Create a simple menu plan that’s healthy for you and your family

Creating a menu plan that’s simple and healthy for you and your family is not as hard as you think. With a couple of tried and true tricks and a systematic approach, you can have healthy meals for you and your family in a snap!


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  • stock your pantry
  • make a favorites list
  • write out a weekly menu plan
  • prepare a grocery list
  • shop when you’re full

Cartoon with x mark

  • keep unhealthy foods in the house
  • load your grocery list with processed foods
  • buy conventional foods with preservatives, sprayed with pesticides or containing GMOs
  • buy on the fly
  • be cheap when it comes to your food

Jen Wittman, CHHC, AADP‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do stock your pantry

Start with stocking your pantry first as this is the foundation to eating healthy. If you don’t have the right foods in ready supply, it’s too simple to grab those pesky, problematic go-to foods when cravings rear their ugly heads or hunger arrives. Having a pantry and refrigerator stocked with easy healthy food for you and your family is the way to go.

Do make a favorites list

Create a master list of favorite foods and favorite recipes. Comprise your list of food your whole family likes and ingredients from our favorite fast recipes. It can be divided into categories – starchy vegetables, non-starchy vegetables, fruit, meats, nuts, canned and other. Under each category list of your favorite foods that you can pull from when creating your weekly menu. Everyone should have a say on the favorites list – whoever makes up your household should get to put in their two cents.

Do write out a weekly menu plan

From the favorites list, create a weekly menu plan including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. For breakfasts, choose 1-3 favorites and rotate them throughout the week. For dinners, choose a starchy vegetable, a non-starchy vegetable, salad ingredients, and a meat to comprise the dinner meal. Choose a fruit off the favorites list for dessert and save your leftovers for lunch. Creating a menu plan helps you save money, reduce food waste and creates a system so you only have to shop once a week. With the favorites list already created, it makes menu planning a snap! Want buy in from your kids? Let them in on the menu planning by giving them one or two days a week where they get to plan the meal.

Do prepare a grocery list

Now, that you have your menu plan, preparing your grocery list will be a piece of cake (just don’t add cake to your grocery list!). Just go through each meal and each day of your menu plan and write out the ingredients you need to create the meal. Having a list at the grocery store will keep you honest, on track and will save you time while shopping. You’ll end up buying healthier ingredients and keep those not-so-figure friendly snacks out of your cart.

Do shop when you’re full

Oh, this is a biggie! I’m sure we’ve all experienced going into the grocery store when we’re hungry? What happens next? An overloaded cart full of bad choices. Save yourself the headache and the hassle and eat first. Going into the store armed with your list and a full belly will keep you, your family’s meal plan, and your budget on track.

Jen Wittman, CHHC, AADP‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not keep unhealthy foods in the house

Everyone loves delicious naughty treats like chocolate cake, potato chips or both on the same plate! But, if you don’t have them in the house, you will be less likely to go out of your way to eat them. Instead, when you’re hungry, grab what’s available and stocked in the house. It will save you from a lot of tummy troubles and extra weight. A treat now and then is absolutely great and wonderful to enjoy, but having them too readily will encourage you to eat food that’s not nourishing for your body.

Do not load your grocery list with processed foods

If you stick to 1 rule only, it should be to just eat real food. Real food is something that has not been processed or packaged. It’s food in its purest form. Real foods are unprocessed fruits and vegetables, meats and fats. A good example would be buying a nice chicken breast from the meat counter and pairing it with fresh peas and carrots, not eating a frozen TV dinner containing “chicken, pea and carrot-like” ingredients. This can work for more “fun” meals too like pizza. It’s much better to make a quick pizza dough, put fresh crushed tomato sauce on it and real ingredients from the veggie and meat sections than to buy a pre-made processed frozen pizza with processed cheese and questionable ingredients.

Do not buy conventional foods with preservatives, sprayed with pesticides or containing GMOs

Foods sprayed with pesticides or injected with antibiotics and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) can take a real toll on your health. The chemical burden placed on your body from foods containing chemical preservatives or containing pesticides, antibiotics and GMOs can suppress your immune system, make it harder for you to lose weight, cause mood disturbances and digestive distress in your body. Always opt for fresh, organic, pastured, non-sprayed and non-GMOs foods that will fit into your budget.

Do not buy on the fly

If you can help it, have a list ready when you go into the grocery. Keep an ongoing list of groceries you need to replace in your phone so it’s always available to you. When you buy on the fly without any thought, you’ll likely end up with a cart of random ingredients or snack foods, both of which, don’t help you put a real meal on the table for you and your family.

Do not be cheap when it comes to your food

Giving your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs to function properly and fight disease is crucial to your long and short-term health and wellness. Having good, nourishing foods in your home is not the place to be slashing your budget. When you eat nutrient dense food, your body not only has less cravings, it needs less food to survive because its needs are being met to create the energy and vitality you need to be healthy. Our food budget comes in second to our monthly housing bill. After shelter, food is the most important basic need to keep you going and growing. Poor food supply equals poor health, more doctors visits, more symptoms, more medications. Honor the health of your family and yourself – save the money on medical expenses and instead put it into high quality food.


Having a healthy and simple menu plan for you and your family can make mealtime a breeze. It not only keeps your budget in check, it reduces food waste and time spent at the grocery store. And, don’t forget the most important part – menu planning can help your waistline and general wellness so you can make good choices to support your health, energy and vitality.

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