Episode 1: Meal Planning for Beginners

In Episode 1: Meal Planning for Beginners of the Healthy Family Project podcast, we talk to Produce for Kids blog contributor and author of MealPlanningMagic.com, Brenda Thompson. Brenda shares tips and ideas about meal planning. She shares how it is not only a healthy way of living but can also help save time and money.

Brenda Thompson is a busy mom and wife, foodie, self-taught meal planner and freelance writer currently residing in Houston, Texas. Her motivation to become more organized in the kitchen was realized after the birth of her first child. Now, mom to one preteen and one teenager, life seems to move non-stop. That doesn’t mean she has to sacrifice healthy meals for her family.

Meal Planning for Beginners episode 1 of the podcast

Why Meal Planning Is Beneficial

Here at Healthy Family Project we know how important it is to save money, time, and spend quality time with your families. Through her blog, Meal Planning Magic, Brenda shares tips to make mealtimes healthier but also how to save time and money. Eating better is still possible without sacrificing our pocketbooks. She also loves to spend time in the kitchen with her family.

If your kids like to help in the kitchen, make sure to check out our Episode 21: Meal Planning & Cooking with Kids.

Having the kids help in the kitchen not only means spending quality time together, but it’s also a great way for her children to learn new skills. Brenda believes there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to meal planning and offers up-to-date ideas to others to help make meal-prep more enjoyable.

meal planning tips and tricks

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Listen to Episode 1: Meal Planning for Beginners

4 Ways to Use Shredded Chicken for Easy Meals

Healthy Family Project Podcast

Conversations covering hot topics in the world of health, food and family with a dose of fun. Helping families ease their way into a new fresh and healthy world.

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If you are interested in being a guest on the Healthy Family Project podcast, contact amanda@healthyfamilyproject.com with your topic idea for consideration.

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meal planning for beginners

Transcript for Episode 1

This transcript was produced by Otter.Ai. Please forgive any misspellings and grammatical errors.

Welcome to the healthy family project by produce for kids, covering the hot topics in the world of health,
food and family with a dose of fun. Today we welcome Brenda Thompson of meal planning magic.com.
To the show, we consider Brenda a pioneer of the meal planning world. She’s been contributing to the
produce for kids blog for more than six years and is truly our go to for all things. Meal Prep. Hi, Brenda.
Welcome to the healthy family project.
Hi, Amanda. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be part of the new podcast.
Wonderful, we’re happy to have you. So before we dive into tips for meal planning for beginners, can you
tell us why you started your blog meal planning magic?
Yep, sure, I started learning more about meal planning when my kids were very little, my daughter was a
toddler and my son was a newborn. And I needed to get some order to my life, I realized my kids are
now teenagers. So that was a long time ago. And I just kind of self taught myself just got online and
figured out ways to do some meal planning. And so some friends of mine caught on to the meal planning
that I was doing. And they talked me into doing some workshops. And so I eventually started doing
workshops with a nutritionist friend of mine. That was many years ago, and our schedules kind of
changed, she ended up going back to school. So we were no longer able to do the workshops. And
actually, I just realized that my 10 year anniversary of blogging just passed. So wow, congrats. Yeah,
thanks. So that was when blogging was just starting to become a thing. And I have a journalism
background. So it just seemed natural for me to start a blog where I can continue to share what I had
learned about meal planning and some of my family’s favorite recipes. So once the workshops ended, it
was just kind of a natural transition. And it’s really grown so much since then I had no idea that it would
become what it is now. So that’s kind of how it got started.
Wonderful. Well, it’s clear, you have a passion for the power of meal prep. So the words meal prep can
be intimidating to people that produce for kids, we hear this all the time, they think, oh my gosh, my
Sunday will be you know, totally taken up. So you know, they can think it’s time consuming and so
tedious. So talk to us a little bit about how a newbie can kind of ease into the process not be so afraid
and kind of get started in this world of meal prepping.
So when I talk to groups or friends of my own, I tell them to start slow. Like you said, people feel
intimidated, like it needs to be a big production, and it really doesn’t. So one tip that I give people is to
maybe double A favorite recipes so that one half can be served that day that you’ve made it and the
second half goes into the freezer to serve another day. Or like what I like to do too, is we’ll buy a package
of chicken breasts and just grill them all up at one time and then stick them in the freezer so we can add
them to recipes later. So even if it’s something just that simple, that’s meal planning, you know. So and
the other thing is, is that just because you make a meal plan, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be set in
stone. So life happens. And I know that things seem to change around. So I usually have a couple of go
to recipes that I can make up in a hurry when our schedules change. And then I just moved the meal that
we had planned for that day to a different day. And the final tip, which this is getting a little long, but

there’s lots to talk about for meal planning. So my final tip is, you know, just get started because people
feel like it needs to just take hours and it’s going to be so long. But really even if you just spend 15
minutes a week meal planning, you can save so much time and money when you’re actually at the
grocery store and in the kitchen.
So yes, I know when my mom lives, some distance away from from us, but when she’s visiting, she says,
Why are you making so much like, you know, you only have four people eating and I always say, Well,
I’m gonna freeze this other half because I know down the road that there’s going to be a day that I’m
going to need this. So yes, great. Yes. So nice. So you mentioned saving money. So that is something
we all want to do. So I know this is a large part of your mission at meal planning magic, while meal
prepping with your family to eat healthier is probably the you know the main focus but talk to us about
how meal planning can actually save you money.
Yeah, sure. Um, so once you’ve made a meal plan, it’s easier to shop for just the items that you need for
that, that week’s meals. You have to be pretty diligent, but I’ve gotten gotten pretty good at it over the
years and you know, I can stay focused on what’s on my list and not be so tempted to say, I’m going to
try this or try that I mean, I certainly buy things here and there. But for the most part, I’m not just
wandering the aisles trying to figure out what to make. So that saves me money. And then you can also
take advantage of sales, to plan your meals around things that are on sale or even, you know, buying
things in bulk at the wholesale clubs, and making multiple recipes from one ingredient that you buy there.
So those are a few ways that I like to save money. And then meal planning helps.
That’s great. And I have found because I haven’t that person that has a really hard time sticking to my list
that I have done some of the grocery pickups lately, where I will order online. A lot of times I can’t do that
with fresh produce, but I’ll order some of those staples online. So then I can just drive up and I’m not, I
don’t have that temptation to fill up my cart.
Exactly. I’ve tried that a couple of times, too. And I have one friend that does it weekly, diligently. And she
said that just even though they charge a fee a little bit, she said that B is so minimal compared to what
she was impulse buying. So yes, so she said it actually saves her money. So yeah, that’s a good tip to
awesome. Okay, so I think we’re all in on the saving money. Now let’s talk about saving time, time is
precious. And I know I would much rather be having fun with my family than stressing about stressing out
about our next meal or figuring out when I’m going to have time to get into the kitchen to make sure that
you know, we’re not eating something on the fly, and it’s something healthy, and that I’m not going to
have a lot of complaining also, that’s key.
Yes. Yes. So, um, well, there’s a couple ways that it helps you save time, because I also include saving
time at the grocery store. So if you’re saving time by staying on your list, then you’re saving time on that
and but then when you’re actually in the kitchen, you know, it’s super easy to double recipe, you know, if
you’ve bought what you need to double it, and then you just make two of everything. So that’s really
easy. And I like to do what I call half prep things. So a lot of times I’ll put items, you know ingredients for
a recipe in a zip top bag and label it and then it’s it’s goes in uncooked and then all I have to do is
thought out and cook. So I’ve just you know, set up an assembly line and kind of done some of that pre
prep ahead of time. And then I’ll have to do is spend a little bit more time at the end when the day that I
want to cook it to actually, you know, make that that’s it right? The time is cut in half basically. So yes. Uh
huh. And then, you know, just when you’re chopping up vegetables, like I’ll go ahead and chop up the
whole onion. And if I don’t need all of the onion, I put the rest of it in the freezer. And then the next time I
need to use some chopped onions. It’s already done. And I’m only crying one time. Yeah, so yeah, so
some of those kinds of tips to are helpful. And then also, it’s really, you know, helps you decide if your
schedule is so busy that day. That’s a slow cooker day, then you know, okay, well I’ve spent the time
ahead of time this morning when I know my evening is gonna be crazy busy. But you’ve got a meal
waiting for you at home. So just by meal planning, you’ll you kind of shift around your time a little bit to so

That’s great. And I and I am on board now with the chopping of the whole onion because I did not do that
before. And I realized that in the pinch when you see that you have an onion that’s already chopped or
peppers or something. It totally is a game changer. So
So is yeah, yes. I’m a huge Well, I have I’m a huge freezer fan. So that helps, too.
Yes. So are there creative ways that you involve your family in meal prep, I think sometimes we
underestimate the power of kids in the kitchen. So any ideas on making meal prep fun for the entire
family and also so all of the responsibility of meal prepping doesn’t fall on on mom or dad or or whoever
might be taking the the charge on it.
Yes, and my my biggest tip is to involve your kids in the kitchen as soon as possible. So I started cooking
with my kids practically when they started to walk, no lie like I think my daughter was 15 months old. So
our favorite thing to make was banana bread. So you know little hands can help add ingredients total or
stir things in the bowl. And then as they grow, they can help chop fruits and vegetables for snacks or
lunches that they take to school. And those efforts have totally paid off on my end because now my
teenagers both know how to make lots of different things on their own. And my daughter she makes
pretty much her lunch every day and she makes salads and she’s actually gotten a lot more into cooking
but it’s totally paid off because she kind of does her own thing now so just helps her be prepared for
when she’s off on her own to.
Oh yes, for sure. Well, that that certainly goes cuz I know, I have tried to involve my girls. They’ve been
doing trail mix, so they take snacks. And so they will make the trail mix on Sundays and bag them and
then have it for the week, they just can grab it when they’re running out to dance or to tennis, or need a
snack for school. So that’s that’s what we’ve been doing over here. And I’m seeing that I don’t have to do
it all myself, which is wonderful. Yes,
exactly. Yeah. And that’s the thing. I think if you just think about it, in small steps, you know, where you
just add on those steps as they get older. And eventually, they’re doing it on their own. So yes, helps.
Cool. So Summer is coming. I know, for a lot of people in the northeast, it’s been a long winter. So we
know lots of families are shifting from school days to camp days, and maybe even having older kids at
home for larger chunks of time during the day. We hear a lot that when the kids are out of school that
they’re wanting to snack more and so can you offer any insight on snack meal prepping for summer
when those kiddos might be at home or you know, go into camp or out by the pool or traveling?
Yes, so when my kids are home for the summer, we actually shopped together a little bit more often.
That’s something that I’ve always done with my kids. I know it takes a lot of patience for some people,
but I’ve involved them in the process from the beginning. And you know, it helps them learn what kinds of
things there are to choose and different things about the different kinds of foods that our family likes to
eat so, and then when they’re a part of the shopping process, they’re more likely to eat what they what
they get to choose. So yep, so our The challenge, of course is, you know, in deciding what is good or not
good for them, and kind of trying to balance that all out. But we learned to compromise and try new
recipes through that process. And then when my kids were younger, I used to share kid friendly
cookbooks with them so that they could put little sticky notes on the recipes that look good to them.
Yeah, that’s a great idea. Yep. And then we would go shop for those ingredients. And then they would
make it my kids were really big into making different smoothie combinations for a while so and then they
find other combinations of things that they like, but in summer is a good time because we have more
time to experiment. I mean, even if it’s just after, after work, you know, we don’t have to worry about
homework or sometimes, you know, a lot of the extra curricular activities are over for the summer. So we

just have a little bit more time to play around in the in the evenings or on the weekends. So and now
they’re old enough that they look for ideas on their own online. So
Well, it sounds like you’ve done done a great job. getting them prepared for being able to create a lot of
those things on their own. So
yes, I’m trying to to help them be independent.
Yes, we all are, let me tell you. So we know there is an instant pot airfryer slow cooker craze happening,
what are your favorite kitchen gadgets that could make meal prep easier for all of us who are just kind of
easing into this new meal prep world?
Well, I do have an instant pot. And I feel like I haven’t used it to its full potential. I’m still trying new things,
but we found several favorite recipes that we like. So I’m trying to add those to the mix. And then like I
had mentioned, I do earlier I had mentioned that I love my slow cooker and I use it a lot and especially,
you know, in my part of the world in Texas, it’s so hot a lot of time of the year that it helps keep the heat
out of the kitchen too. So I use that year round. Those are probably my two biggest ones. I do have a
stand mixer, but I use that for baking a lot. It’s not really a appliance so
right well so with the slow cooker I think a lot of times the perception is the a lot of the slow cooker
recipes are heavy and hot. So you had a good point where you said that it’s hot there and it doesn’t heat
up your kitchen. So do you have recipes I know we have several on produce for kids.com Do you have
recipes or any tips on on creating those healthy recipes in the slow cooker?
Yes, I like to do some sauces like I have a spaghetti sauce recipe and you know we can use that year
round and you know put it with chicken parmesan or just as its own tomato sauce, any kind of thing. I like
to do what would be considered sometimes a stir fry type deal like broccoli V for one of those kind of
things where you’re making the main meal and then you just have to add the side like the rice or
whatever. So yet kind of those kind of things. That might be a companion to pasta or rice or something
like that.
Yes. And you mentioned earlier about grilling, you know grilling a handful of chicken breasts for the
week, I guess What we do here is we do I’ll do the chicken breasts in the slow cooker and shred that
chicken so that we can do those. And we can do chicken salad and all kinds of stuff for the week. So
that’s my that’s my go to slow cooker.
Yeah, actually, I made some in the Instant Pot in. It’s magical. It’s like magic. You can make a
whole bunch of I don’t have one yet. I might
make a whole bunch of chicken breasts in less than 10 minutes. Chocolate or shredded or whatever.
Yep. And potatoes. Oh my gosh, you can make sweet potatoes are regular potatoes, like the regular
white or gold potatoes you can make in I think it’s six minutes. And they’re like the perfect potatoes. So in
sweet potatoes, I’ll sometimes make those. I’ll make up a few. I think it’s like 25 minutes in the Instant
Pot. And then I’ll have a couple just to have throughout the week, maybe for lunch or other things. So

we have an airfryer over here. I was gifted one over the holidays. And we’ve been experimenting with the
airfryer and it is it has been actually a game changer for the busy weeknights. I’ve I’ve learned some new
recipes and and the kids have tried some new things. So I’m liking the airfryer
Yeah, I haven’t tried that yet. Maybe the time I next Yes.
We only have so much counterspace though, right,
exactly right.
So well Brenda, I can’t thank you enough for being part of the new healthy family project and for your
years offering advice to the produce for kids audience on our blog. So before excuse me, besides finding
you on the produce for kids blog, can you tell listeners where they can find you?
Yes, I can be found at meal planning magic.com That’s my main site. And then on Facebook, I’m also
meal planning magic but on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I can be found at meal plan, mom. So yes,
and thank you for having me. I’m super excited.
Wonderful. Thank you and good luck everyone knew meal planning beginners we will have more
episodes coming up as we ease into the meal planning world and offer more tips. So stay tuned for that.
Thank you Brenda. Alright, thank you. Thanks for listening in today. If you’re interested in learning more
about meal planning, visit the parties for kids blog on produce for kids.com and simply click the meal
planning category. We also have a great slow cooker chicken four ways tutorial on our YouTube page
that will guide you through how to healthfully use a pot of slow cooker chicken over several days. In our
next episode we’ll be talking with Holly Granger produce for kids blog contributor registered dietitian mom
of two lovely young girls and founder of Holly granger.com. Holly will be offering tips and ideas about
dealing with selective, sometimes called picky eaters in the family. Be sure to subscribe so you’re up to
date on our most recent episodes and rate us on iTunes. You can also visit healthy family project
podcast.com to leave a comment. Visit our website producer kids.com for more than 400 Registered
Dietitian family approved recipes, tips and more. We also generate regular content on our social media
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