Just the two words “meal planning” causes me anxiety. (Just when put together though, because I love meals and I do like planning things.) It hasn’t always been this way though. I used to whip out some cookbooks, find and master any meal that was able to go into my crock pot. (I really love that thing!) Then I was diagnosed with celiac’s disease. I had been in the hospital surviving on IV’s for a couple months so the diagnosis was actually a welcomed one. My mom sent me 5,000 gluten free cook books and I hit the ground running. It really wasn’t that hard for me to meal plan gluten free. Then two years into gluten free I saw a naturopath who did lots of blood work and an elimination diet and concluded I may have low stomach acid and be intolerant to meat because of it (I can still eat seafood and dairy though. So now I’m a gluten free pescetarian.) I was actually ok with giving up meat because I don’t really like it and I can still eat seafood. But this is where meal planning became a nightmare. I realized I planned every meal I ate around meat. So I avoided meal planning like the plague. It was no problem to look at my husband like a deer in headlights when he asked what was for dinner. The problem was grocery shopping. If I don’t have a list and plan then I buy crap and I’m way too poor to buy crap. Especially gluten free crap, because it’s expensive. Meal planning when you have dietary restrictions is just a must. So needless to say after some serious soul searching and grit, I came up with my rules for meal planning with limited options and they have been working quite well for me.
- Make a list of what you can eat: people say to me all the time “You can’t eat gluten? OMG what do you eat?” This question seriously puzzles me because gluten is barley, wheat, and rye. SO that really leaves me with a lot of other food groups. LIKE seriously a lot. But it’s important to focus on what you CAN have. When I first went gluten free I was optimistic and I focused on what I could have. When I cut out meat I didn’t do this and got too caught up on what I couldn’t have. Being a pessimist is a hard life to live. Trust me.
- Come up with a Set Outline menu- I just made up those words. But to clarify, this is my set outline menu. For breakfast I eat eggs, or oatmeal with fruit, and a protein shake. That’s it. Every day. For lunch I have a salad. That’s it. Every day. Dinner is the area that I don’t have a set outline menu. But I kind of do. Read number 3.
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Eggs, protein shake salad what I actually meal plan
- Repeat meals you can eat –It’s ok to eat the same meal more than once a week!- When I sat down to meal plan I thought I needed 7 different dinners a week or I wasn’t meal planning correctly. This also cost more money at the grocery store buying 9 million ingredients to go with the 7 new meals I couldn’t repeat until next month. Now that I’m on a limited menu, I realized eating fish, vegetables, and a baked potato is a meal that can be repeated 3-4 times in one week. I just do it every other day and follow step 4 to ensure I don’t get sick of eating the same thing all the time.
- Learn how to take the same meal and tweak it slightly- so you don’t get sick of it obviously. One way to do this is to start cooking with seasonings. Another way is to change up how you cook something. So we may have fish with garlic butter sauce one night and then fish with Sriracha sauce another night. I may cook the vegetables by steaming them one night and then switch it up by baking them another. Salads are my favorite to tweak. People always say, “aren’t you tired of eating salads?” How can you get tired of eating salads? You can literally make a new one up each week. Sometimes I don’t even use lettuce. I make a bean salad or quinoa based salad. I have some sort of salad every day but I make a completely different one each week so I haven’t gotten sick of them yet. I’m not dairy free and I’m literally addicted to cheese so I enjoy planning my salads around what fancy cheese I can put in them. (That may or may not be a highlight of my week.)
- Plan as many meals as you can around vegetables- There are so many different diets out there. And one may tell you meat is bad. Another will tell you it’s the way, the light, the truth. So far the only thing I can conclude from every diet that I look at is that vegetables are good. That’s the one thing everyone agrees on. So odds are you won’t suddenly become intolerant to vegetables and if you start planning your meals around vegetables it will make your sides easier. Plus I’ve found from eating no meat that vegetables are way cheaper than meat so better to fill up on them anyways.
That said I’m always looking for new recipes that I can try out. It’s never easy when you’re working with a restrictive diet. Please share or let me know of any great pinterest boards to follow on this subject!!