Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Meal Planning

Knowing what's for dinner is hard for any mama.  We have all been there when it is 5:00 and everyone is starving.  There isn't a quick meal to be found and everything is frozen.  Sigh. 

I have found it even tougher with food allergies.  For us, because we deal with so many, we really can't eat out even if we wanted to.  So, if I don't have a backup we eat super late (and then they ALL become MONSTERS) or it is good ol' cereal to the rescue.

I started doing meal planning when we were first diagnosed with allergies, mainly because we had to do a rotation diet.  Rotation diet is basically you can only have a food once every four days.  For example, beef on Mondays means no beef until Friday.  We did this with meats, veggies, fruits and alternative flours.  Basically anything they could eat was on a rotation basis.  Now imagine, not only do I need to feed them but remember and keep track of what they ate and then when they could eat it again.  Can you say NIGHTMARE???  So meal planning became this girl's best friend. 

Here are a few tips and tricks I learned along the way that I recently shared in a class:

One of the most frustrating parts to being told you have a food allergy is know what you can eat or maybe just WHAT to eat, or even how to prepare it.  There are a couple ways you can take to simplify this:

1.)     Start with your favorite (can’t live without) foods and find replacements.  Can’t live without chocolate? Find one that works.  Make a shopping list to keep in your pocket of what you like, where you find it.

List 5 foods you can’t live without:                  List the replacement:
____________________________                  ___________________________
____________________________                  ___________________________
____________________________                  ___________________________
____________________________                  ___________________________
____________________________                  ___________________________

2.)    Start with the basics. Stay simple. Then move on.
Find 3 easy breakfasts and repeat them over and over.  Then gradually add in another, then another and so on… (Oatmeal, toast, cereal, eggs, smoothies)
Make a list of 3 easy lunches.  Repeat them over and over until you are comfortable.  Then add in more ideas.
Make a list of 7 dinners.  And/or assign each day of the week a certain meal.  For example: Friday is pizza night, Tuesday is hamburgers and so on.  When you have mastered 7 easy meals, try to add one fancy meal a week; maybe on Sunday when you have extra time to cook.

Make a master list of these foods to use when meal planning.

3.)    Have backups.  When you cook, always make extra to freeze.  Then when something doesn’t turn out, your schedule runs late, or you forget to thaw out some meat, you have a quick meal to go to.  Our favorite is taco meat.  I make extra a frozen dinner portion for each member.  Same with pizzas, I make double and freeze one.  What are two recipes you might double to freeze to have on hand later?

4.)    Again, stay simple.  A protein, a starch, a carb and a veggie (or fruit) make a meal.  Grill a chicken breast, steam some broccoli, have a cup of rice with a piece of bread.  Not fancy, but quick and nutritious.  List 2 meals with quick, simple, healthy ingredients.

5.)    Start a three ring binder to store your recipes, shopping list, ideas, and meal plans in.

6.)    Create your lists.  It takes time in the beginning, but it really is a time saver.  Create a shopping list, meal idea list (for each meal), and recipe file.  Keep a master and update it as you go.

What are some tips you do that I might have missed?

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