Eating balanced meals didn’t come easy for us until I started planning our meals with my Weekly Meal Planning Sheet. It’s so easy to overdo it with too many carbs or fats when you don’t have a plan. That’s why I want to share my meal planning guide with you. Hopefully, it will help you get somewhat a little more organized with meal planning.
Vegetables have been the most difficult to stay on track with. In all honesty, there were plenty of days that didn’t include more than one type of vegetable. Ensalada de nopales (Cactus Salad) is probably the only salad I happily ate for most of my life. It still is, but I can appreciate a good green salad with kale and veggies now more than ever.
My kiddos are getting used to having greens as part of their normal routine now as well. As a matter of fact, they often prefer veggies and greens with their pastas and grains instead of meat. They are quickly becoming vegetarians without me even trying to convert them into vegetarians which is weird because that was never my goal.
The reality is, once you start cutting back on red meat on a regular basis, your body starts to feel different – better in fact! In my case, I don’t miss it as much as I did the first month. My hubby on the other hand really misses bacon, so we have it maybe once or twice a month now instead of once a week.
It’s a big change that has taken months getting used to, but ultimately we are happy with our decision to move toward a more plant-based diet and cut back on the amount of red meat we eat.
Now I try to plan our meals ahead of time each week to help us stay focused.
To help us stay focused on eating more nutritious, plant-based foods, I created a meal planning sheet to get a better picture of our meals. Let me show you how it works!
How I use my Weekly Meal Planning Sheet
It still might need a little bit of tweaking, but it works for now and I’m hoping that by sharing it here, you too can benefit from it. I’ll share a picture of one that is filled out in a bit, but first, let me explain the basic components of it to you.
It’s broken up into three sections:
- Course & Dish
- Ingredients & Amounts needed for each dish
- Shopping list
The first section; Course & Dish, is where I write the name or meal idea that I’m thinking of making whether it’s from my own personal recipes, a cookbook, or from the internet.
Dish: Oatmeal with banana and blueberries
The second; Ingredients & Amounts Needed for each dish, is where I list out all the ingredients needed to make that meal.
Ingredients & Amounts Needed: 2 cups old fashioned oats, ¼ cup brown sugar, ground cinnamon, blueberries.
You might not always need this section because sometimes a meal is easy to remember (like the example of oatmeal and blueberries above). It comes in handy when you have a recipe with a long list of ingredients. That’s when I’ll take the time to write down all the ingredients I need (and sometimes the amounts), then later go through my fridge and pantry to see what I already have for that recipe. If there are items I’m missing, I’ll write them down in the shopping list section.
The Shopping List is where I include everything I need for the week. That means food I need for my recipes I have planned, afterschool snacks, drinks, paper towels, dish soap, etc.
Take a look at this week’s meal planning below to get an idea of how it all comes together.
I also take into consideration what I already have on hand and use that as my starting point. For instance, this weekend we went to the Farmers Market in town and picked up a bag of zucchini, sugar snap peas, red onion, and some strawberries. Those ingredients are going to be my starting point for some of the meals that I’ll be planning.
You can use one sheet per Course (breakfast, lunch, or dinner), or mix it all up on one sheet (that’s what I do). Sometimes I’ll use a whole section for a recipe idea that I want to experiment with.
There are only five Course sections because we typically finish leftovers on Friday and Saturday then start over on Sunday or Monday with a new sheet. Plus, seven boxes felt too squished on one sheet and I REALLY wanted it all to be on one sheet.
So far it has been working well for me. My favorite part about it is that it’s all on one piece of paper. All I have to do is take a screenshot of the shopping list with my phone before I head out to the grocery store.
I hope you get a chance to use it and find it helpful, too! If you do, please come back here and let me know what you liked about it.
To download the printable meal planner, click on the subscription link at the end of this post. You should receive it in your inbox once you confirm your subscription. Don’t worry, I won’t share your email with anyone, and I promise not to flood your inbox with weekly emails. I rarely send out newsletters anyway. This is just a way for me to keep in touch with you and share any new happenings, giveaways, and/or new downloads I post about.
Now for that Salad and Greek Yogurt Dressing recipe!
I couldn’t just share a meal planner without a recipe to go with it, so I will share one of my favorite recipes. This Ensalada de Nopales with Greek yogurt dressing is a surprisingly perfect pair. At first, I didn’t think the kiddos would like it because we’ve never had greek yogurt with this salad, but when they both asked for seconds and responded with “this is delicious”, I just had to share it with you.
You can mix it all together, or serve the dressing on the side as I’ve done in the image above.
We made tacos one night and mixed the leftover salad and dressing together for leftovers the next day. Both versions were delicious!
Add chicken or not. It’s up to you. 🙂
Cabbage and Cactus Salad with Cilantro Lime Greek Yogurt Dressing
For the Dressing
- 5.3 oz container plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1/8 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
For the Salad
- 5 cups raw cactus cut into strips, thorns removed
- 2 cups cabbage, shredded
- 1 1/2 cups roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 1/2 cups cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup purple onion, minced
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- garlic salt to taste
- queso fresco, crumbled
In a large pot, bring enough water to cover the cleaned cactus strips (thorns removed) to a boil. Season water with salt before it starts to boil. Add strips as soon as water starts to boil, keep them at a medium boil for 35 minutes. Strain, rinse, and set aside to cool down.
Prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
While cactus strips cool down, prepare the remaining ingredients for the salad. Combine everything except the dressing in a large serving bowl. Season with garlic salt to your taste.
Serve the yogurt dressing on the side along with extra lime wedges, tortillas, and crumbled queso fresco.
Cactus paddles can be found at Mexican grocery stores in the produce section. Some stores carry them whole, and/or precut.
If you can’t find fresh cactus paddles, jarred cactus can be used as a substitute as well. Just keep in mind that most brands have their cactus in a brine that is high in sodium and slightly spicy.