Meal planning vs. flexibility


I’ve tried various types of meal planning over the years.  I’ve tried writing out exactly what I’m having for each meal each day, I’ve tried assigning certain dinners on days to certain types of food, say chicken or Indian food, and I’ve tried winging it based on what’s in the fridge and freezer.

I don’t tend to find any solution wholly satisfactory. The best one was probably when I gave each dinner a different type of meat and then just chose a recipe to do for dinner that involved that meat.

Each type of meal plan seems to have bad points. Having different things every day can leave you random ingredients to eat up in the fridge, or say you open a pot of yoghurt – then you have to spend the next few days eating it up.  Choosing the meat for the day sometimes doesn’t work if you have more meat than needed and want to use it up the next day but it’s not on the plan.  And a repetitive plan gets boring quickly.

Some of the solutions to meal plans seem to be ever more complicated planning, and that leads to inflexibility.

Eventually with any kind of set meal plan I end up feeling like I’m eating the same foods over and over again. If I didn’t have a plan I think, I could eat what I want and I’d try out all these new recipes.

So I stop the plan and wing it, and what happens is I get overwhelmed by the choice, can’t think of anything to cook, and then the fridge runs out of food and I can’t think what to replace it with and I end up thinking, if only I made a plan, then I’d know exactly what food I needed and go and buy it.

And so the cycle continues!

My current plan is that I’ve written out a list on a white board in the kitchen of what meat and leftover meals we have in, and then each night I choose something for the next day. It works okay, but I end up with this nagging feeling that I’m not making the most out of my meals – so I sense change on the horizon again. The list of meat and meals is good though – I will keep that.

How structured is your approach to meals, and are you like me, constantly making plans and then not sticking to them for very long?

I secretly suspect, that actually I just like making plans and lists, and get bored carrying them out! We shall see what I come up with next.


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Healthy Valentine’s Treats – Recipe Round Up

Are you planning to cook a special meal for someone on Valentine’s Day? Are you afraid of ruining your healthy eating plan? Why not check out these ideas from around the web for some healthier meals and treats:

Go vegetarian:

Beet Ravioli with Pine Nut “Goat Cheese” Rosemary-Cream Sauce, Aged Balsamic Vinegar

beet ravioli

A tasty side:

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

mustard roasted potatoes

A healthy fish dish from the Inspired Edibles blog:

Roasted Salmon in a Strawberry-Balsamic Reduction


A healthy side to go with the meat:

Steak with skinny sweet potato chips


A healthy starter:

Pear Wedges with Prosciutto and Mint

pear with prosciutto

Use plenty of fruit!

Chocolate Fondue

chocolate fondue

How about a low calorie old favourite:

Baby Tiramisu


Keep it simple:

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

chocolate strawberries

A torte using wholewheat flour:

Chocolate Torte

chocolate torte

Or a great healthy snack:

Heart Shaped Eggs – Tutorial

heart shaped egg

Whatever your plans are for Valentine’s day, I hope you have a good time!


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What’s in Lamb and Beef?


roast lamb

Red meat tends to get quite a bad press because of the link with saturated fat which is demonised (perhaps unfairly) in the popular press. Many people trying to eat healthily probably try to eat lean poultry and fish as their main source of protein. However we shouldn’t forget that lamb and beef, and other red meats, are not just lumps of protein and saturated fat.

Something I didn’t realise myself until quite recently is that not all the fat in red meat is saturated. I found a table of the fat content of various types of meat in a book I have, and the fat seems to be split half and half between saturated and unsaturated for most cuts of lamb and beef.  Looking down the list of white and red meats, the fat and protein contents are not significantly different. The whiter the meat, and the leaner the cut, indicates lower calories, however the meats that come out with the lowest calories per 100g are guinea fowl and rabbit, followed by pork fillet. I found this quite surprising as I would have thought turkey was the lowest.

All meats are also good sources of vitamins and minerals.

Choosing lamb as an example, lamb contains vitamins B2, B6, B12, Niacin (B3), and the minerals iron, phosphorus and zinc. These vitamins and minerals of course occur in many other foods but just for comparison lets see how lamb holds up:

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin):

Shreddies breakfast cereal has 0.9mg per 100g – a serving is about 40g which would be 0.36mg

Lamb has 0.21mg per 100g – which would be a reasonable serving size.

So the cereal wins here.


Spinach has 1 or 2mg per 100g – and a serving size would be about 40g. This is one of the best plant sources of iron

Lamb has 1.2mg per 100g

Lamb is probably the winner here because the portion size would be bigger. It would be quite a chore to munch through 100g of spinach.


Milk has 1.1mg of zinc per 250ml, which is a standard glass of milk. I imagine you would have about half this on cereal.

Lamb has between 2 – 6mg of zinc per 75g.

Lamb is the clear winner here.


So what’s the lesson here? Don’t write off any food. Most foods have good points in their favour and some bad ones against them. Try and eat a variety of foods and you will increase your likelihood of getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals in your diet, and you will have a more interesting diet as a bonus! So if you don’t currently eat red meat, why not give it a go once or twice a week to see what you think. It might prove a worthwhile addition to your diet. 



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Quick tips: 15 Healthy Snacks


So it’s nearly the end of January. All the Christmas chocolate and leftovers are gone. But is your new year’s resolution to eat healthily flagging? I personally am in need of snacking inspiration at this time of year, so that I don’t go back to the biscuit tin. I also want to try and avoid grabbing processed or packaged snacks. Here are my top 15 snacks to grab when hunger strikes that won’t ruin your new year diet and will keep the food you eat fresh and real:

  1. Small slice of cheese and chutney on a cracker
  2. Banana and natural yoghurt with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey
  3. A handful of macadamia nuts and raisins or dried cranberries
  4. A hard boiled egg
  5. Carrot sticks and flavoured hummus
  6. Mixed olives with feta
  7. An oatcake spread with cream cheese
  8. Peanut butter with celery sticks
  9. One slice of wholegrain toast and marmite
  10. A handful of dried apricots and figs
  11. A fruit smoothie – for example, orange juice, a banana, and a peach
  12. A glass of milk
  13. Half an avocado with a few prawns and a drizzle of balsamic dressing
  14. Small slice of cheese with grapes and apple slices
  15. A handful of almonds

It’s true that fresh snacks require more work than grabbing a low fat biscuit or packet of crisps from the supermarket, but the taste is so much better! 

Not all the above snacks need keeping in the fridge. Peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts and crackers could all be kept in your desk drawer at work.

I can definitely recommend buying an insulated lunch bag with mini ice packs for work. I often take a snack that needs to keep cool in the mornings to work and one that doesn’t for the afternoon, and this works well with the mini ice packs.

What other non-packaged healthy snacks would you add to the list?

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Cheap sources of protein


We all need to eat protein. It helps to repair our muscles and tissues, helps our muscles to grow and regulates our metabolism. However in practical terms it can be the most expensive part of our diet, and it we are a little short of money this can be where our diet suffers. The most obvious source of protein is meat, and whilst the different cuts and types of meat vary in price, its still a lot more expensive than potatoes and carrots. So if you are watching the pennies, check out these ideas for getting your protein:

Tinned Fish

Tinned tuna, pilchards, mackerel and all other types of tinned fish are cheap, easy to store and keep a long time in the cupboard. They are great for lunch, on toast or in sandwiches, or in a salad, or for dinner in a pasta bake.

Many kinds of tinned fish also count as one of your portions of oily fish (not tinned tuna though) – containing essential omega-3 fats.


Eggs have protein and many other nutrients, making them a very versatile food. They are great for breakfast, fried, scrambled, poached or boiled, and can be eaten for lunch in sandwiches or wraps, or omelettes.

Pulses – lentils, beans and peas

Pulses are a plant based protein, great for bulking out a meal, or for vegetarians. They can be purchased dried or tinned. Both are good value for money. Dried are probably the cheapest but often need preparation such as overnight soaking, whereas tinned can be used straight from the tin.

Frozen meat and fish

If you check out the freezer section of your supermarket you will often be able to buy large bags of meat like chicken breasts, tuna steaks or beef mince for a lower price than fresh. Its also convenient to keep in the freezer for whenever you need it.

Do check the quality of the frozen meat though, sometimes its not as good as fresh, and often the portion sizes will be small or irregular.

Frozen fish fillets can be very good value and often can be cooked straight from the freezer which makes life easier.

Special offers

Always check out the meat on special offers. Often the supermarkets do certain packs of meat on 3 for £10 or similar. Choose that week’s dinners around the meat offers.

Casserole meat and pot roasts

Cheaper cuts of meat are good for cooking long and slow in a casserole. Beef stewing steak is good, and also the larger brisket joint makes a good pot roast. You can also cook cheaper cuts in your slow cooker and they will be nice and tender a few hours later.

Dairy products

Cheese, yoghurt and milk all contain protein, even the low fat versions. Its easy to add a white sauce to dinner or to sprinkle some cheese on whatever you are eating – salad, pasta dishes

Poultry legs

Chicken and turkey legs, drumsticks and thighs are all cheaper than breast meat. They work well marinaded and roasted in the oven and often have more flavour than breast meat. They can be a bit fatty in a casserole but thighs work well if they are de-skinned and de-boned.


Do you have any tips for protein on a budget?



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