Meal Planning for the New Year

Hands of Woman Using Laptop ComputerI so often hear people say that they would eat healthier if someone else planned out their meals for them. Or they ask me for healthy meal ideas. I must be wired differently because I love meal planning, especially when it comes to finding healthy, tasty meals. And I never lack for ideas because I am constantly searching for healthy recipes. So I thought I would try from time to time to post some of my meal plan process and ideas for those that have asked.

First of all, I am all about efficiency, so I do most everything online now. I use a Google Drive spreadsheet template I created for my meal plans each week. This gives me access on any computer and my phone. I also use Out of Milk which is a grocery list app program that allows me to enter groceries for various stores on my laptop and phone. It also allows me to easily move items around once I have created my list so I can put it in store shopping order.

When I sit down to do my meal plan, I have both my spreadsheet and grocery list open on my computer. I also have my email and Pinterest open to browse through the various recipe ideas I have collected along the way. Or to look for new ideas.  One of my standard websites for meal ideas is I typically use anywhere from 1-4 recipes a week from this site because Katie’s recipes are tasty and healthy.

One caveat before I get into my meals for the week…I do cook. I am not someone that uses a lot of packaged foods (I try to limit the chemicals we eat to “eat clean”). So, if you don’t like to cook or are not willing to cook, my ideas are probably not going to work for you. I do however try to do a mixture of easy and more complex meals. I plan those based on my schedule for the week. So some weeks if we are really busy, I have more basic meals on the plan. The other weeks, I try to plan the complex meals on days that typically work better with my schedule, so I can enjoy cooking. 

You can scroll down to the end of my post to see my meal plan summary for next week. or if you prefer the details, read on…

Here are my dinners for next week:

  • Quinoa Veggie Fried Rice (found on Pinterest) 
  • Turkey Burgers (from Trader Joes freezer section) on Thomas Light Multi-Grain English Muffins & Cabbage Wedges (found on Pinterest)
    • I use the Thomas English muffins because they are low calorie but high in fiber. It is hard to find hamburger buns that have as much fiber as the Thomas English muffins for the amount of calories.
  • BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza (from Dashing Dish)
    • We love pizza, and this healthy version became a regular this past year to satisfy our pizza cravings.
  • English muffin melts with hummus, tomato, reduced fat Swiss cheese (from Self Magazine) & side of fruit like strawberries
    • I chose this recipe because I will have leftover muffins from turkey burger night, and they are easy to make during the week.
  • Baked Potato topped with ground turkey, cottage cheese, salsa (from Eating for Life Cookbook) & side of roasted veggies (from Dashing Dish)
    • We eat this recipe once a week. It is so easy if your ground turkey is cooked ahead of time which I try to do at the beginning of the week on a night I am already in the kitchen cooking.
    • You can sub any veggie for the asparagus. We roast vegetables regularly and use asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash or a combination of them!
  • Cheesy Cauliflower Corn Chowder (from Dashing Dish) & light crescent rolls
    • This is a slow-cooker meal which is great for the end of the week. I usually don’t feel like cooking on Fridays, but I can prep this in the morning so it is ready when I get home.
    • I usually don’t include refined grains (crescent rolls) in our regular meal plan, but this is a treat I am throwing in there.

Some things to note about my dinner plans:

  • My dinners consist mostly of chicken as the protein, but I do plan some vegetarian meals from time to time.
  • I usually only plan dinner for 5-6 days of the week since we usually have leftovers and have a free day where we eat out.
  • The specific nights we eat certain meals can change during the week even though I plan it for a specific night. Things happen with our schedules, and sometimes we are in the mood for a specific meal.

For lunches, I try to keep it simple. We use leftovers for lunches, and we also eat salads. I do have some frozen low-fat meals on hand for those days we don’t have time to prep lunch or have nothing on hand. I don’t like to use them regularly because they are high in sodium and do not fall in the clean eating category usually. Next week, I am going to try Mason Jar Salads. I have seen these on Pinterest and read a few blogs about them last night to see why people are raving about them. I will prep these on Sunday for four lunches and plan on leftovers the other days.

Breakfast is where we probably eat the most processed food just due to convenience. I try to cook one breakfast for 2-3 days of the week so that we have a healthier option. This week I am making Dashing Dish’s Light & Fluffy Pancakes. I’ll make these on a day off and make enough for another day of the week. I also have on our meal plan oatmeal. I get a lower sugar version or organic version and add some protein powder to it (about half a scoop). For the days we don’t have time to cook breakfast, I have Jimmy Dean Delight Breakfast Sandwiches on hand. They are not in the “clean eating” category, but they are a lower calorie option compared to a fast food stop.

If Greg and I are going to eat healthy, we need some healthier dessert options. I try to make one dessert each week that will keep us satisfied and on track. It is usually low in sugar and low in fat. And yes there are options out there that fit those qualities and taste yummy. One of our favorites is Dashing Dish’s Peanut Butter Blondies. Don’t let the ingredients scare you off and don’t tell your family what is in it until after they enjoy it. We also enjoy Dashing Dish’s protein shakes because you can make so many different versions and it really tastes like a shake. I am not a fan of sugar free pudding with aspartame, so I found a sucralose version by Better Bowls online through Amazon. In general when making desserts, I try to avoid aspartame and use stevia or on occasion sucralose.

This week our dessert options include: Dashing Dish’s Chewy Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, Chocolate Covered Katie’s 1 Minute Cake in a Mug, and a Dashing Dish protein shake (the specific one I will decide that night based on our cravings).

And the final part of our meal plan – options for snacks: celery & peanut butter, carrots & hummus, cottage cheese & Kroger’s Carbmaster Yogurt (sucralose version instead of the other brands that use aspartame), fruit, or protein shake (100 calorie version from Muscle Milk).

I occasionally prep certain foods at the beginning of the week like cooking all my chicken (for soups & casseroles) and ground turkey for the week. This makes preparing dinner during the week so much easier. To prep the chicken, I simply cook it on low in the crockpot and since I use a crockpot liner there is no mess and no effort on my part. I divide up the cooked chicken into containers and label them for each meal. This week chicken will be cooked for these recipes: BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza, Cheesy Cauliflower Corn Chowder, and for lunch salads.

This week I am going to try prepping other food for the week to see how that works and how much time it takes me. Here is the list I made to help me think through prep each week:

  • Cook carbs for sides – quinoa, rice, pasta or potatoes (baked or mashed)
  • Cook or prep protein – chicken, boiled eggs, black beans
  • Wash & cut veggies – for snacks, salads, & meals
  • Wash & cut fruits – for snacks & salads
  • Assemble mason jar salads
  • Make single serving containers of snack items – hummus, peanut butter, & cottage cheese
  • Bake healthy dessert
  • Make breakfast items – pancake batter

IMAG0012Meal Plan Summary:

Dinner: Quinoa Veggie Fried Rice, Turkey Burgers & Cabbage Wedges, BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza, English Muffin Melts & Strawberries, Protein Packed Baked Potato & Roasted Asparagus, Cheesy Cauliflower Corn Chowder & Crescent Rolls

Lunch: Mason Jar Salads & Leftovers

Breakfast: Jimmy Dean Delights, Light & Fluffy Pancakes, Protein Oatmeal

Dessert: Chewy Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, Protein Shake, 1 Minute Cake in a Mug

Snacks: celery & peanut butter, carrots & hummus, cottage cheese & yogurt, fruit, or 100 calorie Muscle Milk.

May you enjoy happy, healthy eating in the New Year!



3 thoughts on “Meal Planning for the New Year

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