Family meal planning tips

Taking the time to do family meal planning can make things much easier if you have to cater for someone on a gluten free diet.

If its your job to feed the family and you a loved one is diagnosed with celiac disease it may cause you to flounder.

Not only do you have to be careful about what one (or more) family member can and cannot eat, but you have to fit everyone else's requirements into the mix as well.

Quite a challenge, eh?

If, up until now, you have survived by thinking on your feet, ordering a take-away at the last minute, or opening a packet you may have to change your cooking habits and think about doing a little advance planning.

Whether the person on the special diet is yourself, your child, or your partner, making sure everyone is fed and happy is possible. 

The following tips and ideas should help with your own family meal planning.

A separate meal?

One of the first things to decide on when family meal planning, is whether you are going to cook one meal for all the family, or offer something different to the person with allergies or an intolerance.

I prefer to try to stick to one meal for the following reasons...

  • It is easier,
  • there is less risk of contamination,
  • no-one suffers from being looked at as "different"

I do make an exception to this if it is a baby that needs special food. In this situation I will often cook a separate dish for the baby, perhaps using the parts of the main meal that are safe for them to eat, such as the vegetables.

Your budget

When you start to tot up the cost of special foods, it can get expensive!

Feeding one person a gluten free diet is bad enough, but to provide that food to the whole family can stretch the budget to breaking point. It may be sensible to only cook the gf pasta for those who really need it!

When the ingredients for a meal are naturally gluten free, then it is an easier decision. Feed everyone the same thing.

Cooking from scratch will most likely work out less expensive than buying pre-prepared meals for the person on the diet.

Make sensible use of energy. If you are turning the oven on for a stew, why not pop some potatoes in to bake as well. You could also use the other shelf to bake some gluten free bread for the following day, saving time as well.

Personal likes and dislikes

We all have certain foods that we love and others that we just absolutely hate, don't we?

I can't stand turnips or tuna fish, whilst my son hates tomatoes and cheese..

Just because there are foods that you CANNOT eat, it doesn't mean that you HAVE to eat everything else. You are allowed a choice too!

When feeding a number of people it is wise to keep any foods that are disliked to a minimum. Or leave that ingredient out when, for example, cooking a stew that you want to serve to everyone.

The family's appetite and lifestyle

Does everyone do manual work that requires a satisfying meal to restore their energy? Or do they spend most of their day sitting down, using their brains instead of muscles?

Adding extra carbohydrate to the meal, such as potatoes, grains or pasta, may be necessary to keep active people going for the rest of the day.

On the other hand, a light dish, designed to not add extra pounds to the diners, may be more suitable.

Will everyone need feeding at the same time? Or will food need to be kept hot for late arrivals? Will it spoil if you need to keep it hot or reheat it? Can it be served cold and thereby eliminate the problem completely?

Your kitchen

Not all of us are blessed with huge kitchens with a large range on which to cook. Well I know I'm not anyway!

So something else to keep in mind when planning meals is your cooking facilities.

Do you have enough rings on your stove top for the number of saucepans you will need to use? Do you have a double oven so that you can cook things that need a different temperature at the same time?

Also give a thought to whether you have enough room to store the ingredients needed for that elaborate dish you had in mind.

The weather

The time of year, and the weather, should be considered when doing your family meal planning.

Chilled soup served when snow is on the ground outside may not go down too well! And who wants a heavy meat stew on a swelteringly hot day?

Cooking methods

Try to vary the way you cook foods throughout the week. Fried foods every night would be boring, as well as unhealthy!

Good family meal planning will ensure that a variety of methods are used... a stir fry with crisp vegetables one day followed by a warming casserole the next perhaps.

Eat a rainbow

Think again about that meal I mentioned just above. Would it look exciting? Everything was white or cream!

Add colour to your meals by including red tomatoes, green vegetables, a golden sauce or a rich, brown gluten-free gravy.

Add some flavour

Try not to serve one spicy dish after another. Mix things up a bit and give the palette a break with a bland, subtle meal one night, something savoury the next, and something with a bit of zing to it after that.

Vary the texture

Food needs to be appealing in order to be enjoyed. Think about a plate of soggy mashed potatoes, steamed fish and cauliflower puree. There is nothing to get your teeth into amongst that lot is there?

Add some texture to your dishes. Get something crisp in there to offset the softness.

In Summary

You probably think about most of the family meal planning tips above on a subconscious level anyway. But hopefully, bringing them to your conscious attention, will help you cope easily when a member of the family is on a gluten free diet.

- - Family meal planning

- - Family meal planning


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