Beachbody, Exercise, Fitness, Health, Healthy Eating, Just Begin, Just Begin Challenge, Meal Planning, Meal Preparation

10 Quick and Easy Steps to Meal Planning

Since starting my JUST BEGIN journey, I have been doing lots of new recipes and experimenting with meal preparations.  I quickly learnt that if you want to consistently and successfully eat healthy meals, it is much easier if you organise it and plan ahead.  These are my top 10 tips to get started with meal planning!!


Firstly, create a weekly template with the days of the week and your snack and meal times.  This can be done very easily with pen and paper, or you can produce a printable plan on the computer.  You are welcome to use the design from the link below, which I created very simply on Word.

Menu – weekly planner – blank – click this link for a copy of the meal plan!

If you would like me to e-mail this meal planner to you, please enter your details below and I am happy to send you a copy:

I print several copies, so there is always one on hand, ready for when it is needed.  As well as meals I have added optional ‘snack’, ‘workout’ and ‘advance prep’ columns on the planner, which will be explained later.  You will need to adjust your planner to suit your own needs.  Next you are ready to start deciding on recipes!!


Make a list of meals and snacks that you would like to have during the week.  At first, I would do this on a separate piece of paper, using a recipe book or recipes from the internet.  Make a note where to find your recipe – such as the website address, or the page number of the recipe book.  Its so frustrating when you find an amazing recipe, then can’t remember where you found it!! I always plan meals that take more time to prepare on a weekend, and some easy slow cooker meals mid-week, when everything gets a bit busy and rushed!  Once you have plenty of meal ideas, then you can move onto the next stage.


Do you have any meals in the freezer that that you can use, rather than cooking a whole new meal every night? Did you make a double batch of curry that you had frozen and forgotten about?! Check now!!

 If so, include this as one of your meals as it will give you a quick and easy meal solution for an evening….maybe schedule that on one of your busiest days, or later in the week when motivation can start to wane.


When deciding on lunches, I like to keep any extra potions from the previous evening meal and have these for lunch the next day, where possible.  It saves so much cooking, preparation time and effort!  Therefore, when you are doing your list of lunch options,  include these ‘leftovers’.  If I don’t have any extra potions to use, I often cook a batch of soup, which can be used for a few lunches, and any spare potions frozen for another day.  Salads are another quick and easy lunch option.


Once you have plenty of recipe ideas, you can now start to complete your meal planner and enter details in the relevant columns for meals and snacks.    I always plan in healthy snacks as well as main meals, as I just find it really helps me get to the next meal time so much more easily.  It  means I am less likely to cave in any unhealthy temptations around!!

On your meal plan make sure you include any sides you will be doing, such as peas and carrots alongside a cottage pie, for example.  This helps on the next step, when you are ready to make your shopping list.


Once your chart is completed and you have added any side dishes, you should be able to see from your receipes and charts what ingredients you need for the weeks recipes.  This is the perfect time to create your shopping list for the week.  By now, you will know the ingredients of everything you need and when it is on your shopping list,?hopefully you won’t have to make extra shopping trips later in the week to get missing ingredients.  This is also a great time to check your cupboards to see what you already have, so you don’t buy unnecessary items, which is a great money saver too!


This is one of the most important parts of the planner!!  Here is where you enter anything you need to prepare for the next day or upcoming week.  For example, if you need to make your lunch for Tuesday on Monday night, you would make a note on Monday’s ‘advance prep’ to ‘Prepare Tuesday’s lunch’.  If you wanted to chop some vegetables on Sunday ready for the week ahead, you would make a note of this on Sunday’s advance prep, so you don’t forget.  This is absolutely key in keeping organised.

In this section, you should also include any weekly preparation you need to do.  For example, if you do your weekly meal planning and make your shopping list on Friday, make a note of these in advance prep. You can even include going shopping in advance prep, so this is planned in too.


Definietly include a workout section in your plan – nutrition and exercise are both so important and this will be a great reminer to plan your workouts in.  If you are following a beachbody workout, you can use the schedule on your workout programme, and just write the name of your workout into your plan.  See here for my previous thoughts on the benefits of home workouts! If you are running, attending the gym, or a class etc, you can write in the details and the time in this section.  You may also like to make a note of any equipment you will need, such as weights or yoga mat, etc.  Remember to include any rest days you are including, these are important too!!


You can do your plan completely on computer and keep it stored there, but I find it so much better to tape a copy on the inside of a cupboard door, so I don’t have to search for the IPad / computer / phone first to check the plan.  It is always there, just ready to use.  You can always take a picture of it to keep on your phone as well.

10. MAKE IT FUN!!!

Shake up your routines, try some new recipes and ingredients!!  Involve family, friends and partners. Be proud that you are challenging yourself to try something new and achieving something fantastic for your health and your future.  Laugh when you have a cooking disaster, share your journey with friends…post your pictures on social media. Find a love for wonderful healthy food and encourage others on the journey too. We are all in this together!!

I hope these tips have helped you.  I have more to share on my facebook page JUST BEGIN and you are welcome to like my page and contact me there.  Group support is also really important to help with motivation and you are welcome to join our motivation group here or follow my page on facebook for more tips and recipes.  I also have a video on my page explaining further about the meal planner.

I would love to hear from you if you have any feedback, especially if this has helped you in any way. Do you use a meal planner already and has this given you some new ideas and inspiration?

Beachbody, Exercise, Fitness, Health, Just Begin, Just Begin Challenge

Motivating home workouts – the easy solution for getting exercise DONE!

It has taken quite a while for me to get into exercising and I think I have always been waiting for the elusive ‘right moment’ to join a gym.  The reality is that I’ve just been making excuses and avoiding getting started!

So when I decided to commit to exercising, I knew it would need to be something that I could do at home. Getting out to the gym just seemed to be an obstacle, and I wasn’t sure I would make the most of the financial commitment either.

Initially I started using the ‘seven app challenge’, which is a series of exercises that can be done in seven minutes and this worked really well and I would definitely recommend this for starting out and a quick daily workout.

Since then, I have moved onto ‘Beachbody’ workouts as they are specific plans and offer much more variety.

Once I started the Beachbody workouts, I could see it would be good to invest in some basic equipment, so I got some 3kg & 5kg weights, a resistance band and a workout mat. This is all I have and certainly for now, it is plenty!!

They don’t take up much room at home and I can literally just wake up in the morning and go straight to my workout – get it done early in the day and then relax for the rest of the day, knowing that workout is DONE!!!

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If by chance I don’t manage to get the workout done in the morning, its fine because I can pick it up later in the evening. If I do an evening workout, it is quite good that the kids are around and they have even joined in occasionally!! So hopefully my enthusiasm for workouts and keeping healthy might influence the choices they are making too.

I realise that home workouts are not necessarily for everyone.  You may prefer to use gym equipment, which is difficult to provide at home, unless you have a home gym.  But if you have children at home, or find it difficult to get out to a gym or exercise classes, it is a perfect solution, which has definitely helped me stay on track.

Also, our Facebook support group JUST BEGIN, are a constant source of encouragement and inspiration, which really helps with keeping committed.

Would love to hear your thoughts on home exercise and if it is a solution that works for you?

Beachbody, Exercise, Fitness, Health, Healthy Eating, Just Begin

Experimenting with Meal Preparation

When trying to add exercise into your life…doesn’t it naturally feel like the next thing you turn your thoughts to is food and nutrition?

Often if I come home after work, it is all too easy to make unhealthy food choices, especially if rushing out with the kids from one after school activity to another.  Or it’s a simple case of being all out of inspiration, after a busy day at work!!

With the Beachbody Hammer and Chisel exercise program I am following, I found a meal plan that you can use to ensure you get the right nutrition to support the exercise.  This seemed like a great idea and there is even an option to prepare a whole weeks worth of meals (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack & evening meal) on a Sunday to see you through the week.  Definitely worth a try!!

The plan was great as it included a shopping list for everything needed, so I could just buy the ingredients and get started.

On Sunday, I laid out all the ingredients and started the prep:

Putting it all together was a lot of work and took over two hours!! However, the end result of a whole week of prepared food, meant I saved time cooking in the week and had no excuse to eat rubbish!!


I was pretty concerned when I looked at the size of the portions, as they seemed a little smaller than I was hoping for and am used to having, but actually I need not have worried. All the meals were filling and because of having snacks between meals too, I didn’t find myself getting hungry.

Normally I have a smoothie for breakfast, but I loved the greek yogurt and fruit…delicious!

I added a teaspoon of chia and sunflower seeds as well, to add a bit of crunch and extra nutrition. A drizzle of honey or fruit puree is also well worth including.

The lunches and teas were all really tasty too, and I cooked with tofu for the first time ever!!

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By Friday, I can honestly say I was feeling a bit worried if the food would still be fresh enough to eat, as it was prepared the Sunday before, but actually it was all completely fine stored in the fridge.

The only slight problem was finding enough space in the fridge to store all the meals and containers!!

On reflection, I found this a really great way of sticking to plan and I enjoyed how easy it was during the week.  Two hours preparing food certainly isn’t my favourite way to spend a Sunday, so it may work better to prepare some meals for half the week, then prepare for the rest of the week on Wednesday evening.  That should make managing the fridge space easier too!!

Would love to hear if you have tried this…how has it worked for you and if you have any tips?

For more information, we have a wonderful community facebook group called JUST BEGIN, which offers support, encouragement, ideas, recipes and community spirit for anyone interested in fitness and improving their health.  Please request to join HERE or you can find out more information about the group HERE.







Exercise, Fitness, Health, Healthy Eating, Just Begin, Just Begin Challenge

The power of group support

When I decided to start exercising (JUST BEGIN journey), I set off full of enthusiasm, commitment and energy.  However, in the back of my mind, I knew from previous experience that these feelings can soon wear off and motivation easily wanes. Life often gets in the way and before you know it, you fall back into old patterns.

I wondered how can this be counteracted and what would help to prevent this happening? Is there some way to stay motivated and on track?!! I needed to have some accountability and a reason to keep going through difficult times.

If I were to set up a group on facebook, could this help me and also others too?

Naturally the doubts set in and my instinct was that no-one would be interested or would want to join. Maybe my friends and family would think I had gone sightly crazy even! There is always an embarrassment and awkwardness with putting forward something you care about, because it comes with the associated worries of being judged and open to criticism.

Sometimes, however, you have to just close your eyes and jump, so before the inspiration had time to settle into doubts, I took the plunge and started a new group called JUST BEGIN and put out an invite for people to join.

To my surprise (and delight) there was a lot of interest and people joining, and now, more than a month later, it is a wonderful community…a place to swap ideas, celebrate achievements, share thoughts and provide encouragement.

Its so reassuring to know if I have a question, I can post in the group and there are people who are following a similar journey, who may have knowledge that they can share.

It has been a very positive experience and has absolutely kept me in the right mindset to continue on the journey and stay focused.

In all honesty, as expected, there have been days when I have felt less inclined to do any exercise, but knowing that the group support is there, I feel more committed to being accountable and sharing my journey.  This has definitely kept me going through the challenging times, when mental battles that can arise.

My hope is that the group is helping others in the same way it helps me, by providing inspiration, community spirit, even some blogs, health tips and recipes!!

You are most welcome to request to join the group HERE and share in our journey.  It is a closed group, so you can feel comfortable to post privately within the group, or just watch and take inspiration from the other group member posts.

If you have any thoughts or questions, I would love to hear from you and you can contact me HERE:


Just Begin, Just Begin Challenge, Parenting

As a parent, is this my responsibility?

When I walk into my daughter’s room and regularly see a scene such as this, a question I ask myself is ‘whose job is this?’

Mornings consist of following the girls around, getting things ready for them, making sure they have everything they need, tidying up the chaos behind them, dealing with untidy bedrooms, abandoned breakfast dishes…all whilst trying to get myself ready for work, fit in my exercise challenge and the day ahead too!!  Normal parenting, right?

I have always thought these things were my job as a parent, but lately it has occurred to me to look at it differently…

When should children be doing more for themselves?  I assumed that they would reach a certain age and something would automatically happen.  They would naturally just begin to do things for themselves, such as making their bed, tidying up and clearing their dishes after tea.  They would lead by my example of course and copy what I do!!

But, this doesn’t seem to be happening and they are now at the age of 11 & 9.  I seem to follow them around, tidying up behind them or I have to continually ask them to do these things, which can have mixed results!

If I ask them to do something (for example…dry the dishes), if I happen to turn my back for a minute, or leave the room, I can almost guarantee that they will take full advantage by doing half a job, or quickly escape without doing it, leaving me with the dilemma of whether to go to the hassle of calling them back down to debate the merits of them doing the drying up.

Due to this scenario, I can see that I have fallen into the trap of doing everything for them! The realisation has dawned that being responsible for themselves isn’t going to happen naturally and that these are skills they need to learn.  Actually, I will change that to say that these are all life skills and it is my job as a parent to teach them.

So, I have turned back to some of my parenting books that have been collecting dust in a dark corner of the wardrobe, the internet and the online course I bought ages ago for some guidance.

There is so much advice on this subject, but the strategy that came up several times was reward charts . I’ll be honest…my first reaction was ‘no way!’, they are too old, I’ve tried them before, they don’t work, the girls will hate them, I don’t have time!’

Reflecting on my immediate reaction I realised that for a change to happen, I am going to have to commit to change otherwise nothing will ever improve – its part of my JUST BEGIN mind set!  So I have decided to bring back the reward charts and give it another go…

Here is the philosophy…

I will create a chart where everyday is planned out on the reward chart and the girls get an opportunity to earn stars during the day. The stars they can get will be based on daily tasks they need to do (breakfast, tidy bed, tidy room, completing homework, etc).  From this, they will be able to use the stars they earn to get rewards (such as having friends to play, sleepovers, choosing family activities etc).  For it to work, the girls will have to want to earn the rewards, so I will need to make sure the rewards they get are worth the effort they put in.

So this is the plan of action:

1.  Produce a list of things I feel that the girls should be taking responsibility for.  Keeping it simple at this stage would probably be best, so it is not overwhelming.

2.  Produce a reward chart, detailing when they can earn stars and what for.

3.  Explain to the girls about the reward chart…how it will work and benefit them.  Also discuss with them their responsibilities.

4.  Let the girls write a list of things they enjoy, including what they would like as rewards.

I will make a start with this and feedback on progress. I’m feeling hopeful that this is positive way forward to help encourage the girls to develop responsibility and the life skills that they need, which should create calmer and less frantic mornings and life in general for us all!

I’d love to hear any ideas or suggestions you have about methods that have worked for you.  Maybe you have discovered the secret to getting this to work?  Please do comment or contact me if you have any advice or feedback.


Beachbody, Exercise, Fitness, Health, Just Begin

Challenge Du Jour

How to decide which exercise works for you?

I have decided that home workouts are going to be the way forward to fit in with family life, and with the Beachbody workouts, there are a huge range of workout programs to suit everyone. However, the Challenge du Jour is really amazing as it allows you to try daily workouts from all the different programs.

So, since starting Beachbody, I have done several workouts, the first being Burn It Off!  ChaLEAN Extreme:

This was quite high intensity and I definitely had to modify some of the moves to keep up because I am new to this.  It felt like a great work out and I loved the high energy!

Following this was Iso Strength Chisel from The Master’s Hammer and Chisel:

This was all about isometric holds and building strength, increasing the weights in the moves.  I only have a 5kg weight, but managed to modify the workouts and use what I had and this was a great challenge!  I would not normally have chosen a strength building workout like this, but managed much better than expected and would definitely do this work out again.  That is one of the benefits I am finding with Challenge Du Jour…you can experience such a range of exercises!

The next workout was Cardio Power & Resistance from Insanity:


This routine was SUPER CHALLENGING!! I managed to do as much as I could, but literally had to just try and keep anything going for probably the last quarter!!  I was absolutely wiped out after the workout, so would probably do this type of workout in the evening next time as I struggled a bit during work for the rest of the day!!  I will attempt this workout again, but I would say you need to be prepared for a high energy workout when starting one!!

Following that was Bulk Back from Body Beast:


Going into this, I knew that Body Beast was going to be far from anything I could image myself doing!!!  This is about focusing on building muscle in the back and it needed some equipment, such as weights, resistance bands and a bench.  Proper serious body building!! I had to modify as I didn’t have the equipment and probably didn’t get the full effect due to this, but it was a relief not to be working the legs after the last few days!!  I actually really enjoyed doing this workout and using the weights, which I wasn’t expecting at all!!

The next workout was MMA Shred 2.0 from Core De Force:


This work out is fast paced and intense,with kicks and strikes.  I honestly struggled so much to co-ordinate the moves and almost tied myself up in knots a few times!!  I love the idea of this and hope that once you have done a few of these you can get to grips with the moves and do the workout full justice.

The last workout has been Get Well-Rounded from Beachbody Yoga Studio:


Loved this!!  About 30 minutes of Kick-Asanaflow , focused on the gluts.  As the ache of the past week was still present, it was great to be able to really stretch it out.  I’m reasonably flexible, so it felt nice to do something that felt natural, especially after the Core De Force that I struggled to keep up with and knocked my confidence a bit.

So Challenge Du Jour has so far provided a really amazing workout experience.  The workouts have been about 30 mins each, which is just right for me and I have survived them all so far!!  It has definitely helped me to identify some of my preferences and some areas that are more of a challenge.  It is easy to do a workout and struggle and let it knock your confidence, but I’m trying to keep my ‘just begin’ mindset of moving on and just starting again.  Its not about perfection, its about progress right?

My next decision is whether to carry on with Challenge de Jour, or pick a program to focus on and follow through and I’d like to start considering eating plans too.

A side benefit of beginning workouts has been that my daughters have both started to show an interest in exercise.  They have even asked for a set of their own light weights, which I will certainly encourage!!

Would love to hear of your experience with Challenge Du Jour or if you have a favourite type of exercise that you would recommend? 🙂



Beachbody, Exercise, Fitness, Health, Just Begin Challenge

Just Begin – Beachbody Journey

Looking for variety?

I have really enjoyed the ‘seven app’, but I have been looking around for something more varied and with scope for more of a challenge.  If exercise is to become a habit, it must be fun, otherwise it is so easy to give up!

I have been inspired by a friend on Facebook, Angelique Dorme who is a coach for Beachbody, and it continually astonishes me how committed and dedicated she is.  I have really enjoyed watching her journey and her honesty about life, she is a true inspiration!

There is a cost associated with joining Beachbody, but they do a 30 day free trial and so I have joined and am ready to get started on the exercise programmes!

Initially there was a bit of information and setting up to do, such as taking body measurements, weight, doing some basic exercises to measure current level of fitness, profile pictures, then its all about exploring the programmes and looking what is on offer.

They offer ‘Challenge Du Jour’ which is a selection of workouts from all the different programmes, so it seems like a really great way to get with started trying what is on offer, before committing to a programme.

This morning’s challenge was COMPLEX LOWER from p90x3 and this is how I got on…

It was a 30 minute programme, including warm up and cool down and was fab!! Difficult?…absolutely!! But as it is led by a trainer, they suggest modifications to make it easier and I did follow most of these.  Also, so much better to do a workout with a trainer as the motivation and guidance on how to do the moves properly is all given.

Absolutely loved day one of Beachbody and really looking forward to trying the other programmes!

Exercise, Fitness, Just Begin, Parenting

Just Beginning


There comes a point when you feel ready for a change in your life.

Looking over my Facebook profile – I see it all…family photos, smiling children, exciting holidays and adventure…what a fun and fulfilling experience my life must appear! Quite at odds with how I feel at times. When I stop to reflect, I often think of the difficulties, the struggles, the worries, the frustrations, the feeling that I’m not quite getting things right and I wonder if I’m the only one feeling like this. It seems that everyone else I know is managing so well and that it is only me who feels uncertain.

I have started this blog to address the balance, to be honest about the ups and down, rather than creating a facade of perfection.

Sometimes I feel my life is on a treadmill of….

MUM!!!!! Kaelyn just took my hair brush and she won’t give it back!!

MUM!!!!! Lorna glared at me and stuck her tongue out!!

MUM!!! MUM!!! MUM!!!

At these times, if I can find a quiet corner of my mind, I think to myself… ‘I didn’t plan that it was going to be this way’… ‘this is not how I imagined it would be!’ Sometimes I have no idea what is the best way to deal with situations.

In my grand plan of life, I truly believed that I would have ‘good children’. I wouldn’t need to ask my children anything twice. They would keep their rooms tidy, do their homework without being asked, be close as siblings and my house would be a place of calm.  Of course!! How could it be anything else?? I would be firm, but fair with a sprinkle of fun…practically perfect in every way, Mary Poppins no less.

Slowly and surely I discovered that my gorgeous, perfect babies were developing opinions, determination and their own free will and didn’t always agree or co-operate. In fact, I couldn’t confidently even say they like each other!! That was certainly not in the plan!

Parenting is a challenge…a constant changing challenge, not something that I had expected and I wish I had understood this sooner and I might have approached things a little differently, or taken the time to learn some parenting techniques that could have helped a bit over the past years.

Occasionally I have struggled at times to remain positive and have had some difficult times, where I have faced a lot of self doubt and even wondered whether this parenting just wasn’t ‘my sort of thing’. However, I’m a firm believer in keeping positive and finding solutions and so recently I have been looking around for some guidance and direction.

I am fully aware that I will soon be facing the oncoming challenge of the teenage years, and feel that now is the time to make some changes to ensure that I have the strength, mindset and skills to manage, so that as a family we can successfully negotiate our way through the in any difficulties a positive way.

This blog is the start of a new journey. I will be committing to making some changes which I really hope will improve my life. The two areas of commitment I will be focusing on are:

1. Health / fitness

I hear everywhere that eating well and exercising has a huge influence on how we feel within ourselves. I have previously taken up a bit of running and have actually quite enjoyed it, but have never managed to stick to any sort of plan or proper routine. So, I will be committing a fitness regime. I will be starting as a complete beginner and sharing my journey on the way. I have a very sedate office based job, so I will need a fitness regime that I can do at home, which is enjoyable and varied, otherwise I know I would be at risk of losing motivation. I don’t think I will ever find the time or dedication to actually leave the house to go to a gym, so finding some sort of exercise at home is definitely the way forward!

2. Parenting

I am also committing to learning more and finding some methods to help me deal with some of the parenting challenges I face. I have read a few books and even bought an online course about parenting, but I’m not sure how much I took in and so I will be going through the information again, focusing on finding techniques that I can use and action.

I will be blogging my progress with this journey. The reason for sharing this is that I hope it will ensure that I remain committed and focused and if anyone would like to follow or even join me in my adventure, that would be awesome!!

I’m sure there are so many people who could offer advice or perhaps are going through similar challenges and I would love to hear your thoughts. Perhaps it might be a bit reassuring to know if others are also struggling, perhaps it is something that we don’t always talk about whilst we are busy posting our smiley pictures on Facebook?

I welcome you to share in this journey with me!!