Now that you know the importance of creating your menu, you may be asking, “How do I choose meals and create a menu for a week?” It all starts with real food. Choose real food every time and you will begin to see change. The first step is a list. I currently shop at two grocery stores and have designed a grocery list that is set up in the format of the stores. The rage right now is fresh, local, and sustainable. But, I happen to live in an area where that isn’t always possible due to something called winter.  I do have a local dairy farmer for my milk and a local rancher for my grass-fed beef but, overall I stick to my list. If I follow my list I can maneuver the grocery stores much more efficiently. Have you ever taken a 2 and 4 year-old to the grocery store? You’ll thank me for this grocery list design later!

Take a look:

The real magic happens on the back of this list. I flip this over and write on the left hand side

Thursday (football practice until 6:30pm)

Friday (Mom and Dad OUT!! Kids meal with sitter)

Saturday (Friends over)

Sunday (Relax, grill)

and so on…

Looking at your calendar and aligning meals with what is going on each day is key, just like I mentioned in Menu To Thrive’s Nutrition Series, Part 1 article. Remember to look at which night is a cooking night, which night is great for a crock pot, which night you can delegate to the grill, which night is great for left overs and which night you get a break. Now you are ready to menu plan.

Plan out your meals with tons of veggies, a fist size of high quality protein, about a ¼ cup of whole grains and/or unprocessed carbohydrate rich foods (such as carrots, sweet potatoes, fruit), and then add healthy fats to cook with, finish with, or just add to the plate. Once you have an idea of what a meal should be composed of you are well on your way to a menu plan. Start with the veggies for the week by planning for at least two per night. Then add your protein, fat and whole grains or unprocessed starch.

Some weeks I get out a favorite cookbook, some weeks I get out multiple cookbooks, other weeks I look at the ads of the stores and start with what is on sale. Usually I am on Pinterest, as I have boards for weekly poultry, meat, seafood, vegetarian, sides, veggies, breakfast and desserts. This doesn’t have to be complicated; a beautiful salad, chicken off the grill, and roasted sweet potatoes are a perfect combination. Make double and you have two nights, plus left overs! Prepare your week with a healthy dessert to have on hand in those weak moments. Maybe a particular week is crazy and baking is out of the question, then stock up on 70% or higher dark chocolate. Maybe one week you’re grilling out a lot and decide to have a high quality ice cream with a heaping amount of fresh berries as a treat. Maybe you have a week you want to bake… go for it! Also, consider lunches for you and your family. Will your lunches be left overs, smoothies, or something else? Think through snacks to have on hand, such as apple slices with your favorite nut butter and raw nuts with a high quality cheese. Think through breakfast making sure everyone is starting their day with high quality protein. The options are endless, and all it takes is planning. Once you have the back of your grocery list (MTWTH) filled out, then flip the list over and fill in the ingredients you need to make these meals. I usually leave the grocery list close to me in the kitchen, so it also acts as an ongoing list for when I run out of staple items like eggs, olive oil and small trash bags.

Recipe technology

This menu and grocery list you sit down and create each week is a symbol of you putting your health and your family’s health first. This is a symbol to the world that you are winning. This list represents the beginning of your transformation. This is a commitment that you will show up every week for, because you are choosing to not only live your life, but Thrive.