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March 24, 2017

Stress Free Everyday Meals on a Gluten Free Diet

Post by Cinde Little

Stress Free Everyday Meals on a gluten free diet, does that sound like a dream? Do you imagine that only the ultra organized, menu planners of the world can achieve this? As much as I like the idea of menu planning for the week it just doesn’t work for me…but I have lots of ideas to help you get more everyday home cooked meals on the table.

Stress Free Everyday Meals on a gluten free diet
Stress Free Everyday Meals on a gluten free diet -photo credit Jim Little

What Are You Eating for Dinner?

Michael Pollan, American author, journalist and food activist, asks us to learn more about what we eat. From his little book titled Food Rules the first rule is Eat Food. Not pre-seasoned, packaged, prepared, processed food-like substances. Not reheating something out of a box. Just plain old everyday cooking. For the health of it.

Remembering why you want everyday home cooked meals is a great place to start. After that it’s all about the process. Recipes are everywhere and every food imaginable is available. Your kitchen can, and may already be, reasonably well stocked.

So what are the barriers to getting dinner on the table in your house? Are you always out of important ingredients? Are you bored with your menu and feel like you need new ideas? Do you feel like cooking is too much effort?

Spending a few minutes to figure out what small changes would have the biggest impact in your kitchen is a worthwhile exercise. Then baby steps. What step can you make this week that will get you closer to where you want to be?

I’ve broken down the process of everyday meal prep into six categories:

  1. Enthusiasm in the Kitchen
  2. Grocery Shopping
  3. Your Kitchen Pantry
  4. An Organized Kitchen
  5. Your Cooking Style
  6. Increased Variety

Enthusiasm in The Kitchen

If you think cooking is a chore you’re doomed. If you are teaching your kids the same message you are doubly doomed. You can change your mind about this whenever you want. Cooking is a life skill. It can be fun and it can be easy. It can also be challenging and rewarding. Producers of food-in-a-box imply that home cooking is a chore. But many people would say it is a stress reliever. It can help take your mind off of a busy day or a lengthy To Do list. Your kitchen does not need to be like the pressure cooker you see on TV.

Grocery Shopping

As with everything in life the only thing you can change is your perspective. Do you think ‘how is it possible to have a full fridge and yet it seems like nothing to eat’? Shopping again? Lean into the idea that you get to choose every ingredient you buy. Spend a little more time planning and a little less time shopping. Include time to repackage some foods into smaller, useable portions. Label items for the freezer with the name of the dish you have in mind.

You need fresh produce for a healthy diet. Make sure your grocery shopping includes some root vegetables that have a longer shelf life and both frozen and canned food that you like. If you like raw veggies, salads or cooked vegetables focus on the variety you need and replenish with that in mind. More everyday cooking helps keep all the food moving. Whether you shop every day or once a week is not the point. Figure out the least stressful, most enjoyable way to get the job done and do it with a smile on your face.

Your Kitchen Pantry

Find the balance of enough food in your kitchen that you can cook but not so much that you can’t find things easily. Divide, separate, label and organize until you get there. Then divide, separate, label and organize again. For me the goal is spending no more than one minute checking to make sure I have the ingredients I need for any dinner.

An Organized Kitchen

This is a personal thing but a reasonably organized kitchen space certainly makes cooking enjoyable. Designated areas where gluten is allowed may make stress free everyday meals possible. Figure out what bugs you and fix it. The small effort this takes will pay off day after day for years to come. Remember, baby steps. Being organized and respectful will help set everyone up for success.

Your Cooking Style

Do you know your cooking style? What dishes are easy for you to make? Making more of the dishes you enjoy will by default make the daily tasks more enjoyable. Make stress free everyday meals a goal and encourage other family members to contribute to the plan.

Slow Cooking – My husband likes to make soups and stews. He can make them on a weekend afternoon or on a night he is home. I always encourage him to double the recipe so another meal can be kept for the fridge or freezer. We are not slow-cooker people but if that works for you do it.

Oven Dishes – Depending on your schedule you might like dishes where you combine a few ingredients, pour that sauce over something and toss it in the oven. Sticky Apricot Chicken and Cranberry Orange Chicken are those kind of recipes and they freeze well. I always make enough for two meals.

Stove-Top Cooking – Apparently I can make a stir-fry when others claim there is no food in the fridge. I’ve got a well-stocked pantry and a recipe card taped inside a cupboard door right by the stove with my everyday stir-fry recipe. When I don’t feel like Asian it’s easy pasta dishes like Butternut Squash and Pancetta Penne or Chicken Pesto Pasta.

Grilling – In Canada we ‘barbecue’. Some people call it grilling. Both summer and winter many Canadians use their BBQ. It is commonly placed within reaching distance from a door and there will be a light so one can cook in the dark. If this sounds like your house then you need a variety of sauces and rubs like this adobo paste.

No matter what you like to cook experience comes from trying. While gluten free baking requires some knowledge…cooking stress free everyday meals is much easier. A little more of this and a little less of that is what it’s all about. If you wonder why a certain ingredient isn’t listed in a recipe and it makes sense to you…just add it. Taste as you go and adjust. If you want to recreate your masterpiece, take notes.

Increased Variety

If you thought about it you could likely name some easy, reliable recipes you like but just haven’t made for a while. Make an index card with five seasonal recipe ideas or list some old favourites. Set a goal to make each of those recipes before the season is up. Or make a new Top 10 recipe list. Tape it to the inside of a cupboard door where you will see it. When you don’t see it anymore make a new list. A reminder note in your phone with that same list might work too.

Stress Free Everyday Meals on a Gluten Free Diet

Stress is not all bad but the idea it to fit cooking into your life in an enjoyable way. So what are you making for dinner this week? In the comments below I’d love to hear if there was an idea here that inspired you or if you have a tip to share.


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