Tag Archives: planning

20-day diet prep plan: Day 14-B – The grocery list

grocery list for quick easy meals

Two weeks to New Year’s!

Okay, Saturday and Sunday, you’re going to be doing some more experimenting in the kitchen, to help you prepare for the new, healthy way you’re going to be eating starting January 1!

I’m going to walk you through a couple meal templates (the soup method and the hash method) that will open up new possibilities for you, for healthy meals that are easy to throw together in a matter of minutes. So today, tonight, or early tomorrow, you’ll need to go grocery shopping.

grocery list for easy healthy meals

The grocery list

  • 3 medium white or yellow onions
  • 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 large bell pepper – red, yellow, or orange
  • 1 large or 2 smallish zucchini
  • 5 oz. (or more) pre-washed baby spinach (or pre-washed and chopped kale, if you like kale)
  • 1 or 2 32-oz. cartons of good quality chicken stock. Don’t buy the cheapest option: read the labels, and buy the one with the most protein.
  • salsa of your choice, preferably sugar- and corn-syrup-free
  • spaghetti sauce of your choice, preferably sugar- and corn-syrup-free (or homemade marinara, if you have it on hand)
  • eggs
  • taco seasoning mix (or make your own)
  • Italian seasoning mix (or make your own)
  • olive oil or coconut oil
  • already-cooked meats of your choice (see below)

for the grocery list; wholly guacamole minis

 

optional:

  • Wholly Guacamole minis
  • any other vegetables you especially like, that come frozen: green beans, carrots, etc.
  • spiralizer, if you want to make zucchini noodles. I like this one, which you can also get at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but there are other brands.

Meats

Get two or three of these meats that you’d like to experiment with:

  • Already-cooked chicken. Make your own, or pick up a couple roasted chicken breasts or several thighs from your grocery store deli.
  • Diced ham; buy one thick slice and dice it yourself if you can’t find already diced.
  • Sausage, whatever flavor(s) you like. They can be pork, turkey, or chicken. Bulk sausage cooked and crumbled; link sausage cooked and diced.
  • Cooked, seasoned hamburger
  • Pulled pork, if that’s something you normally make and have in the freezer
  • Bacon; cook up a pound in the oven. Then chop into about 1/2″ pieces. No need to break out a ruler!

If you want, go ahead and cook/prep all your meats.

how to chop an onion

You can also dice up the onion and put it in an airtight container in the fridge. (If you want to save that for later, that’s fine, too.) If you’re not already adept at dicing an onion, here’s a how-to from SimplyRecipes. Dicing onions would be a good thing to practice and get comfortable with, because this is the first step to just about every savory dish.

Tomorrow, we start cookin’!

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grocery list for quick easy meals

The grocery list shown in the image above is available as a printout at designsponge.

New Year, New Diet: 20-Day Prep Plan! (And my salad equation)

20-day prep plan for starting a new diet

Are you thinking about starting a new diet — excuse me — a new way of eating at the beginning of the new year? Good for you!

applauding minions

 

Why not stack the odds for success in your favor? Instead of just diving in unprepared on January 1, use these last three weeks of December to gird your loins for battle! I’m here to help.

Every day, I’ll be posting an activity or two that will help you mentally or physically prepare for a fresh start on January 1. The weekday assignments will usually be pretty light; the Saturday and Sunday assignments will involve a little more time. But this is time that will pay forward to bring you greater success next month.

And since we’re starting on Saturday, we’re going to dive right into it! Your assignment for today: make a grocery list then do some shopping.

Get groceries for healthy salads

One of the things that can make or break your efforts to stick to healthy eating is knowing a few easy meals that you can throw together based on things that you always have on hand.

Salads are an easy meal, and can be a healthy choice that fits into almost any diet plan — as long as the dressing isn’t full of sugar, corn syrup, and other sugary things.

Here’s my equation for creating a delicious salad:

Greens + onions + something sweet and tangy + something crunchy and maybe salty + cheese (optional) + protein (optional) + dressing, including some healthy fat!

Your greens can be spinach, romaine, kale, mixed baby greens, or any combination. Iceberg lettuce contains few nutrients, though, so you’re better off with something else.

Onions can be white, yellow, green or red, or they may be blended into the dressing. If you’re concerned about onions overpowering your salad, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes or so, then drain them before adding to the salad.

Sweet and tangy is usually fruit, but can also be vegetable. Tomatoes are popular, as are craisins or other dried fruit. Consider other possibilities: fresh berries such as blueberries or sliced strawberries; diced apple or pear; or chunks of mango, orange, tangerine, or grapefruit. Diced cooked sweet potato is another nice option.

Avoid relying on croutons for your crunchy item. Nuts are gluten-free, low carb, and higher in nutrition. Skip anything candied or sugared; use raw or toasted pecans, walnuts, cashews, pepitas, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, almonds slivered or sliced… You get the idea! Crisp/crunchy veggies also work well: celery, jicama, cabbage. Crispy bacon is another solid option. Cuz bacon makes everything better! And a few crumbles of real, good quality bacon is not a diet breaker.

If you’re not avoiding dairy, cheese makes a nice addition to many salads. Popular choices include feta, blue cheese, and goat cheese. Parmesan and cheddar are appropriate for certain salads. Anything is possible, though. Except Velveeta. Please: never Velveeta!

If you’re going to make your salad a meal, some thinly-sliced, already-cooked meats will bring the protein you need. Chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, tuna, leftover salmon or crabcakes are all fair game! Eggs are another possibility: hard-boiled and chopped, or fried and laid on top! (Just look up #putaneggonit on Instagram!)

We’ll talk more in the coming days about the error of low-fat thinking, but for now, please just trust me on this: your salad needs fat! Lack of fat is one of the things that will make you hungry again in an hour or two. (Sugar is the other.) So replacing those low-fat, sugar-filled, store-bought dressings with healthy, whole-food, homemade dressings is going to make a huge difference in the frequency and strength of your cravings.

While there’s great controversy about which fats are healthy and which are not, pretty much everyone agrees on these: olive oil and avocados. Bacon, cheese, eggs, and nuts are other possibilities, but more controversial.

So make sure you have a good quality 100% extra virgin olive oil on your grocery list. (My favorite everyday brand: California Olive Ranch. Because it’s made in America, I figure it’s fresher, which is important. You can get it at Dillon’s and World Market. Possibly other places, but I know those two for certain.)

Oh, and this is not a hard-and-fast rulebook (except for the low-sugar, some-fat rule); just a few parameters to get you started. There are no salad police!

Not sure how to combine these? Study some online restaurant menus for inspiration, or search for salads on allrecipes.com, or your other favorite food blog.

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

antipasto salad

Sugar-free salad dressings

sugar-free poppy seed dressingI have several sugar-free salad dressing recipes on this site. Peruse these and pick out two or three you’d like to try:

Now make a grocery list of salad and dressing ingredients based on what you’d like to try, and hit the store! (If Creamy Italian is one of your picks, go ahead and make it today; it tastes better when the ingredients have had several hours to mellow and blend.)

Want to follow along for the rest of the countdown? You can do that by…

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20-day prep plan for starting a new diet

How I stock my kitchen for easy, healthy meals: 30 ingredients

paleo meatballs, marinara, roasted cauliflower

Are you thinking about starting to eat Paleo, do a Whole30, or just eat cleaner, healthier, real food? If you’re going to change the way you eat, you’ll probably need to change the way you stock your kitchen. This can feel daunting, but I hope this list will help.

There are certain ingredients that I always keep on hand to make meals more doable. You know those articles in women’s magazines and blogs, where they show you eight articles of clothing that can be combined into 40 different outfits? This is the same principle! I’d guess that at least 90% of what I make for everyday meals can be accomplished with only these ingredients.

Your list doesn’t need to match mine, of course, but hopefully this post will serve as inspiration. This list is mostly Paleo, almost Whole30 except for a couple items, and completely whole, real foods!

And be encouraged: once you look over this list, you’ll probably realize that you’re already well on your way to a well-stocked kitchen.

10 things I always have in the fridge:

1. Chopped onions. I chop up yellow onions a couple times a week, enough to last two or three days.

2. Eggs. Always enough for a couple days worth of breakfast, at least, plus a couple to spare.

3. Good quality hot dogs or fully cooked sausage. Quick, hearty lunch when heated up with some sauerkraut!

whole30 paleo dinner; pork, sweet potato + cauliflower

4. Already-baked sweet potato. Add to scrambled eggs, soup, salads, hash; top with pulled pork or other meat. Or spread with butter or bacon fat, salt and pepper; or mash with butter and cinnamon for a quick, nutritious side dish!

5. Already washed baby spinach. Beyond salad: chop and add to soup or eggs.

6. Maple syrup. For glazes, sauces, and salad dressings.

7. Condiments: tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), mustard, sriracha, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or just a jar of adobo sauce), pickles

stock my kitchen - coconut milk

8. Full-fat coconut milk. A good sub, in many cases, for heavy cream. If you’re not avoiding dairy, stock real, unadulterated cream.

9. Lemon juice. I juice a couple fresh lemons once every week or so, keep it in a small jar in the fridge. For salad dressings, deglazing a pan to make pan sauce, adding to tea, etc.

10. Flours: almond, coconut, flax. Substitutes for wheat flour in various uses. Keeping them in the fridge helps them last longer. Info on almond and coconut flour.

Additional things that are usually (but not always) in my fridge, or are seasonal:

Sauerkraut, bacon, rendered bacon fat, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, celery, green onions, zucchini (to make zoodles), bell peppers, cabbage, apples, bone broth, homemade mayo, romaine (used for wraps in the summer), already-baked russet potato


Want more info about how I do meal planning for people who hate to meal plan?

Check this out!


10 things I always have in the freezer:

1. Chopped parsley, stored in a baggie with most of the air pressed out. It’s easy to scoop out a tablespoon or a quarter-cup as needed, with no additional chopping. This is more than a garnish; it adds a fresh, peppery zing and some bright green color to the party!

2. Hamburger; some cooked, lightly seasoned, and crumbled; some raw in 1/4 lb. patties. Sometimes, also fully cooked meatballs.

balsamic salmon, 3 pieces

3. Salmon & mahi-mahi, individual portions

4. Shrimp, deveined & deshelled

5. Bulk sausage, Italian and/or breakfast, stored in individual portions

paleo meatballs, marinara, roasted cauliflower
Paleo meatballs with marinara, and Italian cauliflower

 

6. Homemade sugar-free marinara, stored in 1-cup portions. If you don’t want to make homemade, go for the most sugar-free brand you can find or afford.

7. Chicken thighs or breasts, prepped and frozen individually

8. Berries: sometimes mixed, sometimes single varieties

9. My veggies of choice: currently green beans, broccoli florets

10. Bone broth or plain chicken stock, stored in 2-cup portions

(Also: leftover chicken bones, onion ends, and parsley stems for my next batch of broth)

Things I always have in the pantry:

1. Bag of yellow onions

2. Head of garlic

 

3. Extra coconut milk

4. Vinegars: rice, balsamic, red wine, unfiltered apple

5. Oil: olive, coconut, and usually sesame for Asian dishes

taco-mix-montage

6. Homemade seasoning mixes: taco, chili, Italian, burger (and of course other individual seasonings)

7. Nuts: cashew to top an Asian stir-fry; almonds, pecans, and walnuts for salads & snacks

8. A little wheat flour or rice flour for pan-frying fish

9. Honey

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

 

10. Tuna in foil packets. I make this simple tuna salad several times a week in the summer. Here are more tuna ideas.

See? Not such an exotic list, for the most part. You probably have most of this on hand. It’s just a matter of learning to see new ways to combine these basic “wardrobe” pieces to create an infinite number of quick, easy, tasty meals!

Here are some menu idea starters.

Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.

stock-my-fridge-600x1280

Thanksgiving and Christmas food prep FAQs

Holiday food prep tips and checklists; how long to cook turkey, ham, vegetables, and more.

Trying to plan a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal?

Here are some tips, calculators, and checklists.
roasted turkey; how long to cook, and other tips

Turkey

cave-tools-thermometerFor any meat, a meat thermometer is the essential gadget to make sure your meat comes out perfectly every time. 
Image from farmflavor.com

Ham

Image from campbellskitchen.com

Vegetables

  • Make-ahead crockpot green bean casserole. Save your oven for other things, and save some day-of panic: Here’s the classic green bean casserole that everyone wants for Thanksgiving, tweaked to work in a crock pot / slow-cooker, and with optional make-ahead instructions. Classic green bean casserole for crockpot.
  • Low-carb substitute for mashed potatoes. If you’ve tried mashed cauliflower and been disappointed, maybe you just didn’t add enough fat! Try this recipe.
  • Roasted vegetables timetable. The number one must-do side dish at our house — besides the turkey, of course. Oh, and pumpkin pie! Okay, the third-most popular dish: roasted vegetables. A slow roast works oven magic, turning onions, carrots and bell peppers into sugar-free candy-sweet goodness! Here’s a timetable for roasted vegetables: what goes into in the oven when, to make everything come out perfect.
This is my favorite pan for roasted vegetables, and anything else that can be made on a rimmed cookie sheet: USA Pan Jelly Roll Pan.* LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS PAN!!! Bakes evenly, rinses off like brand-new teflon every time. Everyone in my house has been threatened to not even think of co-opting this for some craft or garage project!
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All foods: How much per person?

  • Here’s a thorough chart from Good Housekeeping, showing per-person serving recommendations for 8, 10, 12, 16, 20 and 24 people, for 10 popular holiday foods. It includes turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pie, and more. View the pdf.

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Holiday meal planning checklists and calculators

  • An Excel spreadsheet that you can plug your number of guests into (including how many are vegetarians!), and it tells you how much food to buy. The page where you download it is a little confusing; just scroll down until you see this:
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Would you rather have pictures?

Here’s a well-done info graphic from The Savory, showing turkey thawing time, brining time, brining recipe, roasting time, and more. This image is only one small part of it:
Image from The Savory
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Here's all your holiday food prep and meal prep info: tips, checklists, recipe links, and more!
* Note: Product links in this post are to my Amazon store where I get a smidgen of the sales, but I truly use and fanatically love every product I link to.
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Tabletop photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo on Unsplash
Turkey photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash
Baking photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash