One week of eating the Healthy Little Changes Way

I make some pretty big claims on my home page:

♥  Lose weight easily and keep it off effortlessly.

♥  Make healthy, delicious meals your whole family will enjoy.

♥  Cut your grocery budget and keep it under control.

♥  Get organized so that cooking from scratch becomes an easy, seamless part of every day.

It may sound like a lot of hyped-up promises, but let me assure you, it’s not. This is the real deal, folks. I know, because I live this way.

I’m in the process of writing detailed eGuides to give you all the knowledge you’ll need for implementing my plan into your own life, but now, I’m going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how I make this work in my life.

Last week I documented my process for you, from planning to shopping to dinner time, so you can see the plan in action. I’m including my meal plan, recipes, and shopping list, plus a grocery receipt to prove how little I really spend on a week’s worth of food. Sit down and get cozy, folks. Here’s everything you wanted to know (and probably much more).

It starts with a plan

Every weekend I take a half hour or so and start meal planning. I’ve already shared my basic tips for meal planning, but here’s what I do step by step.

First, I begin by looking at the calendar to see if we have anything going on that will interfere with meal time. Last week the hubby and I had a date night planned for Friday and the following Sunday was Easter, so I did not need to plan dinner for those nights.

Next, I take a look at the weather forecast. I do this so I can plan meals that fit with the temperature — for example, a soup on a cold day and a salad on a warm one. In Utah we can have some pretty unpredictable weather, and last week was no exception: The week kicked off with temperatures in the mid-70s and ended with daytime highs in the upper-50s. That told me I could plan both cold-weather favorites and some summer staples for the week.

Then, I take inventory of what I have in the fridge and pantry that needs to be eaten. This way nothing goes to waste, I can make a smaller grocery list, and I can keep my food costs low. Last week, for example, I incorporated leftover shredded cabbage from the cole slaw I made the week before and the fusilli pasta I bought in the bulk section a few weeks ago but didn’t end up using. I estimate that half of the ingredients I need for the upcoming week — sometimes more — I already have on hand.

Finally, I choose my recipes. I like to pull out my cookbooks and start browsing my Pinterest boards for mealtime inspiration. There are countless places to find recipes online, and I have to say I’m a huge fan of Pinterest; I love how it has learned my recipe preferences and has started suggesting pins that are right up my alley. This is one social media platform that, in my opinion, gets it right.

Here’s what I chose for the week, broken down by meal.

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DINNER

Because I was documenting my process for you, I decided to choose all online recipes so the folks at home could play along. I also chose all whole foods, plant-based dishes, but don’t worry — they’re super simple. No weird ingredients, nothing too exotic or fussy, and nothing that requires more than basic kitchen skills. I promise, anyone can handle these.

You’ll notice that this is a really basic menu, and that’s pretty typical; you won’t find a lot of sides and extras here. This is both to keep costs low and to keep meal prep simple and quick. But, this is another wonderful benefit of the WFPB lifestyle: Each of these dishes is a complete meal in itself — they contain all the carbohydrates, protein, and fat we need, and all from plant-based sources with little to no unnecessary or unhealthy food items. No need to try to cram nutrition in with a salad or side of vegetables that no one remembers to eat.

Once the menu has been chosen I write the dinners down on a board I keep on the fridge. There are some fun and beautiful printable menus online, but even a white board or a scrap of paper will do. I made mine out of a picture frame, some scrapbook paper, and magnets. Took me all of 5 minutes and was free, since I had everything lying around the house. WIN.

menu

The dinners are the only thing that get written on the board, but I do plan and keep track of breakfasts and lunches so I’m always prepared. Here’s what I planned for last week.

BREAKFAST

Breakfasts are quick on the days my son goes to preschool, but I like to make something like muffins or pancakes at least once a week. I also make green smoothies often (at least 2-3 times a week), and on the days we don’t have smoothies we have fruit — bananas, cantaloupe, whatever. Here’s a look at last week’s breakfasts:

  • MONDAY: Banana muffins
  • TUESDAY: Oatmeal with applesauce & cinnamon
  • WEDNESDAY: Toast with cinnamon
  • THURSDAY: Oatmeal with vanilla almond milk & raisins
  • FRIDAY: German pancakes
  • SATURDAY: Pancakes

lunch

My lunches usually consist of leftovers, and my twins generally eat what I eat. I like to plan for at least one extra quick-prep lunch like my hold-the-tuna salad or some uber-healthy stuff I don’t think my husband would be down with. I don’t always end up making it, but it’s good to have on hand so I’m not tempted to hit up Chick-fil-A (like I pretty much want to do every single day of my life). This week that quick meal was sweet pea hummus, which I had on toast. I also got to recycle it as a snack, which is a nice bonus. The rest of the week I had leftovers of the previous night’s dinners.

My 4-year-old would live off of peanut butter sandwiches alone if I’d let him, so he’s happy eating basically the same thing for lunch every single day: a PB&J (on whole wheat, no cutting off the crusts), some fruit, and something crunchy (like crackers, pretzels, or veggie sticks). Lately I’ve taken to making fun shapes out of his lunches, like a green apple & grape frog or an apple/cantaloupe alien, or making a face on his sandwiches with raisins or other small snacks. He goes nuts over that and it doesn’t take much time, so for me it’s worth it.

SNACKS

With three small kids, snacks are a way of life. I like to always keep some prepped and ready whether in the fridge or the pantry. I have a bin in the pantry filled with little baggies of snacks in kid-sized portions, like crackers, pretzels, raisins, cereal, and granola bars. I buy most of these things in bulk and then assemble new baggies when I’m unloading the groceries. This way it’s a seamless part of our routine and not an extra task. Again, this is time well spent and absolutely worth the effort.

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Here’s a look at some of our go-to treats, both made with “baggie snacks” and without:

  • Veggie sticks and hummus
  • Crackers & cheese or peanut butter
  • Fresh fruit
  • Chips & salsa
  • Trail mix
  • Pretzels (chocolate-covered or plain)

Making the list

Last but not least, I make my grocery list. After I’ve written down my menu selections, I go back through the recipes and read the ingredient lists again. Since I’ve already taken inventory of my kitchen I have a pretty good idea of what I’ve already got; everything I don’t have gets written on my grocery list.

This is a pretty easy step and only takes a few minutes, but since I’m documenting everything for you, here’s a detailed, recipe-by-recipe look. I’ve written out all the ingredients for these recipes, and everything with a line through it I already had and didn’t need to buy.

Last but not least, I add any essentials to the list, like bread and almond milk for my lactose-intolerant kids, as well as any items I need to stock up on, like paper towels, saline solution, wheat flour, canned beans, or olive oil. This is an essential part of meal planning: always keeping the kitchen well stocked. An easy rule of thumb is that if you need to buy something that will keep (say, pasta or canned goods), buy two and store one. There is much more on this topic to come both on the blog and in the eGuide. Looking at these ingredients below and seeing how many I already had on hand shows you how having a fully stocked pantry really saves you a lot in the long run, so it’s an essential habit to make.

MONDAY

Breakfast: Banana muffins

  • 2 eggs (or equivalent plant-based egg replacer)
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or, mix 1/2 cup plain nut or soy milk with 1/2 tsp vinegar and let sit before adding)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup honey or pure maple syrup (or other sweetener of choice)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Optional: mini chocolate chips

Lunch: Sweet pea hummus

  • 2 cups garbanzo beans
  • 1 1/2 cups green peas, lightly steamed
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest

Dinner: Chinese chop salad – Ginger sesame dressing

  • 1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp finely minced ginger
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, then more to taste as desired
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions, green and white parts

I made the base of the salad out of the previous week’s leftover cole slaw of cabbage, purple cabbage, and carrots. I bought napa cabbage, green onions, and sesame seeds to round it out. I added shelled edamame, cilantro, and raw cashews, which I already had on hand.

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Sesame noodles

  • 12 ounces noodles
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (I did not add any)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons pure sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot chili oil (I did not add any)
  • 4 Tablespoons canola oil

 

TUESDAY

Breakfast: Oatmeal

  • Rolled oats
  • Applesauce
  • Cinnamon

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: Pasta salad

  • About 2 cups (when uncooked) Fusilli noodles, or any small pasta shapes
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • Black olives, sliced
  • Mozzarella cheese (I used string cheese and cut it into discs)
  • Parmesan cheese

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I tossed it all together with an Italian dressing I made a week or two previous. It’s a family recipe that I’ve sworn on my life not to share, but feel free to add any dressing you love.

WEDNESDAY

Breakfast: Toast & green smoothie — I don’t follow a recipe for smoothies, I just use greens and whatever fruit I have

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: Curried sweet potato & lentil stew

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, peeled & diced into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups stock {veggie or chicken}
  • ¾ cup dried red lentils
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (I didn’t use)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • ¼ tsp salt 

I added steamed brown rice on the side.

THURSDAY

Breakfast: Oatmeal

  • Rolled oats
  • Almond milk
  • Raisins

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: Slow cooker vegan chili

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 2 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 can of corn or package of frozen corn
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsps fresh chopped garlic
  • 2 tsps cumin
  • one glug of olive oil
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to your taste

Whole wheat cornbread

  • 3 c. soy milk (I used almond milk)
  • 3 T. vinegar
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
    2 c. corn meal
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 t. bkg powder
  • 1 t. bkg soda
  • 1/4 c. applesauce
  • 1 T. egg replacer powder (I used flax seeds)

FRIDAY

Breakfast: German pancakes

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: The kids got a mishmash of food from the fridge (my son another PB&J upon request, the babies some sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots, and all the kids some grapes & cantaloupe) before my husband and I headed out for some tasty Tex-Mex on our date night.

SATURDAY

Breakfast: Pancakes from a mix in the pantry

Lunch: Our afternoon got crazy so we had to slum it and whip up some boxed mac & cheese. I added some frozen peas & carrots we had in the freezer so I didn’t serve a meal completely devoid of nutrition.

Dinner: Leftover chili & cornbread

 

GOING SHOPPING

Every Monday morning, with my little rascals in tow, I head out for our weekly Winco trip. It’s an adventure, but an essential duty of a full-time mom. We make it work and try to have some fun along the way. We are usually lucky to have my dad, who is retired, join us so I get help with the young’uns and my kids get to have some Papa Dave time.

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When we get to the produce section I let my son choose the fruit, and I add any vegetables that are on sale and look good. Otherwise, we stick to the list.

Last week, this is what we came home with:

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Everything I needed to complete my week’s worth of meals, all for the bargain price of $58.06:

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So there you have it, my entire meal planning process from start to finish. Is there anything I left out? Anything you still have questions about? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to give the answers you need.

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10 thoughts on “One week of eating the Healthy Little Changes Way

  1. Rosa says:

    Hi Lindsay! I found your website through a comment you left on OneGreenPlanet.org’s article about spending $50 a week on groceries. Last week on the radio they were talking about people taking the food stamp challenge and I got to wondering how to do that healthy. My big problem is always ways to prepare food — I’m not much of a cook, and am kind of lazy which ultimately leads me to being a terrible food waster. 😦 Things need to change… So glad I found you! Looking forward to perusing your blog.

    Like

    • Lindsay Maxfield says:

      Hi, Rosa! Thank you for your kind note, and I’m glad you’re here 🙂 You’re not alone — the cooking aspect of healthy eating really discourages a lot of people from making beneficial changes. But you don’t have to make it all or nothing; you don’t have to cook gourmet meals five days a week to make it work. Find something that works for you and build on that. You’ll find your groove. Thanks again for popping in, and please let me know if you have any burning questions I can help you with 😉

      Like

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