Do you want to meal prep but everyone in the family has different diets? A vegan, a gluten-free, a carnivore, a flexitarian…you name it? Trying to meal prep to save money too? When everyone eats differently it can be a pain to meal prep without losing all sanity! I feel your pain!
My husband is a muscly workout type of guy with a diet modeled from Dwayne Johnson’s (The Rock)…full of fish and meat. Before I got pregnant, I was a hardcore vegan. To make absolutely certain I was getting enough calories and macro nutrients, I switched over to a mostly plant-based diet. Now I have two toddlers, 14 months apart who have their own versions of both our diets. It’s called the: I only eat things I like when they are the most inconvenient; and if it’s new, it’s going on the floor at least 10 times first diet.
So how do I plan the meals for the week without going nuts? Here are some tips for making it through.
Tip #1: Make a plan.
Before I planned our meals, I went absolutely nuts. I felt as though I was cleaning and cooking ALL DAY, EVERY DAY! It really cut into my time with the girls. I was so frustrated. I thought I had quit my job to be a hands-on mom and instead, I was just a hands-on cook while the rest of the house got destroyed! It also meant that we often didn’t eat together as a family. I was so busy trying to get everyone’s food out that it all came out at different times and I just ate the scraps of what everybody else had already eaten. Not to mention our food budget was out of control!
Now that I plan meals and meal prep, things have gotten much smoother! By getting most of the meals made in one day, I can really focus on my girls and my husband the rest of the week. We can sit down and eat together! The girls can see both their dad and I eating our foods and try them out for themselves. Getting my little picky eaters to eat has been remarkably better once they saw us eating those foods too!
Tip #2: Plan meals around joint foods.
My husband eats a body building diet. Not much fruit and tons of meat. 5-7 meals a day. With that being said, I’m making pounds and pounds of meat each week while stuffing as many vegetables into his containers as possible. He also eats different grains than the girls and I eat.
The girls and I are eating lots of fruits and vegetables with much smaller amounts of meat mixed in with plant-based protein sources such as soy. A plant my husband seems remarkably afraid of consuming.
In order to reach a common-ground I plan all our meals around the things we will all consume. So basically, most of our meals are planned around our vegetables. I try to pair lighter protein sources with heavier vegetables such as fish with brussel sprouts. Heavier meats go with the lighter vegetables, such as steak with salad.
I’m still pretty squeamish about eating meat but will eat it to encourage the girls and to get my nutrients in. I generally choose non-meat options first. When there is a meat I don’t want to pair with our chosen vegetable, I’ll choose my non-meat option and encourage the girls to decide what they’d like to eat.
Snacks for the girls are usually fruit, nuts, or Greek yogurt. The dude eats a full meal for his snack.
Tip #3: Plan Easily Spoiled Meals for the Beginning of the Week
Fresh vegetables and fruits can go bad quickly. To ensure that everything is eaten before it’s spoiled, plan the meal prep based on fresh vegetables and fruit vs. frozen.
The salads will be eaten during the first half of the week while the frozen broccoli will be taken out of the freezer, heated, and eaten the latter half. The fish will be served the first few days. I’ll freeze the chicken and reheat it for the second part of the week.
The USDA recommends that cooked fish not be stored in the refrigerator more than 3-4 days. Cooked chicken also has this shelf-life, however, cooked chicken can be stored for up to 4 months in the freezer and retains a much better texture and taste than frozen fish.
If stored correctly, cooked rice can be stored in the fridge from 4-7 days. Cooked vegetables in airtight containers can be stored for up to 7 days. If you’re brave 🙂
Tip #4: Create Freezer Meals for the 2nd Half of the Week To Avoid Food Burnout and Spoilage
I find that meal prep can be really boring tasting. After a few days of sitting in the fridge, sometimes food just isn’t nearly as appetizing as it was when it first came out of the pan. Not to mention almost everything prepared cannot be safely stored in the refrigerator the entire week.
This is why I try to have 2 meal prep days a week. When 2 Meal prep days just isn’t going to work out, I prep freezer meals that can be popped into my slow cooker or Insta-Pot for the second half of the week. After days of not-as-appetizing fridge meals have gone by it’s really wonderful to have a freshly cooked hot meal!
With my husband’s very meticulous diet, I more often than not end up meal prepping twice a week. I try to make sure that the majority of my and the girl’s food is prepped and ready for the slow cooker. It’s so satisfying to have it ready to go and not have to worry about a full meal prep day!
Tip #5: Have Backup Options Planned When Shopping
Nowadays food is not always available like it was pre-COVID-19. Prices have become highly unpredictable. My family is living off of my husband’s salary alone which means budgeting is key. When I shop, I try to buy fruit and vegetables that are in-season and the protein items that are a good value. Sometimes beef is ridiculously expensive when the next week the store is all but giving it away.
Picky eaters can be angry when that favorite food isn’t purchased! I always try to have backups of the favorites planned. Hopefully, with similar nutritional value.
I don’t plan fruit ahead of time. I really enjoy fruit that is truly ripe. I wait to plan fruit for what looks good and is on sale at the store. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, I don’t go to the store as much as I used to, I generally order for pick-up. In this case I make sure to check the store ads to see what fruit options are in season and on sale.
Tip #6: Buy Grains, Dry Goods, and Frozen Items in Bulk
My husband eats more white rice than my daughters and I do. The only time I really offer white rice to my children is if they see my husband eating it and really want it. At the same time, the girls and I eat pasta when my husband does not.
To avoid running out of grains and frozen veggies, I buy all of them in bulk during our monthly Costco-run. (It’s an hour away and is a pain to get into nowadays.) Without having to buy grains every week, I can ensure that everyone gets their grains and our budget is on target. I don’t want to spend more of my budget on items that can be easily stored. Fresh items tend to cost more, and I need to buy them more frequently.
Tip #7: Find Ways to Include the Family in Meal Prep
My husband has one method of cooking. Grilling. I use this to my advantage. When I need to prep massive amounts of chicken for his seven freakin’ meals-a-day, fire up that grill dude! Luckily, we have a great back porch where the grill sits. It’s within reach of our extra-long internet cable. Hubby just takes his smallest TV (yes smallest, as in he has way more than two) and puts on the game or his video games and does his manly grilling thing out there.
I strongly believe in getting my children involved in the kitchen. I want to ensure they have a healthy relationship with food as they grow and develop in an image-driven society. So, I make sure that my girls help me with the weekly meal prep. They have their own spice shakers, kitchen tools, and their own recipes. They are only 3 and 2 but they love to get involved! Yes, it can really slow me down to have them help but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Plus, I don’t have to come up with other activities that create additional messes when I get them involved in their meal prep. It also gives them a chance to explore the foods they like and investigate the ones they don’t.
That’s it! Good luck with meal prepping!
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I hope you found this helpful and you’re able to stay sane when you meal prep for your family who all have different diets! If you have any tips you want to share or you enjoyed this post, leave a comment below. If you want me to let you know when the next post comes out, please sign up for the mailing list!
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I think this is a struggle in most households! Thank you for the awesome tips, I will definitely be implementing these!
So glad to hear it! Thank you for commenting!