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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!!!

Thanks.

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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.


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Old 08-12-2015, 06:22 PM   #3
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I would start with this website.

ChooseMyPlate.gov

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.
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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.

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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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Old 08-13-2015, 04:09 PM   #11
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84, that's mostly good advice but preservatives are not a bad thing. Their purpose is to help prevent food from spoiling, which prevents food poisoning.

And while it might be nice to eat free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, not everyone can afford it. Using fresh ingredients is more important, imo.
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Old 08-13-2015, 04:25 PM   #12
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I guess I am more blessed than I realize to live in the country. Free range chicken is not hard to come by, I think I paid $5.00 plus a few hours of labor, and grass fed beef direct from a farmer can be had for as little as $5.00 / lb cut and wrapped.

Totally agree on the fresh foods part. If free range and pasture feed meat is too expensive, then try to get the best meat you can that fits your budget. I have to go free range meat because the commercial grown meat that big companies sell is full of estrogen and other hormones that is causing issues in my body.

I always encourage others to try to get free range (technically, organic I suppose) as well too, just because of the hormones that are used in commercial beef. Check out this article here - https://www.organicconsumers.org/sci...e-human-health
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Old 08-13-2015, 04:55 PM   #13
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It's not estrogen; it's bovine growth hormone, which is broken down into separate amino acids by the digestive system. Little to none is absorbed. If any were absorbed, the cell receptors in human cells don't match, so it has no effect in humans. Also studies have shown that there are similar amounts of BGH in cows' milk and meat treated or not treated with BGH. Finally, the government did experiments decades ago trying to treat dwarfism with BGH and it had no effect.

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/20...milk-mythfact/

Don't be misled by Big Organic
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Old 08-13-2015, 05:13 PM   #14
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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.

Hi Creative. Thanks for the response! That site is pretty helpful so I'll definitely be using it but I wish it would allow you to input your own recipes.

(I'll have to check the site some more but I'm pretty sure it doesn't have that option)

for a long time I would just go shopping whenever we needed food
(2 people in my household) but since I have started planning out a weeks worth of meals, I think it makes more sense to have a weekly shopping trip
and it works better for our schedules too. So that's what I'm doing now.
Plus, I don't really like to shop to much.

I'm not really to concerned with freshness because I have a chart that tells me how long the different veggies and fruit last and how to store them so they last longer and I just use that to help me schedule which meals need to be in the beginning of the week (so everything stays fresh) and then the meals with ingredients that last longer are towards the end of the week.

what I really mean is, lets say I have a recipe that calls for 1/2 cup of spinach and 1/4 cup onion. Well I can't buy those ingredients in those portions, So I will have extra spinach and extra onion that needs to get used before it goes bad.

How would I find another recipe(s) that specifically calls for those ingredients? and then lets say I do find a recipe(s) that calls for those ingredients, but then it also calls for a bunch of other ingredients that I don't have or that were not in the recipes I started with. How could I avoid that?

hope this makes sense. sorry. I'm trying to explain myself the best I can.
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Old 08-13-2015, 05:28 PM   #15
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I would start with this website.

ChooseMyPlate.gov

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

Good luck!!!
Thanks Aunt Bea!

I'll have to check out that site some more.

I agree, it will likely take some time to get this all down but its something I gotta do.

I did start out as you suggested and I have a cheat night worked into my plan too but my problem is planning meals with recipes that fit together or compliment each other.

like for instance, lets say I have recipes for Mon-Wed but I have leftover ingredients from those recipes, how would I find recipes for the rest of the week that can use those leftovers while at the same time, not calling for a whole new giant set of different ingredients?

that's my main problem.
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Old 08-13-2015, 05:37 PM   #16
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Use Google's advanced search options. You can search for specific words and phrases and include words that you *don't* want in the results.

http://www.google.com/advanced_search

We have a forum here called "What can I do with these ingredients?" Ask and ye shall receive many suggestions Experience will also help.
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Old 08-13-2015, 05:41 PM   #17
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Hi, Charlie! Welcome to Discuss Cooking


Hope this helps.

Hi GotGarlic! thank you for your response.

I'm aware of that but my problem is finding those other recipes to use up the remaining ingredients.
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Old 08-13-2015, 05:59 PM   #18
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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.

thanks taxlady!

I have slight high blood pressure and my roomate is pre-diabetic. We both need to lose weight as well.

Here's what I consider healthy:

1.) Preferably Organic

2.) fresh and home cooked/homemade

3.) very little or zero processed foods

4.) I'm trying to eliminate as many chemicals and additives as possible
and eat as natural as possible. (within reason)

5.) Grass fed dairy and meat

I'm not trying to go completely meat or dairyless but I am cutting back on both and most of my meals will err on the side of vegetarian.

hope that helps.
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Old 08-13-2015, 06:00 PM   #19
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Hi GotGarlic! thank you for your response.

I'm aware of that but my problem is finding those other recipes to use up the remaining ingredients.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
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.
So search for recipes for those four dishes above. Plus soup, frittata, quiche, tacos or enchiladas or quesadillas, pasta with various sauces, Thai curry. They all can be made with the same set of ingredients.
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Old 08-13-2015, 06:04 PM   #20
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Welcome to DC, Charlie! Glad to hear that you're recovering from a big medical issue.

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.

Thank You Cheryl. Those are some good suggestions.

I answered taxlady if you want to have a look at the response.

I pretty much covered your questions in that post.

Yeah I agree, definitely a learning process! but I'm in it to win it. I will not give up!!
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