Planning your weekly meals in advance has several advantages:
- it can save time and money
- eliminate waste
- promote healthy eating habits
- reduce stress and mental load.
However, planning for a family with different dietary requirements can be a real challenge; it can feel demotivating trying to find a meal that works for everyone. Below are a number of suggestions and strategies to assist with trying to find a meal everyone can, and will, eat.
1. Only cook with the ingredients everyone can eat
It may help to start with food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, dairy, carbohydrates, oils) and eliminate any entire groups that any one person can’t have to get to the common ingredients that everyone can have.
2. Customise individually.
Instead of making multiple meals, you can start out with a common base or entire recipe – but customise it for different diets and preferences. For example, make a sauce that everyone will eat and serve with different sides e.g., pasta or rice, a couple of vegetable choices and let each family member ‘build their own plate’. This also applies for waiting to add spices, herbs and seasoning until at the table.
3. Use alternatives and make switches
- Butter vs. a plant-based alternative or oil
- Greek yogurt vs. full-fat sour cream
- Sunflower seed butter vs. peanut / nut butters
- Pre- cooked chicken vs. tofu or beans
- Shredded cheese vs. nutritional yeast, or even a fresh avocado for Mexican meals
- Use gluten-free pasta
- Switch to almond or soy milk to avoid dairy
- Using flax or chia eggs in baking instead of eggs
There is a wealth of recipes available online that demonstrate how to make family favourites with alternative ingredients.
4. Use a multi-diet meal planner.
A printable, easy-to-use template can be the perfect way to get started. When planning your meals for the week, write down the “main meal” for each night – then record the variations needed for each person. Instant Download – Meal Plan Template for Multiple Diets
5. Involve your family in the process – especially if the diet is voluntary.
If you are dealing with a spouse, family member, or older child who is making voluntary diet choices or who simply has different preferences from the rest of your family, try to involve them in the effort to find meals that work for everyone. This can be a great way for them to take ownership, learn meal planning skills, and lessen your burden. Additionally, this will not only keep you from guessing what they would like, it may help them realize the difficulty involved and lead to compromises that will make it easier for everyone.
6. Batch and freeze when you can.
One huge way to cut the stress and time often involved with planning and preparing meals is to cook once and eat twice. If you find a meal that everyone truly loves, try doubling the recipe when you make it and freezing the rest. That way, you always have an “emergency” meal that has everyone covered. You also can prep a big batch of the “custom” options and freeze them so they’re always on hand when you need them.
7. Create reusable sets of meal plans.
Create a rolling three week set of meal plans and reuse them. This will save money, effort and work.
How True Food can help
True Food is not the average shop, and there are many ways in which we can support your meal prep for one or more diets:
- You can buy small or specific quantities of ingredients from our refill stations
- Choose from a large range of special dietary foods (vegan, gluten free…)
- Find information about ingredients, recipes, etc in store or on our website
- Let us know which product you need, and we can see if it is possible to order it for you
- Our friendly staff and volunteers who are always happy to help and offer creative solutions.
We hope you find these tops useful, if you have your own tips ideas and experiences, please share with our community firstname.lastname@example.org.