb this time of year!

simple roasted carrots with salt + pepper are also a favorite of mine, but here is a slightly fancier version if you need a little more flavor. or you could always make some carrot fries

I guarantee that this homemade pineapple chicken is much healthier than anything you’ll find on the chinese buffet

if you haven’t tried homemade applesauce, I highly recommend it. you barely even need a recipe. my most recent batch was: 3 lb bag of jonathan apples (peeled + cored) in the slow cooker with 1/4 to 1/2 cup water or apple cider, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and a dash of ground nutmeg. set on low and it was done within 5-6 hours. it’s good by itself, on pancakes, on yogurt, on oatmeal….on ice cream? you should make some.

this one isn’t a recipe, but if you like looking in people’s refrigerators, you will probably also find this photo gallery incredibly interesting

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This week’s list has a mix of quick dinners, veggie-filled sides, and a few sweets…just as it should be! Enjoy!

I’ve had chocolate chip banana bread, but chocolate banana bread?? yes, please.

can’t go wrong with chicken noodle soup and homemade is SO much better than canned

you can even make your own candy (it’s way easier than you might think): chocolate pumpkin almond butter cups

this thai brussels sprouts salad will bring some serious color to your grey winter days

people will think you spent a lot longer than 20-30 minutes on this cheesy ravioli and italian sausage skillet

all it takes is 10 minutes to toss all the ingredients for this smoky black bean + sweet potato chili into the slow cooker and dinner will be ready when you get home

covering vegetables in peanut sauce is always a good idea

if you’ve never loved brussels sprouts, I suggest you try this brussels slaw with tahini dressing. it might just change your mind!

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Fall foods and veggies dominate this week’s recipes. The pumpkin recipes are unavoidable at this point too. I did a lot of cooking last week (peanut butter cream pie, homemade cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookie cake…..). It was so refreshing to be back in the kitchen & I hope to keep it going! Hope you’re able to do the same with some of these recipes. Enjoy!

trick those taste buds during the upcoming eating holiday season with this cobbler turned juice or maybe these pumpkin cheesecake bites

how to make oatmeal ahead of time. there are really no excuses for skipping the most important meal of the day!

everyone will find something to love in this white bean tortellini soup

this tuscan vegetable stew looks a.m.a.z.i.n.g

don’t let the title of this creamy vegan herb salad dressing scare you. homemade dressing is way healthier than store-bought. and I think I could totally get on the tofu train if it were blended up into a salad dressing.

I have a feeling even veggie haters will be able to get on board with these roasted vegetable stuffed shells

make your halloween dinner fun with these halloween stuffed peppers

italian provolone pull-apart bread would make a perfect snack for watching football (or baseball! GO ROYALS!)

make your lunch time carrot sticks festive with spicy pumpkin chipotle hummus

pecan spiced buttermilk pancakes make for a perfect fall morning

instead of butter, you can spray this pumpkin spice popcorn with a little cooking spray to help the spices stick and you’ve got a healthy, whole grain fall snack!

 

eating out

restaurant[source]

Eating out at restaurants often gets a bad reputation. Although most restaurants have some not-so-healthy items on the menu, they also have better choices that allow you to enjoy the restaurant experience without totally breaking the calorie bank for the next week.

Going to a restaurant is a social and often rare experience and you should enjoy it rather than stressing about how many calories are in your meal. However, it’s good to be generally aware of what you’re getting because many meals can set you back 2,000+ calories and, over time, that just isn’t great for your health or your waistline.

For example, some places have great bread before the meal but at other places I could take it or leave it. Why waste 200+ calories (more if you’re dipping each bit in olive oil) on so-so bread before your meal even arrives? If you think you’ll be ravenous by the time you get to the restaurant, eat some fruit before leaving the house. It’ll take the edge off your hunger and then you can taste the bread while saving plenty of room for the main course.

apples[used with permission from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

Portions at restaurants are also much larger than what you would serve at home. It can be hard to remember this when your plate arrives since you’re probably used to just eating whatever is on your plate. Some self-control is required here, but try to envision how much you would serve yourself if you prepared a similar meal at home. Pasta is a perfect example. At home, I prepare one serving (~1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked) and it’s plenty. Restaurants serve 3-4 times this amount and there is no reason I need to eat it all. It’s hard when it’s right in front of you, but try to pay attention to how you feel as you eat and stop when you’re comfortably full. Many places serve a lunch portion that is much more reasonable in size (and cheaper!) if you ask.

Look out for items that add a ton of unneccesary calories to a meal and either avoid them or cut back. Did you know that a 6 inch turkey sandwich from Subway has 280 calories and approximately 210-230 of those are from the bread? I also love cheese but don’t bother with it at Subway because I can’t even taste it so it’s not worth adding an additional 100+ calories. A similar example is the burrito at Chipotle. The tortilla alone is 300 calories before you even add rice, meat, cheese, sour cream, or guacamole. By getting the rice bowl, you get all the goodness from the inside without that additional 300 calories added on. These same concepts go for any restaurant.

balanced meals[source]

Other tips to make your meal a little healthier include:

  • order sauces or dressings on the side…you often need MUCH less than you think
  • avoid/limit items with fried, breaded, battered, crispy, or cream in the title
  • aim for items that are baked, grilled, steamed, or roasted
  • fill up on as many veggies as you want – just watch the added dressings or other toppings; order a salad or ask for a side of veggies with your meal (many places will do this for only a couple dollars)
  • cut back on pre-meal bread and if you’re getting pizza, aim for a thinner crust. you get the same basic thing for way fewer calories.
  • drink plenty of water!
  • don’t “save up” calories all day when you know you’re going to eat out…this ALWAYS backfires. eat regular, balanced meals throughout the day and you’re less likely to go overboard and end up miserable when you go out

At the end of the day, eating out isn’t bad but it should be a special treat. When cooking at home, you have much more control over what goes into your food, you can control the portion size, and you save money! If you don’t eat out often, choose a great restaurant and just enjoy it. But, if you eat out more frequently (> once per week), try to incorporate some of these tips so you don’t sabotage your efforts to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight.

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I’ve found a pretty wide variety of recipes in the past week! I tried not to go heavy on the pumpkin recipes since they’re everywhere – hope you find something to try! Also, I’ll be putting together some posts for the coming weeks soon, so don’t forget to let me know if there is a topic you’re interested in learning more about [realfoodfirstRD at gmail.com OR there’s a comment form on my about page]!

roasted cauliflower + chickpea salad

slow-cooked tomato + herb white beans

steel cut oats + cinnamon stewed fruit

easy chicken pad thai

spinach artichoke pesto tortellini soup

roasted red pepper tortilla soup

raspberry bread

loaded power salad

slow cooker sweet potato, chicken, + quinoa soup

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Sorry I disappeared for a few days! Work has been pretty busy, but I’m back!

to start off, if you don’t have yummly, go sign up right now. it’s a recipe search engine that has TONS of awesome recipes in a very easy to read format:

ScreenHunter_75 Oct. 14 20.52

If you don’t get pulled in to the million recipes on yummly (there are SO many!!), here are a few more I came across this week that I can’t wait to try! Enjoy!

this pumpkin greek yogurt banana bread looks like a fun (healthy!) twist on a fall favorite

easy southwest mac + cheese…much better for you than the boxed variety

red beans and rice is another easy, delicious weeknight meal

for some reason, I always forget about popcorn as a snack but it is so filling…and a whole grain! can’t wait to try this curried popcorn

greek salad bites!

if you ever have trouble eating/liking vegetables, roasted veggies are the way to go