Skip to content

Big wins Start with small changes

Plan ahead for healthier meals


Planning can really help you have healthy meals and snacks no matter how busy things get. 

Here are six ways to make planning part of your weekly schedule:

1. Give yourself time to plan

Set aside time each week to make a meal plan. Keep to it each week. Once you get into the habit of planning, you will need less time. This will save you time in the supermarket and probably reduce food waste too. Think about:

  • How many meals you need to prepare for the week
  • When you need to make quick meals or prepare them in advance

2. Check what you have

Before you start, check what ingredients you already have in your cupboard, fridge or freezer. This may even give you some recipe inspiration. For example, if you have eggs you could make an omelette. Use up vegetables with a stir-fry.

3. Make it fun with favourites

  • Make a go-to list of meals that you and your family enjoy
  • Introduce new recipes when you have extra time, and if it’s a hit add it to your favourites.
  • Get the kids involved and ask them what they would like to eat. Kids are more likely to eat meals that they have helped to plan.
  • Try a themed night, for example Mexican Monday, Italian Tuesday, Fishy Fridays or Something New Saturday.

4. Use up your leftovers

  • Plan meals that can be refrigerated and heated up or eaten cold the next day such as pasta bake, soup, shepherd’s pie, curry, lasagne or beef stew.
  • Use leftover vegetables in an omelette, soup or salad, or add leftover meat to a curry or stir-fry.
  • Remember leftovers stored in the fridge must be used within three days.

5. Cook in bulk

  • Cook extra and refrigerate or freeze the leftovers. Pies, curries, stews and casseroles all freeze well.
  • If you are using the oven, think about what else you can cook at the same time. If you are doing a casserole, you could cook some chicken breasts to go in sandwiches.

6. Make your ingredients work

  • Chose recipes that use the same key ingredients to save time and money by reducing the amount of food you need to buy.
  • Introduce variety by picking 2-3 main vegetables and adding them to a meat, pasta or fish dish. For example, peppers, broccoli and sweetcorn can be added to a beef stir-fry but can also be used to make a vegetable pasta bake or served with meat or fish.

Get started with quick and easy dinner recipes

The following recipe ideas should take no more than 20 minutes to cook and prepare, perfect for when you get home from work or with the kids:

  • Grilled fish with boiled potatoes and vegetables (try frozen vegetables as they’re quickly cooked in the microwave and create little or no waste)
  • Stir-fry some vegetables with some rice or noodles
  • Pasta with olive oil, garlic and chilli. Add some grilled chicken or salmon for variety

Three-week meal plan


Week 1

  • Monday
    Breakfast at home 1 or 2 cereal wheat biscuits with low-fat fortified (added vitamins) milk. Add some fruit like berries/banana/raisins for variety
    Breakfast on the run Banana or a handful of raisins with a slice of toast and a low-fat yogurt drink
    Snack (Little break) Low-fat yogurt
    Lunch 2 slices of wholemeal bread with a low-fat cheese slice and tomato
    Snack Fresh fruit
    Dinner Shepherd’s pie with sweetcorn and green beans
  • Tuesday
    Breakfast at home A bowl of cereal oat biscuits with low-fat fortified milk. Add some fruit like berries/banana/raisins for variety
    Breakfast on the run Banana, cereal bar and a glass of low-fat fortified milk
    Snack (Little break) Orange segments
    Lunch Pitta bread with cooked ham, low-fat mayonnaise, lettuce and cucumber
    Snack 1 thin slice of fruit brack or banana bread
    Dinner Lamb curry with vegetables and boiled rice
  • Wednesday
    Breakfast at home A bowl of oat cereal with a teaspoon of nutmeg or cinnamon
    Breakfast on the run Breakfast milkshake: 200ml low-fat fortified milk or a low-fat yogurt blended with fruit
    Snack (Little break) Banana
    Lunch Tortilla wrap with a slice of chicken, relish and lettuce and a sliced apple
    Snack 2 rice cakes
    Dinner Spaghetti bolognaise
  • Thursday
    Breakfast at home A bowl of flake-type cereal with low-fat fortified milk. Add banana for variety
    Breakfast on the run Apple, a handful of dry cereal and a low-fat yoghurt drink
    Snack (Little break) Cheese
    Lunch Pasta with tuna, sweetcorn, spring onion and tomato ketchup
    Snack Packet of plain popcorn
    Dinner Baked fish with vegetables and pasta
  • Friday
    Breakfast at home A bowl of porridge needn’t be boring. Add honey or yogurt
    Breakfast on the run Slice of wholemeal toast thinly spread with jam or reduced-fat spread
    Snack (Little break) Carrot sticks
    Lunch Brown roll with mashed hard-boiled egg, lettuce, peppers and tomato
    Snack Roast breast of chicken (remove the skin), carrot, parsnip and broccoli with a baked potato
    Dinner Spaghetti bolognaise
  • Saturday
    Breakfast at home Slice of wholemeal toast with baked beans or scrambled egg
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) Low-fat yoghurt
    Lunch 1 wholemeal bap with a lean grilled rasher, tomato and avocado
    Snack Small bowl of homemade soup
    Dinner Stir-fried pork with peppers, mushrooms, onions and noodles
  • Sunday
    Breakfast at home Omelette with lots of vegetables
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) Chopped apple
    Lunch Cooked rice, lettuce, tomato, low-fat cheese or tuna
    Snack Low-fat yogurt
    Dinner Chicken casserole with vegetables and boiled potatoes

Week 2

  • Monday
    Breakfast at home  1-2 Cereal Wheat biscuits with low fat fortified milk, banana, glass of water
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) Handful of nuts
    Lunch Tortilla wrap with slice of chicken, relish, lettuce and tomato. Pear
    Snack Small low-fat yogurt
    Dinner Chilli con carne with rice and sweetcorn. Glass of low fat milk
  • Tuesday
    Breakfast at home A bowl of porridge with low fat fortified milk. Add a teaspoon of nutmeg or cinnamon for variety. 2 plums and a glass of water
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) Thin slice of fruit brack 
    Lunch Rice salad with tuna. Small yoghurt and cucumber sticks. 
    Snack Glass of low fat milk
    Dinner Spanish omelette with tomato salad. Glass of low fat milk
  • Wednesday
    Breakfast at home 1-2 slices of wholemeal toast with jam or marmalade. An orange. Water
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) Cherry tomatoes
    Lunch 1 wholemeal bap with ham & fow fat mayonaisse. Small yoghurt
    Snack 2 rice cakes
    Dinner Pasta and salmon bake with mixed green salad. Glass fruit juice
  • Thursday
    Breakfast at home 1-2 slices of wholemeal toast with baked beans or scrambled egg and small glass of fruit juice. Small yoghurt
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) Small bag of popcorn
    Lunch 2 slices of wholemeal bread with slice of low fat cheese and tomato. 2 plums
    Snack Small bag of plain popcorn
    Dinner Vegetable casserole. Small yoghurt
  • Friday
    Breakfast at home
    1-2 slices of wholemeal toast with baked beans or scrambled egg and small glass of fruit juice. Small yoghurt
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) 2 rice cakes
    Lunch 2 slices of wholemeal bread with some chicken and green salad, 2 kiwis and a small glass of low fat milk
    Snack Sugar free jelly
    Dinner Tuna quick bake with mixed green salad. Melon chunks with yoghurt
  • Saturday
    Breakfast at home 1-2 cereal wheat biscuits with low fat fortified milk, banana, glass of water
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break)  
    Lunch Beans and cheese baked potato. Tinned peaches
    Snack Small bowl of homemade soup
    Dinner Pasta Siciliana with mixed pepper salad. Glass of low fat milk
  • Sunday
    Breakfast at home 1-2 pancakes with lemon and honey and small glass of fruit juice
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break)  
    Lunch Farmhouse vegetable soup and wholemeal brown bread. Small yoghurt & fruit salad
    Snack 1 thin slice of fruit brack/banana bread
    Dinner Beef stew and mashed potatoes. Glass of low fat milk. A pear

Week 3

  • Monday
    Breakfast at home 1-2 slices of wholemeal toast with jam or marmalade. Glass of low fat milk. Pear
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) 2 mandarins
    Lunch Wholemeal brown bread, tinned salmon and tomato with mayonaisse. Carrot sticks, small yoghurt
    Snack  
    Dinner Lasagne with baked potato and mixed green salad. Tinned fruit cocktail
  • Tuesday
    Breakfast at home A bowl of porridge with low fat fortified milk. Add honey or yoghurt for something new. Banana
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) Handful of nuts
    Lunch 2 slices wholemeal brown bread, boiled egg, mayonaisse & lettuce. Yoghurt
    Snack  
    Dinner Vegetable stir-fry with noodles. Glass of low fat milk
  • Wednesday
    Breakfast at home  1-2 slices of wholemeal toast with scrambled egg. Pear and small yoghurt
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) Carrot sticks
    Lunch Cooked pasta with tuna and sweetcorn. Grapes. Low fat milk
    Snack  
    Dinner Family fish pie with broccoli and cauliflower. Fruit salad and yoghurt
  • Thursday
    Breakfast at home A bowl of porridge with low fat fortified milk. Add some fruit like berries/banana/raisins for variety
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) A small yoghurt
    Lunch Tortilla wrap with ham and cream cheese and spring onion. Banana
    Snack  
    Dinner Grilled pork chops with mashed potato and frozen mixed vegetables. 2 plain biscuits
  • Friday
    Breakfast at home A bowl of high fibre breakfast cereal with low fat fortified milk. 2 mandarin oranges
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break) Sugar free jelly
    Lunch 2 slices of wholemeal bread with slice of low fat cheese and tomato. Apple
    Snack  
    Dinner Chicken and tomato risotto with lettuce, tomato, onion and pepper salad
  • Saturday
    Breakfast at home Omelette with lots of fresh/frozen vegetables and small glass of fruit juice. Small yoghurt
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break)  
    Lunch Minestrone soup with wholemeal brown bread. Glass of low fat milk. 2 plums
    Snack  
    Dinner Homemade beef burgers with homemade oven chips. Low fat milk. Tomato and cucumber salad
  • Sunday
    Breakfast at home 1-2 slices of wholemeal toast with beans and small glass of fruit juice
    Breakfast on the run  
    Snack (Little break)  
    Lunch Macaroni cheese. Grapes
    Snack  
    Dinner Vegetable casserole. Stewed apple and yoghurt


Safefood Logo

Sign up for our latest healthy eating and recipe updates.

Safefood logo

The site content is redirecting to the NI version.

Confirm