3 Steps To Figuring Out What’s For Dinner With Food Allergies When You Have No Idea
I’m a big fan of meal planning. I’ve written many blogs about how to do it and why it works great for busy food allergy mamas. But I’m also realistic. I realize that there are some days when you might fall out of sync and miss a meal planning session. Or, like me at the moment, you may be feeling less than motivated to create a meal plan, but you still want to get a healthy food allergy dinner on the table with minimal stress.
I also wrote a blog about cooking from the pantry. Cooking from the pantry is one of my favourite ways to get dinner on the table when I feel like skipping the meal plan. You can go back and read that article, but in this article I’ll take about other ideas to get inspired in between meal planning phases.
If you’re managing multiple food allergies OR you’re feeling overwhelmed with reading labels, don’t miss the tip after these 3 steps!
Keep reading, OR if you would rather see it in video format, you can watch it here.
3 Steps to figure out what to cook for dinner when you’re feeling stuck
1.Figure out how much time you have.**
What day are you thinking of cooking this meal? Likely, you’re going to be a “last minute Nelly” and this is for tonight.
If so, then the first thing you need to figure out is how much time you’ll have to make whatever it is. You really don’t want to set out to make a multi-step casserole when you only have time for take out. So realistically think about your time limitations for whatever day you’ll be cooking. This may also affect step 3 below since you may not have time to get to the grocery store.
2. Look to see what ingredients you have already.
Nobody wants to end up with a head of moldy cauliflower in their crisper. Not only is this gross, but its a huge waste money, not to mention the food waste. So take a bit of time looking through your fridge first, then your freezer and pantry.
When you see that big head of cauliflower does it instantly say, “yes, that’s the perfect dinner”?
It’s great if you get inspired just by looking at a food (and it isn’t a unicorn, just so you know), BUT, once you find something you need to use up, feel free to Google cauliflower recipes. Hopefully, you’ll find something that will both satisfy your family’s taste and food allergies.
But what do you do if you’re looking at a bare fridge or nothing seems to jump out at you? Move to the next step….
3. Look to see what’s on sale.**
This can start as an online search from home, OR if you like to see and feel the “goods” you may want to head over to your local market.
If you REALLY want to feel inspired. GO TO A DIFFERENT MARKET. Don’t go to the same one you always go to. By going somewhere different (even if they aren’t usually the most allergy-friendly because you’re focusing on the produce and meat section anyway).
You’d be surprised how inspired you can feel when you get into totally NEW surroundings. You’ll find yourself looking at different foods and your creative juices will start flowing. And don’t worry if you go back and forth between the meat and produce sections several times because you think of something else you need. Better at the store than when you’re already home!
Once you get to the market, look for reduced items. Once again, if the reduced/sale chicken thighs aren’t immediately catching your eye, feel free to Google recipes in the grocery store. There’s nothing wrong with using online resources, because yes, we can (what did our moms do without 24hr access to recipes?!)
What If You’re Managing Multiple Food Allergies OR You Want To Decrease Label Reading?
If you’re managing multiple food allergies, a good tip is to stay in the produce and meat section. This will decrease having to read label after label, and stop you from feeling completely overwhelmed instead of inspired.
While you’re in the meat and produce department, think about classic flavour combos that you can create JUST with produce, meat and a little salt and pepper. You can get inspiration from meals and flavours you’ve eaten in the past or just go with the common, well-known ones:
Common Produce Flavour Pairing Ideas
tomato and basil
tomato and cilantro
avocado and cilantro
peas and mint*
carrot and cumin*
potato and rosemary*
potato and garlic
potato and parsley
mushroom and garlic
almost any veggie and bacon
wilted greens and garlic
Common Meat Flavour Pairing Ideas
beef and Montreal steak spice
beef and rosemary
beef and salt & pepper
chicken and garlic
chicken and lemon
chicken and rosemary
chicken and apricot*
pork and apple
bacon and almost any veggie
lamb and mint
You can create these flavour combos with a little oil, salt and pepper (and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice) and have a really good meal!
Will My Family Eat It?
A little note for when we go to decide if your family will eat the meal.
Make sure to think about this LAST.**
If you think about what your kiddos will eat BEFORE you go through the process above, you’ll likely find yourself in a bit of a box where you’ll end up just cooking the same old thing again. We’re already limited by our food allergy restrictions and we want to open things up as much as possible. Besides, if you let yourself become inspired first, you may be more apt to trying something new. The cool thing is that your kids might just surprise you and you’ll discover a NEW family favourite in the process!
Use these steps the next time you’re feeling stuck for dinner ideas. Although meal planning will save you more time and energy than doing it this way, I also know that nobody is perfect (including me) and this process will definitely work in a pinch!
What about you? How do you get inspired when you’re feeling stuck? Do any of these steps work for you? Comment below!