If you’re finding it hard to decide what to cook each night and you find yourself guiltily dipping out for some take away (guilty because you know the veggies are going mouldy in the fridge but you’ve had a long day and can’t think of anything to cook with them) or the question “What’s for dinner?” incites a feeling of dread then this list of 15 tasty real-life recipes teamed up with our Tips for Easy Healthy Meal Planning is going to help you reduce that overwhelm, over buying and money wasted in veggies going mouldy in the crisper! (by the way, by “real life” I mean, they taste great, and they don’t require a set of highly specialised knife or food styling skills or take a long time to prepare )
How to plan healthy meals easily
Download our meal planner template here.
Our Top Tips for Easy Healthy Meal Planning
- Create a list of favourite recipes that everyone can eat . If you download the meal planner above, you can do this part on the back page. Aim to list 8-10 recipes from your repertoire that everyone in your house likes to eat and or are easily adjusted to suit different dietary needs. (If you need some more recipe ideas keep scrolling down or if you’d like even more help to do this check out our Your Alternative Kitchen ecourse where we take you through this step by step).
- Create an inventory of the foods you have on hand. This doesn’t need to be a time consuming exercise, I’ve been known to take a photo of our crisper and fruit bowl with my phone because it’s quicker than writing it all out and I can see at a glance what we’ve got on hand and how much. But find a method that works for you.
- Keep nutrition in mind. When you avoid one or more food groups you need to keep certain things in mind when it comes to nutrition, such as making sure you have enough variety in your diet and that you’re eating a range of foods from your can eat list to minimise the chances of developing nutrient deficiencies. (There’s an introductory exercise on doing this in our Cooking with Alternatives FREE mini ecourse which you get access to when you download the meal planner).
- Putting it down on paper. Choose 3-4 main meals from your brainstorm of 8-10 favourites above and insert them into the weekly section of the planner and indicate when you’ll have the left overs too. Eg. Monday night might be Lasagne, but if Tuesday night you get home late or have sport, then it’ll be lasagne left overs etc. Also don’t forget to indicate when you’re eating out. Writing it down on paper like this helps to clarify the goal and make it more likely that you’ll follow through. It also helps you better connect with the cooking and eating habits you currently have (so you can make changes if you need to).
- Refining your shopping list. Next list those 3-4 recipes in the relevant column below the planner and beneath each header list the ingredients in those recipes. This helps you to create your shopping list (so you can see what you need for the recipe and compare it against what you have on hand). It also helps you to get a closer look at the variety in your diet.
- If you’re really busy aim to cook meals in large batches (eg. soups, stews, casseroles, bologneses sauces, curries or chilli etc. where you can pack a whole lot of different foods in to boost the nutrition) or make double the recipe (eg. with pies, lasagne etc.) so you have left overs to use for a second meal. This will save food prep and cooking time and it also helps you use up foods so you aren’t left with random half pieces of mouldy veggies in the crisper:-).
- Top tips for using our planner: If you need more space use the back page but I tend to find people tend to have 1-2 breakfasts during the week and they tend to cook 3-5 different main recipes a week with 1-2 lunches (depending on whether or not they eat leftovers for lunch). So play with it and see what your cooking habits are once you start using it. I tend to put the planner on the fridge. You can take it with you when you go shopping, or take a photo so you don’t misplace the list.
To get started download the meal planner here
(you’ll also get access to the Cooking with Alternatives FREE ecourse and the exercise described above).
So…What’s for dinner?
If you’re having trouble brainstorming 8-10 recipes, or you’re bored with your own recipes and want a few new ones I’ve filled this post with tasty traditional recipes which have nourished generations (and some new creations which are destined to become family favourites) from the following categories:
- Casseroles & stews
- Rice & Lentil dishes
- Veggie Roasts
They’re all easy to make, yummy to eat, fill you up and taste great as left overs.
Many of the recipes in this list below are free from dairy, soy, gluten, egg or meat ( some of the recipes are free from all of them and the remaining top 8 allergens and some of the recipes can be made food intolerance, food allergy or vegan friendly with really simple substitutions (usually included with the recipe link or in the recipe book but you can always ask us if you would like more ideas).
15 wholesome, nutrient-packed recipes – let’s get cooking!
1. Shepherds Pie by Lisa White from Alternative Chef Kitchen
(Photo by Lisa White)
It’s a classic pastry-less pie. Our recipe in the Main Meals Episode is an evolution of my mum’s recipe which was one of my favourites growing up.
2. Left over pie by Tania Hubbard recipe in the “abundance” cookbook.
I am loving the besan flour pastry recipe in this book which makes a great pie crust for leftover casseroles and veggies. The besan pastry has egg in it, but there are pastry and tart crust options in the book which are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, nut free and egg free too).
Casseroles & Stews
3. Mediterranean Chickpea Casserole by Glenys Falloon from Alternative Chef Kitchen
(Photo by Lisa White)
This delicious and quick to make chickpea casserole from our Main Meals Episode can also be adapted to have a Middle-eastern flavour too.
4. Hearty Lentil Stew by Lisa White from Alternative Chef Kitchen
(Photo by Lisa White)
This is one of my favourites it’s a plant-based version of my mum’s goulash recipe with a couple of tweaks. Simple, quick to make and tasty! One of those recipes that tastes just as good the next day (and some times even better;-).
Rice & Lentils
5. Mjaddra (Rice and Lentils)By Brenda Janschek from brendajanschek.com
(Photo by Brenda Janschek)
Rice and lentils are a classic combination found in both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. I love the simplicity of these traditional recipes.
6. Rice & Lentils by Lisa White published in From Our Kitchen To Yours Fundraiser Ebook
(Photo by Kristin Cosgrove)
This simple dish is one of our favourite go-to recipes for busy days. It’s another recipe my mum made a lot as I was growing up. I’ve made a couple of tweaks so this is the recipe the way my kids love it it’s also a little quicker than my mum’s traditional method as I use basmati rice (because it cooks quickly) and canned lentils (but you can cook up your own if you have the time). You can use either a pre-made stock or stock cubes which are suitable for your diet to whip it up quickly.
Curries & Chillis
7. Pumpkin & Lentil Curry by Jen Shaw from barefootkitchens.com.au
(Photo by Jen Shaw)
Curries are warming, filling and packed with flavour and spices. If you’re looking for a free-from friendly Naan bread to go with your home made curry check out the abundance cookbook by Tania Hubbard.
8. Chilli by Robyn Birkin from Modern Day Missus
(Photo by Robyn Birkin)
Chilli – another tasty, nourishing option which you can pack a lot of healthy foods in and is also great as left overs.
9. Pumpkin & Cauliflower Soup by Monique from The Nourished Pyshchologist
(Photo by Monique Phipps)
Pumpkin soup is one of those go to recipes great for dinner after mid-week sports. For plant-based options replace the bone broth with veggie stock, the ghee with olive oil or coconut oil and sour cream with a coconut yoghurt that is suitable for your diet or keep a look out for our Sour cream alternative Episode.
10. Spinach, lentil and lemon soup by Brenda Janschek from brendajanschek.com
(Picture by Brenda Janschek)
Another great nourishing soup recipe with simple and nourishing flavours and ingredients.
11. Vegetable & Lentil Soup by Vanessa Vickery from Becomingness
This delicious soup can be made vegetarian and vegan friendly by using a vegetarian or vegan friendly stock.
12. Rustic Vegetable Pasta by Robyn Birkin from Modern Day Missus
(Picture by Robyn Birkin)
Pasta is a classic, versatile and quick to make meal. Considering my cultural heritage, I grew up eating quite a bit of it! There are so many options available nowadays making it a great mid week meal for just about anyone, from organic, to whole grain and gluten-free varieties, including legume based pasta’s too. It’s amazing just how much variety there is nowadays.
13. Lasagne by Alternative Chef Kitchen
(Picture by Lisa White)
Lasagne was without out a doubt one of my favourite meals as a kid and I love it still as an adult. We’ve covered 4 different lasagne recipes in our Lasagne Episode and our The Alternative Kitchen cookbook and we’ve got a couple more recipes here on the blog (because we love it that much). What ever your dietary requirements are, there’s a lasagne that can work for you. Tomato free, dairy free, gluten free, meat free…
14. Lentil & Walnut Loaf with Mushroom Gravy by Robyn Birkin from Modern Day Missus
(Picture by Robyn Birkin)
Veggie roasts cook in less than an hour and are packed with nourishing ingredients. They’re great served alone or with sauces like Mushroom Gravy (or something like Glenys Red Wine Reduction.
15. Sizzling Sausages (gluten and meat free) by Glenys Falloon from Alternative Chef Kitchen
(Picture by Lisa White)
These sausages from our BBQ Episode take a little time to prepare but if you prepare a big batch and barbecue them on the weekend they make a great mid week leftover meal for lunch or dinner.
So how yummy do these recipes look? Which are you going to make first?
If you’d like more recipe ideas, recipes and help to make menu planning in your house a little easier, enter your name and details below.
That’s all for today, until next time – Happy cooking!