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Old 08-12-2015, 04:28 PM   #1
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Really having trouble meal planning. Please Help!

Hi everyone. After nearly succumbing to a life threatening illness, I have made it my mission to become as healthy as possible and a large part of that is eating healthy. But there's a problem.

I'm fairly new to cooking and was never really taught how growing up and now that I've started, its proven to be a little challenging. My main problem is this: I don't know how to meal plan well so that I don't wind up wasting a bunch of ingredients or have to buy a ton.

I want to be able to use up the leftover ingredients from one recipe and use them in another but I don't know how to do this without searching through a million recipes to find common ingredients. I'm just really struggling with this.

I've come across some websites that allow you to search for recipes by ingredient but none of them seem to be healthy recipes. I have found some great sites with healthy recipes but none of them allow you to search by ingredient. So I don't know what to do. Do you have any tips for me? or know of any website, app, or software I can use to help?

If you can help, that would be sooo awesome and I'll be extremely grateful!!!



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Old 08-12-2015, 05:09 PM   #2
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Here might be a useful website

Nutrition facts, calories in food, labels, nutritional information and analysis – NutritionData.com

(you can type in which healthy food you want and it goes to suggestions)

Re. how much to buy in order not to waste food - are you buying just for yourself? I don't know your lifestyle pattern, i.e. whether you do a once a week food shop or (better) shop daily or every other day.

It's easy to buy loose vegetables i.e. select what you need for one or 2 meals (if you know what those meals might be). Are you thinking stir fries, salads etc? These are fairly easy to plan for. It helps to visualise what it will look like on a plate (in case you are likely to buy too many salad ingredients).

Also, (it may be stating the obvious) but check the sell by dates before buying. I always go for the food at the back of the shelf since the date on that may well be fresher.


"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt" (Charles M. Shulz)
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Old 08-12-2015, 06:22 PM   #3
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I would start with this website.


Also I would encourage you to keep it simple in the beginning.

A plain piece of meat or fish, a salad, a vegetable or a piece of fruit and a glass of low fat milk.

A couple times a week shake it up with the healthiest grab and go sandwich, Chinese takeout, slice of pizza, etc... and always, yes always, add a salad.

It will probably take a couple of years to change the habits of a lifetime, be patient and stick with it.

Good luck!!!
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Old 08-12-2015, 06:50 PM   #4
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Hi, Charlie! Welcome to Discuss Cooking

You can use parts of fresh ingredients in different recipes. For example, I typically buy (or grow) bell peppers in various colors - red, green, yellow and orange. I also have onions, garlic and celery on hand most of the time. With these ingredients, I can make a Chinese stir-fry, an Italian meat and tomato sauce for pasta, Mexican fajitas and sloppy Joes with veggies added to the meat.

I just cut up as much as I need for a recipe and refrigerate the rest. They will last for at least a week. Celery and root vegetables (onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, etc.) keep even longer.

There are lots of recipes you can use for extra veggies at the end of the week, like veggie stir-fry, soup, pasta salad and quiche or frittata.

Hope this helps.
The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again. ~ George Miller
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Old 08-12-2015, 08:13 PM   #5
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Welcome to DC Charlie. Bravo for wanting to eat healthy. It would be helpful if you told us what you consider healthy. It varies for different people, by special needs and what one happens to believe. E.g., do you have high blood pressure so salt is an issue? Are you diabetic or pre-diabetic, so sugar and carbs are an issue?

I personally believe that a person can learn to listen to their body to know what it needs, especially in the way of food. It will tell you when you need more protein or vegis or fat or dairy, etc. I also think that ancestry plays a role in what a person's healthy diet should be. For example, I have northern (Scandinavia) ancestors and Arctic (Saami) ancestors. I find that a vegetarian diet doesn't work for me. I need meat and/or fish. For some people a vegetarian diet is perfectly healthy.
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Old 08-12-2015, 08:29 PM   #6
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Welcome to DC, Charlie! Glad to hear that you're recovering from a big medical issue.

I was just going to ask the same thing Taxlady did. Do you have restrictions? It would also be helpful if you'd let us know your personal likes and dislikes....do you eat meat? Chicken is always a good thing to incorporate into your meals. You could broil or roast several pieces of chicken, remove the skin if you'd like, and chop up leftovers into a stir fry with veggies. Eggs are loaded with protein, too - as others have mentioned, fritattas or even just scrambled eggs - add chopped veggies and you've got a decent meal.

Just keep in mind that this will be a learning process and you're not going to change a lifetime of habits overnight, so don't get discouraged.
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Old 08-13-2015, 01:49 PM   #7
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Hi Charlie
Welcome to DC.

Practice Random Acts of Kindness ( RAK ) Makes you feel great too
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Old 08-13-2015, 03:12 PM   #8
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Welcome to DC Charlie. It is good to hear that you are seeking a healthier lifestyle. You have already found two sites that are not suitable for your needs. You have started out on the right foot.

There will be plenty of excellent advice here at DC. You have hundreds of combined years of experience at your fingertips. All you have to do is ask. And EVERY one wants to help you. But we do need a wee bit more personal information.
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Old 08-13-2015, 03:41 PM   #9
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There have been a lot of good replies, but the thing that really helped me stretch my creativity in the kitchen was to join a CSA program. In the program I joined, I paid a lump sum to get a bushel of vegetables and 3-5 lbs of meat each week.

I also shop once a week at a farmer's market, and I buy enough vegetables to can up a decent batch to put away for winter. For me, it's about re-connecting with my food so that I know where it comes from, how it was treated, and how it was grown.

Next year I will have my own vegetable and herb garden as well as the CSA program and farmer's market, and my goal is to be nearly supermarket free by the end of next year.

Edit: Forgot to include that I am working on losing 135 lbs as well, and so far so good (down 10 lbs) from just eating fresh veggies and high quality proteins, such as free range chickens and grass fed beef. My doctor suspects my weight problem is a result of estrogen poisoning.
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Old 08-13-2015, 03:51 PM   #10
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Cripes, it's been a long day. I also forgot to mention to learn where you can make substitutions. One example for be olive oil for canola oil, as I think olive oil or EVOO is healthier than canola or vegetable oil (maybe a more knowledgeable person can clarify that).

Also, learn some recipes for healthy sandwich spreads and dips, such as a good humus recipe and pair that with some roasted seasoned chick peas. Personally, I love a good humus on a wheat cracker so my cooking journal has a humus recipe I want to try out.

Overall though, the closer you can eat to whole foods, the better you will because there will be fewer preservatives. Another thing to get is a vacuum sealer, worth their weight in gold in my opinion.

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