What is the Importance of Meal Planning?

Preparing more meals at home at home can be a key to eating healthier and saving money! It is also a great chance to have a little needed family time too. There is so much interest right now planning menus and shopping lists and prepping ingredients ahead of time so supper can be thrown together quickly after a long day at work or school.

So many of the methods people share seem complicated to me so I want to share some of my tried and true menu ideas for a week night supper that I hope they might help make your week day suppers easy and something that your whole family will enjoy! 

I have also included a cooking video on how I made the soup. I hope that you have fun with it and enjoy!

How to Start a Meal Plan of Your Own

Meal Plan Check List

  1. Make a list of menu ideas and recipes that your family enjoys to get you started.
  2. Find inspiration online or from favorite cook books.
  3. You can make a great menu template of ideas that you love for a week or two that you can even recycle menu ideas.
  4. Make a grocery list based on the menus.
  5. Feel inspired to make two weeks of menus for each season based on the availability of fruits and vegetables grown where you live if inspired.
  6. Keep a pantry full of staples to make your meal planning easy.
  7. When you go to the grocery store, stick with your list.

Kitchen Essentials for Meal Planning

You don’t need a lot of fancy tools to make your meals. I don’t have an instant pot so would love to hear your thoughts on using one and what you have made. Here are some of tools that I use cook up a quick, healthy meal:

  1. Crock Pot: It might be a “slow cooker” but it can cook all day and be ready when I get home! Try my French Country Soup below or some chili and stews also.
  2. Oven: Think casserole! Some of my favorites to make ahead to bake as soon as I get home include Shepherd’s Pie, Tamale Pie, Mexican casserole, spaghetti pie and macaroni & cheese. And of course, there are many more! Check out my Enchilada Casserole below which we are loving right now!
  3. Stove Top: I love to stir fry, saute’ or simmer my meals and can do it quickly. Take a look at my easy way to make a tasty stir fry!

Sample Menu Ideas for Supper

I have also included some quick and make ahead desserts but feel free to cut up a piece of sliced fruit and dress it up with nuts, seeds, coconuts or another fruit to make it beautiful!

Menu One

French Country Soup (see recipe and video below)

Grated Parmesan cheese

1 slice of crusty bread

Bananas Foster Mini Pies with Praline Crust (you can make these ahead except for the banana topping that takes less than five minutes)

Menu Two

Enchilada Casserole

Salad Fixings to Top Enchilada (Lettuce, Tomato, Cilantro & Avocados)

Wonderful Pistachio Ice Cream (Make ahead over the weekend for a cool treat after the Mexican meal! You can have the orange zest done ahead of time so all you have to do is scoop it and top it!)

Menu Three

Plant Based Stir Fry (See recipe below. Try finding seasonal veggies to vary your options. Cut up over the weekend so it is all ready to go.)

Brown Rice (Make Ahead of time and reheat to save even more time.)

Slow Cooker Blackberry Crisp (See recipe below.)

Menu One Recipes

Makeahead French Country Soup

Two bowls of soup are better than one! One for you and one for someone you love! The best part is that it can be made ahead of time!

French Country Soup

You can prep ahead by measuring out your spices the weekend before along with chopping your celery, carrots and onions. Soak the beans the night before and chop the potato the morning that you will put together everything in the crock pot. In fact, you can put everything in your crock pot except the potatoes and the cabbage the night before and put in the refrigerator

16 ounce dried navy beans, soaked overnight

4 cups vegetable broth

16 ounces canned, diced tomatoes

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrots

1 small chopped onion

1 cup chopped diced potatoes

1-2 cloves of minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2-3 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 bay leaf

Water

1 cup sliced cabbage

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Crusty bread

In your crock pot, add soaked, rinsed and drained beans. Next add diced tomatoes, chopped celery, carrots, potatoes and onion. For seasonings, add thyme, sage and bay leaf. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and add the cabbage at the very end so it can steam and not overcook in the water. Turn the crock pot on low and simmer for 6-8 hours. When you get home from work, add the soup in bowls and top with parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty bread.

Bananas Foster Mini Pies with Praline Crust

Here is a video that shows you how I made the soup! Hope you enjoy seeing my little dog, Hilda!

Menu Two Recipes

Mexican Casserole for Supper

I love this casserole so much. I am keeping on our weekly meal rotation but changing up the veggies and rotating between red and green sauce.

Enchilada Casserole

This has been my favorite dish in 2018 so far! I love the fact that I can make it ahead of time and be flexible to change up the veggies! I also can change up the sauce and the fresh veggie toppings based on the season and what I have in my pantry. You can even change up the beans and types of cheese that you use. And best of all my family loves to eat it! I topped my enchilada with fresh spinach, cilantro and feta. And to save time I layer my tortillas and not roll them!

Makes 6-8 servings

Package of corn tortillas (about 20-24)

Canned green or red enchilada sauce, depending on what you are craving (I have also made it)

Veggie broth (to thin the sauce to make it go further if needed)

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Chili powder (I used 2 or 3 tablespoons but you might want to use more or less depending on how you like it)

1 1/2 cup grated cheese (my favorite is white cheddar but you can use Monterey Jack and in this picture I topped with a little feta or you can also use queso fresca at the end or use cheddar)

1/2 cup onion (if you want to make low fodmap skip onion or use green onion-just the green parts)

1 teaspoon, crushed garlic (if you are trying to make it low fodmap use garlic oil)

1 sweet potato, diced (peeled or not)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 cup frozen corn

16 ounces black beans, rinsed and drained

Fresh spinach, sliced (you can use in enchilada filling and top your casserole slice at the end)

Salt and pepper to taste

Toppings:

Chopped cilantro

Crumbled feta

Sliced avocado

Salsa

Yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet:sauté onion, bell pepper and sweet potato until get they soften. Add corn, chili powder, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. In a 9 by 13 lasagna pan. Add a small amount of oil so casserole does not stick and add a very small amount of enchilada sauce. You will have three layers of tortillas and two layers of vegetables, cheese and sauce. After the last layer of tortillas you will put a thin layer of enchilada sauce over the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Add about 2 tablespoons of grated cheese to the top and bake about 5 minutes longer. After taking out of the oven allow to cool about 5 minutes.

 

Wonderful Pistachio Vegan Ice Cream

Menu Three Recipes

Meatless Meals in Minutes: Vegetable Stir Fry

 

Slow Cooker Blackberry Crisp

Here are some additional recipes that I love to make in my crock pot:

Lightened Up Family Favorites

Heart Healthy Soups Warm Your Soul

I hope that these meal planning and prepping ideas help you make dinner time easier so you have more time after work to spend with family and friends! As an Asheville, registered dietitian nutritionist, I love helping family, friends and clients find ways to eat healthier, make life easier and enjoy more! I am so glad that you check out my blog. You can sign up so you don’t miss a single post and sign up for my newsletter for even more great ideas!

Here are some great additional ideas to help you get started on your way to an experienced meal planner. Hope you find these additional ideas very helpful also!

Simple Meal Planning for Beginners – Step-by-Step Instructions

I love working with clients to help them find solutions to the barriers to meal planning. If you have meal planning questions, meal prepping and meal preparation, I would love for you to contact me and we can schedule a visit to help make the meal planning processing easy, fun with lots of ideas that will work for you!

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