Our family has all sorts of weird food allergies and dietary restrictions. Cooking a single meal that caters to everyone’s limitations is a huge challenge – especially when I am busy and have baby-brain-drain. Usually I spend an hour or so on Saturday morning planning out all of our meals for the week. If I am doing really good, I finish all the grocery shopping and meal prep by Sunday afternoon. But that doesn’t always happen. If I am scrambling to make a meal last minute I often need a reminder of what we are allowed to eat. In those instances, I resort to my fancy meal planning guide.
A little background on the guide and how I use it.
Why is this guide necessary for our family?
One of the activities I have found that helps manage our household, our budget and my diet is meal planning combined with – your going to hate this – making most of our meals from scratch. We do eat out occasionally, though, and sometimes we, like many other families, resort to preprocessed and prepackaged foods (my hubby and toddler LOVE tater tots.) I try to stick to making foods based on whole foods. What is a “whole” food, you might ask? Anything that comes from the earth minimally processed: chicken, fish, vegetables, fruits, etc. Some people refer to this as “clean eating.” Unlike some uber-traditionalists, though, our family includes grains, mostly homemade – soaked, sprouted or sourdough whenever possible. We are still new at this, though, and are slowly removing processed foods from our diet. I am following the baby steps approach advocated by Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship.
As you might guess, this is a LOT of work. And not something I am always up to the challenge for doing. I have no idea how I would do this if I was still working outside the home. It is important to our family values of stewardship and health, though, so I try as hard as I can. (I will post next week on our family values and goals, including another free printable!) Doing prep on the weekend and nights after the kiddos are in bed is a huge help. On Sundays I cut up all the veggies and fruits for snacking. I cook a whole chicken on Mondays and make a soup and something with the leftovers over the next two days. I prepare meals that would serve 7-8. I freeze any and all extras from every meal. I make power bars and other snack foods on Sundays, too, when hubby is watching the kiddos. If I stay on top of things and make one batch per weekend I can usually have 3-4 different snack items available in the freezer at any given time. At night I take poultry out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge for the next day’s dinner and soak grains (like oatmeal for breakfast) and beans (for hummus or soup) for the next day.
In order to only purchase what we need, waste less and stick to my calorie-limits I have to plan each and every meal, including snacks. Several friends use the Plan to Eat software, but I just can’t do it. I use pen and paper to plan. My favorite printable template these days is from theprojectgirl.com and I post it on the fridge when I am done planning. I calculate all the nutritional information for my meals using the Calorie Count calculator - awesome new tool – and log my progress throughout the day for my diet on myFitnessPal. All of this takes time, though, so I try to cut corners wherever I can. Ergo the meal planning guide.
- No dairy – whatsoever. My son and I are painfully allergic to casein and my daughter is lactose-intolerant. As you may know, that rules out all sorts of things: cheese, ice cream, yogurt, “cream of” anything soup or sauce, most preprocessed energy bars / protein shakes, etc. For a complete list of food that contains casein, check out: www.kidswithfoodallergies.org
- No red meat. I haven’t eaten beef or pork since I was 16 – and that was a long time ago. Occasionally I will make my husband a steak, beef stew or pork chops. In those instances I will eat a veggie burger and the kids will have some sort of pasta or turkey hotdogs or something else easy.
- No soy. The jury is still out on whether or not soy is safe. I will leave that debate for another day and just leave it at: it’s not recommended for women who have had ovarian or breast cancer.
- No seafood. We eat some fish – mainly salmon and tilapia since they are safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. My husband seems to have some sort of allergy to fatty fish and shellfish, though.
- No “salad.” My hubby – the man I adore and who loves me despite all my eccentricities – refuses to eat anything with lettuce, dressing or in any other way appears salad-like. Often I have a side salad with dinner topped with homemade balsamic vinaigrette, but he can’t even stand the smell of it.
- Minimal processed foods. That means no Oreos, no Spam and Cheetos only on special occasions – lol. OK, I fully admit that I rely on Cheerios, Baby Mum Mums and crackers. (Yes, I know, I know. To all the foodies out there who might criticize me and tell me how evil these products are: I agree, I really do, but at least I am being honest. Lurking in my cupboard, hiding shamefully, is a container of Gerber Puffs. And if you catch me on one of those horrible, busy, painful days when I am running in between physical therapy and the farm feed store on some crazy mission, you might just see me feeding them to my baby in McDonalds.) Because of my inability to find raw chicken sausage and unprocessed deli meat here in the middle of nowhere (a post for another day) I also purchase processed meats. However I am vigilant to check labels for dangerous chemicals and preservatives.
- Organic, when possible and economically feasible. I buy our chicken and beef from a nearby farm where I know it is sustainably produced and processed responsibly. I try to purchase the “dirty dozen” vegetables organic, but lately our budget has dictated otherwise. The only thing I am hard-core about is my lettuce and our apples; my daughter and I eat at least one apple a day and I insist that these are organic to limit her exposure to chemicals.
How do I use the Guide?
And, Without Further Ado…
The Dairy-Free Meal Planning Guide
In case you, too, share some or all (I’m so sorry) of our dietary restrictions I have shared the guide HERE. Please note that I am definitely not a nutritionist or dietician.