One of the most frequent requests I get is to do more posts on menu planning. Planning a weekly menu is something that has been ingrained in me since I was a wee little tot. I remember sitting down with my Mama on Saturday mornings at the kitchen table and she’d ask what I wanted to eat that week, and we’d fill in the days with our favorites (and always marking “FFY” next to Fridays—Fin for Yourself—basically leftover night). Then, she’d build the grocery list and we’d head out to the store.
Now, I’m very lucky to have that kind of background in menu planning, but I know it’s a real struggle for lots of folks. I get emails almost daily asking me to pull together menus for my blog. It can be really hard to make sense of all the recipes and meal ideas out there, plus keep an eye on nutrition and health. I’ve gone back and forth about doing menus here (after all, not everyone likes to eat the same things and not everyone agrees what constitutes healthy and what doesn’t), but I figured if it’s something people are still requesting after all these years, I should try it out.
If you guys like this, my plan is to post a new two-week menu every month. Admittedly there will be a lot of my own recipes in these (because I know those are delicious and work well in time-crunched weeknight situations), but I’ll also include recipes from outside sources that I love and use. My goal is to only include recipes tested by moi, so you can feel confident that your Tuesday night dinner wont flop. And, each menu will follow my own personal philosophy for healthy eating, which means that life is too short to skip out on the occasional slice of cake or bowl of mac and cheese. I’m also trying to avoid weird, hard-to-find or expensive ingredients. I 100% believe that you can eat real, clean, healthy food on any budget and in any region (yes, even if you don’t have a Whole Foods nearby), and these menus should work for everyone! I will say, these menus do focus some on food prepping, because that’s how I work. So you’ll find lots of grab-and-go recipes that need to be prepped ahead of time for optimal grab-and-go-y-ness.
Please chime in if you have any suggestions for how I can make this better for next month. Alright, let’s get to the menu!
If your house is anything like ours, breakfasts are a whole lot less like the Leave It To Beaver sit-down-at-the-table kind and a lot more like the oh-gosh-I-should-grab-something-quick-before-work kind. So this list is a lot of grab-and-go style breakfasts, with a few weekend-style breakfast thrown in.
- Greek Yogurt Bowls with Banana, Berries and Granola—Want to save some cash? Make your own yogurt and your own granola.
- Apple Pie Spinach Smoothie, Whole Wheat Toast with Peanut Butter—Adding whole wheat toast with peanut butter is one of my favorite ways to round-out a breakfast with whole grain carbs and healthy fats and protein. Not into toast? Feel free to sub in whole wheat English muffins or bagels.
- Herbed Egg and Turkey Cups, Fruit, Whole Wheat Toast with Peanut Butter—These cups hold in the fridge for a while, so feel free to make up a big batch on the weekend and stash them for grab-and-going come Monday.
- Whole Wheat Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Maple Syrup
- Apple Cinnamon Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats—Don’t think you have time for steel cut oats? The slow cooker is your friend.
- Whole Wheat Toast with Peanut Butter, Apple Slices and Cinnamon—This one of my favorite grab and go breakfasts! Carbs, protein, and fat—all in a handheld yummy slice of toast.
- Heat and Eat Quiche Breakfast Sandwiches, Fruit—Just like the cups, these can be made ahead and stashed in the freezer.
In our house, leftovers are the king of lunch, and you’ll have a lot of leftovers thanks to cooking dinners every night. But I’ve included a few lunch ideas that aren’t leftovers for variety.
- Easy Black Bean Quesadillas—A lunchtime staple around here. Plop a whole wheat tortilla in a skillet over medium heat, spread on some salsa, black beans and shredded cheese, top with another tortilla. When the cheese has melted, flip the quesadilla over and cook until crisp. Remove from pan, slice into quarters and serve with salsa, guacamole or sour cream for dipping. If you want, you can make your own tortillas, too (so yum).
- Salad in a Jar, Whole Grain Crackers—Use a quart-size jar and some source of protein (chicken, tofu, beans, etc.) for a filling and crazy easy lunchtime salad.
- Curried Chicken Salad over Greens—You’ll see below that we’re roasting a chicken for one of the dinners. You’ll use the leftover chicken meat for this salad. One of our favorites!
- Leftovers—Learn to love ’em! You’re going to be cooking 14 different dinners over the course of this two-week plan, you’re bound to have delicious, healthy, ready-to-eat leftovers for lunch. Embrace ’em! Promise me you won’t let all that delicious food go to waste, k?
I think snacking is super important to keeping up with a healthy eating plan. Not only does it help keep your blood sugar regulated and your belly from grumbling, but the fact is, snacking is fun! And it’s a fun way to help break up the day.
- Ants on a Log—Kids and adults alike love these. Fill celery stalks with peanut butter and top with raisins. Crunchy, creamy and sweet! Plus, the fat and protein in the peanut butter goes a long way to help your belly feel satisfied between meals. You can also sub in cream cheese or another nut butter if peanut butter ain’t your thang.
- Veggies with Hummus—Dipping carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, and cucumbers into hummus is a great way to get in some veggies and some protein. Just watch your hummus portions! Those dips add up fast. I like to measure out an amount of hummus into a bowl instead of dipping straight from the container. You can also make your own hummus and adjust it to be lighter by going easy on the oil.
- Peanut Butter Cookie Date Balls—It used to be that dates were a “weird” food only available at health food stores, but I’ve now seen them even at my small town grocery store.
- Fruit—Fruit is the original grab-and-go snack! Make sure you stock up on your favorites at the store. Grab some fresh pears, apples, bananas, clementines, or whatever else fruit looks good to you and reserve it just for snacking.
- Sweet and Spicy Roasted Chickpeas—Satisfy that need for a crunchy afternoon snack with these guys. Make up a big batch on the weekend for easy snacking.
- Air-Popped Popcorn—You might be used to salty, buttery movie theatre popcorn, but the plain air-popped stuff is actually remarkably flavorful and at only 30 calories per cup, a great filling snack! It’s also crazy cheap. A bag of kernels runs about $2 and will last you forever. Don’t have an air-popper? No worries, just put 1/4 cup of kernels in the bottom of a small brown paper back (think lunch size), fold the top down, lay flat in the microwave and microwave at 100% for 2-4 minutes, or until the popping slows down.
Alright, up until now, we’ve been repeating recipes, but dinnertime is where we switch it up. Variety is the spice of life! But just because you’re making different dinners almost every night doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in the kitchen for hours and hours. I’ve included lots of quick, weeknight-style dinners that work for even the craziest days plus some slow-cooker meals that take just a few minutes in the morning. You’ll also find a lot of meatless options, because I’m a big fan of keeping meals meatless frequently (it also helps free up some grocery budget to splurge on more expensive free-range, organic meats).
- Slow Cooker Ham ‘n’ Beans with Cheddar Yogurt Cornbread—This is one of my favorite winter meals because it’s delicious and crazy affordable. If time is too crunched to make cornbread, sub in a hunk of crusty whole grain bread.
- Wheatberry Cabbage Rolls with Steamed Broccoli—These are a weekend meal, but they make a ton, make awesome leftovers and are incredibly delicious!
- Toby Ziegler’s Roasted Chicken with Roasted Root Veggies—Roasting a whole chicken may sound intimidating, but it’s actually a crazy easy one-pot dish.
- Penne Rosa with Shrimp with Garden Salad—Feel free to skip the shrimp for a bonus meatless dinner.
- Mexican Lentil Stuffed Shells with Garden Salad—Toss some avocado, cilantro and lime juice on the salad for a Mexican twist.
- Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup with Salad and Garlic Bread—This is hands-down one of my favorite soups on this blog. So yummy and comforting!
- Shrimp and Grits—This recipe is sized to serve one, but you can easily multiply it.
- Vegetarian Thai Quinoa Chili—For the ultimate chili experience, serve it topped with chopped cilantro, avocado, shredded cheese, chopped onions and sour cream. Yum!
- Open-Face Hummus Tuna Melt with Steamed Broccoli—Tuna melts are total comfort food for me, and with this hummus twist, they stay light and healthy.
- Buffalo Chicken Bites with Sweet Potato Tater Tots—Utensil-free night! Perfect for a Friday night movie night or a game night.
- Portabella Cheesesteaks with Roasted Potatoes—An oldie-but-a-goodie! This recipe is still in constant rotation in our house. Make sure you use whole grain buns (whole wheat bread even works) to get the most nutrition.
- Black Bean Burgers with Kale Chips and Roasted Potatoes—Not a kale chips fan? No worries, just sub in another green veggie (steamed broccoli, sautéed green beans, etc.). The black bean burger recipe makes quite a few, so freeze up the extras and they’ll be ready for quick lunches and dinners later.
- Homemade Pizza with Whole Wheat Crust—Customize this pizza to suit your family’s likes and dislikes. Our favorite combo: pineapple, feta and bacon. Yum!
- Leftover Night—If you haven’t used up your leftovers for lunches, now is the time to clear out that fridge. Bring out all the 1/2 cups of this and one serving of that, heat them up and let everyone pick their poison. Today is also a great time to freeze and meals that you have a lot leftover (like say, the black bean burgers or the chili).
I believe life without chocolate is not a life at all—I make sure to always include treats in my menus. Life is too short to avoid dessert! And treating yourself a little bit everyday with healthier options is a great way to make sure you stay on track and don’t end up bingeing on processed cookies from the store.
- Dark Chocolate Squares—You can buy individually wrapped dark chocolate squares or break a full-sized bar into squares for individual servings. These squares are a great way to add a little bit of a treat to your workday lunch.
- Banana Soft Serve—I like to eat my banana soft serve straight up, but you can doctor it with peanut butter or cocoa for a really fun treat!
- Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Cookies—These cookies have a weird ingredient in them (sucanant), but you can easily sub in brown sugar or cane sugar.
I’ve also put this menu plan into a printable for you to download and hang up right on the fridge for easy reference (and make sure to Pin this post so you can access the recipes easy on your smartphone or tablet when cooking in the kitchen). I went ahead and slotted the recipes into the standard workweek format (so longer, more time-intensive recipes on the weekends), but feel free to mix it up if your schedule isn’t typical. If this doesn’t work for you, you can at least get an idea of how I’d pair everything together, and use it as a base to make your own menu (maybe using this blank menu planner).
P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my good friend Melissa and her clean eating menu plans. For a while I’ve been trying to figure out the logistics of posting a menu, and hers definitely helpled me figure out a (hopefully) user-friendly system. Make sure you go check them out (and stick around on her awesome blog for a while, too).Thanks, Melissa!