Meal Planning – Gluten Free

GF meal planning is pretty much the same as any meal planning, but I’ve found it very important for staying ahead of hunger that would lead to poor decisions (that I will regret later) so I’m including it here and early as part of an effective GF transition.

If you need more detail, that’s fine too. I’ll have the basic forms this week, and more specifics from my own menus next week.

 To Begin

First of all, download my  menu worksheet (my loving gift to you).

Second, make a list of all the meals your family currently eats: Spaghetti? Meatloaf? Mac and Cheese? Chili? Sloppy Joes? Big Mac?

Don’t worry yet whether they have  gluten-containing ingredients.  The point at this stage is just to write down all the meals you know.  Meals you need a recipe to make are fine, as long as they’re familiar enough for you to make at the same speed as the recipes in your head.

Once they’re on paper to look at you can consider what favorites are worth creating substitutions for.

Optional-but-recommended third-step: divide your your collected meals into categories (and it’s okay to put the same meal into  more than one category).

Any category-designation is fine.  I use main-protein (Salmon, caribou, chicken) and/or format (soup, 9×13 casserole dish, slow cooker) depending on the needs of the menu.

Having categories allows you to simplify your planning by narrowing the options of any given day.

For example:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Breakfast Rice cereal Egg dish Cold Cereal French toast
Dinner Crock pot or time bake Soup and smallbread Salmon: Baked, patties, casserole Moose or Caribou: Roast, stir-fry, casserole
Preparation Soak smallbread batter Fish out to thaw; Make 2 loaves  of bread Meat out to thaw         Pick a salad for dinner Thaw toppings/ soak oatmeal
Thursday Friday Saturday
Breakfast Oatmeal Left-overs or Muffins Pancakes
Dinner Pizza/poached eggs Crock pot; usually Chili Elaborate meal or clean-out the fridge
Preparation Thaw meats/beans  Soak muffin batter Soak pancake batter Assemble time bake

Yes, I have grain-heavy breakfasts. This is part of why I plan: I want variety and proper preparation to maximize their nutritional value.

Assigning a category to each day of the week means that when I’m trying to come up with a meal for Friday, I’m only drawing from my “crock pot meals” pool.

If you need to eat gluten free and haven’t collected said pool yet, get thee post-haste to Stephanie O’Dea’s Crockpot 365 blog. All of her recipes are gluten free, due to a celiac child.

Hanging out at her place for a while will be a reassuring education in how normal GF food can be and will show you one way to survive now that the “safety net” of fast food has been pulled out from under you.

Yes, your crock pot/slow cooker can be your helper in your transition away from gluten-containing foods.

~ ~ ~

Now, remember people, that I am in ALASKA. We hunt here. Fish here. Celebrate getting a call to salvage roadkill when it’s only below freezing at night (Ah, that magical time of year when free meat is not a burden…)

As a result, we had a lot of salmon to go through, and other “pasture-raised” meats. This is not to make you jealous, it is to explain why I have an otherwise expensive fish on my menu every week. I have to put it specifically on the menu or I will. not. think of using it.  We’ve been eating these meats since late summer, and I still think of ground-meat or chicken thighs before the local stuff, just because we’ve been close to 10 years without it.

In the same way, if you get some *fabulous* deal on whatever it is you love to eat (or something you want to learn to love), the key to using it wisely is to write down when you are going to eat it.

Okay, so you have your grid, you have your meals, you might even have categories for those meals, and if you do, you’ve assigned categories to go with a least a couple days of the week.

There is no category for lunch, because the easiest way to simplify your life (no matter what you eat) is to assume by default that lunch will be left-overs.  And on those odd days when you don’t  have leftovers, there’s always the back-pocket quick meals.

Breakfast is the perfect place to be unoriginal consistent  and unpressured.  By picking the same thing every day (or each day of the week), you reduce the number of decisions you need to make in any given day, freeing up brain cells for other jobs.  This is my #1 reason to create a menu!

Next thing — the most-fun part of menu-planning by the month– is pick your family’s favorite meal, and a night when you’re all home, and assign that meal to that night. All month.

(Most kids seem to love this: predictability and anticipation.  As an easily-distracted mom, I’ll take these points wherever I can grab them)

If you’re concerned about it being too expensive (financially or calorically) you can try every-other-week instead.

Then think about the nights (or days) you are most-strapped for time and assign a slow-cooker meal to that night.

Then keep going.

Giving one or two other nights each week the same meal is okay too, if you’re short on meals.  Remember, most families only have 10-12 recipes they rotate through anyway, even when they could eat anything, so don’t be too nervous if your average drops a little.  I’ll help you build it back up as you go.

Taco salad with homemade taco seasoning is good enough to be a staple, and potato bake is a relatively inexpensive meal that my kids love week after week.

They ask for it when I’m tired of it.  But it’s really good for a time-bake Sunday dinner welcoming you home after church.

This menu-building can take a while, especially if you’re low on GF meal ideas, and really, if a weekly thing is more your pace at this stage, feel free to start there.

The goal in menu-planning is to know far enough ahead that you never have to be caught hungry.  Hungry is never a good time to make decisions.  Ever.

3 thoughts on “Meal Planning – Gluten Free

  1. Amy, thank you for the link; I’m happy to find you! I love this line, and find it to ring true for us, too: “Most kids seem to love this: predictability and anticipation.”

    I look forward to poking around some more during nap time! have a great day, steph

  2. [...] my specifically GF efforts of the same thing. This is the book that gave me the foundation for monthly meal-planning.) Ranch dressing/mix may not have gluten in it (I haven’t checked recently) but most mixes and [...]

  3. [...] the following (many?) weeks I plan to share the recipes for my staples (at least 10-12 basic meals, remember?), and maybe some general stuff about being comfortable in the [...]

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