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Why we developed the Menu Planner

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Aug 05, 2012

I spent all of 2008 developing 12 Steps to Whole Foods, in response to many readers discovering GreenSmoothieGirl.com and asking for a step-by-step plan to learn the lifestyle I was advocating for.

In the 1990’s, my little boy had nearly died of severe asthma and allergies. In eliminating sugar and dairy, and converting to a whole-foods, 60-80% raw diet, we eliminated all-night wheezing and suffering. We eliminated steroids and bronchodilators and antibiotics. In the process, I lost 50 lbs. and regained my deteriorated eyesight. I regained my ability to run and play sports, dropped my cholesterol to 100 and blood pressure to 98/56, and eliminated eczema and allergies. I never again had debilitating migraines or TIA (mini-strokes) that plagued me in my 20’s.

I became preoccupied with wanting others to be able to do what I’d done, but without all the frustrating bumps along the way. I’d made countless recipes that no one in my family liked. I’d bought hundreds of dollars of ingredients that were hard to find and expensive, with limited or one-time uses.

I’d made recipes that took several hours in the kitchen. I’d wasted time chasing down nutritional bunny hills with little or no gain, and I’d read a lot of useless books about food cults. Along the way, I did find many invaluable nuggets of information and good practices that enormously impacted my family’s life for the better, and others’ as well, when I taught them.

I like the free-form nature of 12 Steps to Whole Foods. You can eat whatever salads, whatever dressings, whatever main dishes you want. Feeling free to explore new foods, learn new habits, try new recipes, anytime you want.

However, in working with thousands of people the past few years, we found that many were trained in how to “diet.” I resist the idea that 12 Steps is a diet. The word itself connotes “temporary”  and “restrictive.” What I am teaching here is a lifestyle that I intend to bless your life and minimize your disease risk, forever. It’s about abundance, since the world of plant foods has nearly infinite colors, textures, tastes, and combining potential.

However, there is value to making things simple and easily planned, and as a planner and list-maker myself, I understand the value of living from lists!

Our just-released Menu Planner tool was highly requested, so we’ve spent well over a year developing it!

It is an effort to help your initial foray into the whole-foods lifestyle be as predictable as possible! Many thanks to Desiree Ward and Tina Huntsman, who assisted in developing the menu plans and shopping lists and counted every penny to give you budget predictions. They found that feeding a family of 4 with these menu plans cost $100/week.

According to my research, that’s what families spend who budget very strictly and have to live on a young, single-earner income.

Anything new can be frustrating in the beginning. There are a number of habits to change, and at first, you may feel out of your depth, like you have no idea what to eat. (Especially for the overachievers, who try to do 6 steps at a time!)

Before now, you may have eaten prepared and processed foods, or fast foods, but you had a routine, you knew where to buy everything, and how to get or make it. Now that you’ve committed to a change, of course, you have to re-learn those things. Keep in mind when I suggest Costco as a source, and you don’t have a Costco membership, there are other places to obtain the same item in your hometown. Having a health food store, a buying club, an Asian market, and a regular grocery store with a good produce section, you’ll be just fine. Even if you’re missing one or even two of those, you can definitely do this!

If you stay the course, your new habits will become as easy and habitual as your old ones were. Those new habits have the power to nourish you, energize you, and endow you with health, lovely skin and hair, and ideal weight. Your old habits were likely clogging your digestive system, draining your energy, and causing your weight to gradually creep upwards.

To the end of nourishing you well and providing the benefits you seek, I hope the plans and lists in our new Menu Planner are helpful on your journey to amazing health!

Posted in: 12 Steps To Whole Food, Books, News, Nutrition, Parenting

24 thoughts on “Why we developed the Menu Planner”

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  1. Do you feel it’d be easily adaptable to a gluten-free diet?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn

    Just wondering how the plan is for kids, mine are 9 & 10 and can be a challenge to feed at times.

    Thanks so much.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn

    Just wondering if the food menu planner is kid friendly – my kids are 9 & 10 and can be a challenge to feed at times.


    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Jody, the menu planner was designed for a family of four including two kids. 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    I got the 8 week menu planner the first or second week it was out, and I love it! I was already a 12 stepper, but it is a HUGE time saver – planning wise! It also makes my kitchen time a little more fun and exciting. I’m not just doing my tried and true recipes, but am adding more variety. My husband has loved all the food too. It’s very easy to use, very detailed, and by far the most well thought out menu planner I have used. It’s all in one, smaller sized spiral bound book that is perfect for in the kitchen or sticking in your purse. Can’t say enough good things about it! I would definitely recommend it to any one (and have!) no matter where they are in their health journey! Thanks, Robyn, for another amazing resource!

  5. In the beginning of my own journey I would get so overwhelmed and just went back to bad habits. I have learned to give myself a break….we can’t do it all at once! But if you at least make those baby steps in the right direction, pat yourselves on the back. Of course there will be back-sliding, but don’t beat yourself up. Get back up and start again. My husband and I are amazed at our family’s progress (although not perfect I assure you). And when we do have those bad habits that creep back in, I too have to remind myself I have not failed.

    Love this idea of meal planning. I am slowly assembling our family’s regular meals so I can input into a computer system that will generate shopping lists based on the meals I pick for a given week.

  6. Anonymous says:

    When you said “However, in working with thousands of people the past few years, we found that many were trained in how to “diet.””, I almost couldn’t purchase the menu planner, horrified that someone would think I’m a dieter! I guess I have a lot of work to do on that ego 😉 But your next paragraph about ease of planning and following a list totally redeemed things — that is exactly why we are buying!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Can you give an example or two of dinner meals that are in there?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Also wondering if this menu planner will work in a strictly gluten free house. I have the 12 steps and appreciate much of it but there are lots of things that don’t take GF into account.

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Hi Tami, there is very little in 12 Steps, or in the menu planner, that isn’t gluten free, and on the rare occasion there is something with gluten, there’s always an easy substitution. 🙂

  9. Developing a healthy lifestyle is an adventure, tryng new recipes using the same ingredients in a new and different way. It puts mom back into the kitchen making healthy food for her family. It means that the dining room table is being used, people eating together and socializing. It means that we are in charge of our health and what we eat. It is freedom.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I just got this 2 1/2 weeks ago and we are on week 2 now. Love it! Even my husband is totally on board and loving what we are eating. My 2 year old can’t get enough of green smoothies and he enjoys most of the food–he mostly eats little things throughout the day. After the first week, I’ve lost 5 lbs, so I am totally happy with how our family has been changing! I just love how all the guess work is taken out. So thank you, Robyn, for this awesome tool! 🙂

  11. Robyn,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have studied your 12 steps for over a year now and saw you last time you were in Portland. I have 6 children 9 and under. The changes have been great, but it has been a big challenge to stay on top of it with the constant chaos at home. Life is all consuming sometimes, and something has to give. But now that I have the menu planner, I feel like I can finally jump in with both feet, not just a little here and a little there. I don’t have to feel overwhelmed, because I am using the planner and doing what it says, so I don’t have to over think it (I need that at this stage of life right now).

    The best part is that this works for the whole family. We all eat the same thing now and it is so budget friendly. My picky eaters struggle, but it’s a work in progress. I no longer have to feel any guilt for feeding them SAD food. My husband enjoys eating real food too. We like the feeling of good food in our bodies. This was a perfect transition for us since I have been trying to implement the 12 steps already, this just takes us to a much higher lever quickly, which we desperately needed. I feel like this has taken me to from point A to point B without all the stalls and pitfalls that I have come up before.

    We are even planning a vacation to visit my parents, and my mom is so supportive that she is going to take me shopping when we get there to get our food for the week and prepare it at her house.

    By the way, since starting the menu planner, I have not had a single migraine which is a miracle to me since my “normal” was 2-4 of them a week since giving birth almost a year ago. Now I can stop taking the headache medication that I felt I had to take in order for function as a mom.

    Thanks again for giving training wheels to me so that even a mommy with lots of little ones can do it. I just can’t say enough how much I am loving it and how it is worth its weight in gold!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Does the planner just have meals for dinner, or breakfast and lunch also? Are they the same recipes as are in the “12 Steps” book?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Robyn, I purchased the menu planner and need to start it! Just a question about snacks and treats. Are we allowed a treat (healthy, from your 12 steps) or snacks during the day? What is your advice about that. Many thanks, Gentry

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Sure, Gentry, but they aren’t in the menu planner. (It says this in the intro.)

  14. Anonymous says:


    Interesting that your book is 12 steps.
    Why 12?

    Like the 12 months of the year
    12 steps in alcoholics anonymous
    12 signs of the zodiac
    12 steps to heaven
    etc etc

    This is very weird

  15. Anonymous says:

    I need to see a sample before I purchace.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn, My mother and I are considering purchasing the menu planner, but we both wish there were some menu examples. We currently both use an online meal planner program that we love (they give menu examples), but now that we have discovered you and your 12 step to whole foods program and really want to try this. Is there any way you can show a sneak peak of what some of the menus might be like?

    Thank you!:)

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Stephanie, I will add that to my to-do list….try to pull out of the PDF we publish from, some sample menu plans…

  17. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I too would like to see a sample of this.

  18. Tracie says:

    Robyn- First of all – I LOVE the 8 week menu planner and I use it all the time BUT I would really love to have it in a pdf version so that I can have it on my computer and ipad. Any plans for this?????? Please please please.

  19. Martha says:

    Hi Robyn. Just got the menu planner and I just love it. I do have to cut the recipes because it is just me and my husband and still have leftovers. (Won’t be cooking next week hehehe) I made your rice rolls but to save time I just made it into a casserole and it came out fast and easy. God bless you for sharing your knowledge

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