January is the time for making resolutions. A lot of people try to use January to get started with a new diet, to start menu planning, or to start getting organized around what and when you eat so that you can over overall become healthier.
One of the things that I started doing a few years ago to make myself more organized in healthy eating and sticking with my gluten-free dairy-free diet is menu plan each week. I have planned and written down my intentions of what I was going to make and feed myself and my family each week for a number of years now.
Since I’m a blogger who talks about a gluten-free dairy-free diet, people have asked me for recipes and menu plans for a long time. But I didn’t really share them because I thought that for some reason that what I made wouldn’t be interesting to someone else.
That somehow how my family eats wasn’t going to be the same as how someone else would want to eat. Or that we would be boring or our meals wouldn’t be Pinterest-worthy enough or just not good enough Or just something. I was keeping it to myself for a million bad excuse reasons.
It wasn’t until about six months ago in the summer of 2018, when I finally got so many requests of menu plans and recipes that I finally just said to myself, What if I try this? What if I try sharing what I eat and getting feedback on what people are really looking for?
I set out to do this small little test of sharing menus and recipes of things that I actually create for my family. I just wanted to see if it was something that people would be interested in hearing about from me. Being that it was something that I was already doing on my own, but actually required a decent amount of work for me to sit and write down the things that I was making and create shopping lists – I decided to charge for it.
I decided that I was going to charge for it, but it was going to make it a price that felt accessible, and that wasn’t overwhelming. That’s this service would be something, frankly, that I would be willing to pay for.
In summer of 2018, I launched GFDF Weekly. That is my recipe and menu planning service for helping you stay on track with your gluten-free dairy-free diet.
Now when I started, I just sort of like wrote down the recipes that I was eating and put them into a PDF. I wrote down a shopping list because I felt like that was going to be something that not only I could benefit from because it’s something that I do anyways, but that it was something that everyone else who was getting started or trying to stick with a gluten-free dairy-free diet would be able to benefit from.
So I just started with this very simple idea and it has been massively successful. I have had more than 100 people who have gone through or are current subscribers of GFDF Weekly. I am immensely proud of this service that I just kind of dreamed up one day when my son was in his first few weeks of preschool over the summer months.
Since then, I have been putting out five recipes every week plus shopping lists for the combination of those five recipes – for six months now. This service is something that I am so excited about, because I can see how much it has helped so many people.
I am also immensely proud of it, because every single recipe that I’ve shared has been unique. I have had no repeats for six months – and I intend on having no repeats for at least an entire year of creating this product. GFDF Weekly is something I’m so excited about, something that I love talking about and sharing with, because I’m passionate about sharing about my journey of being gluten and dairy-free, but also about helping others stick with a diet that feels right for them. A gluten-free dairy-free diet helps me feel my best every day, so I love that when I share what I create and eat that others can benefit from it too.
I really just wanted to take an opportunity on my blog to kind of talk to you about how I menu plan, about how I come up with recipes to share, and about how I stick with this diet myself.
Because really GFDF Weekly isn’t me creating something for YOU this is frankly me creating something for MYSELF that I am also sharing with you, and just making sure it’s in a format that I can allow you to benefit from.
Like, this is how I already eat. This is how I already feed my family. But you can benefit from it as well because I take the time every week to kind of put documents together in a way that is digestible for anyone else following this diet to benefit from.
I wanted to take you behind the scenes today of what GFDF Weekly is all about, but more so how I create this service and how I put this together every week. Menu planning is such a great habit to get in – whether you do it yourself or have someone help you along the way. And I really just want to take some time in todays blog post to share with you how easy this habit can be to get into and get started with.
The very first thing that I just really want to emphasize is that menu planning is NOT HARD. I think a lot of people are really intimidated by the fact that it takes organization and a lot of work, and you have to just be really be on the ball with things all the time.
But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s really about getting into a HABIT and about sticking with it because once you start doing it. It’s just thing that you kind of run on autopilot once you get started with it.
Now if you’re running a service like I am, there’s a lot more steps to it. But when you are doing it for yourself, it’s just not that complicated. But in the end, the benefits are great!
Not only are you being able to choose meals that are for you, you’re picking out your own high quality ingredients and you’re saving money, AND reducing your waste.
So even if you don’t want to get in on my recipes with GFDF Weekly, I want you to be able to see how I create my menu plans so that if you’re a DIY-type of person, you can do this on your own too. And you’re not intimidated with sticking with your gluten-free dairy-free diet or feeling like you have to follow my recipes in order to benefit from menu planning.
Let me walk you through this process of how I create GFDF Weekly.
When I am creating GFDF Weekly, there are seven steps that I go through each and every time I create a menu plan for myself and for my service. So let’s go ahead and go through these seven steps together:
Step 1. Start with a template.
Every single month I have a template that I follow. Within that template, I menu plan for five meals a week, because I like to keep two days open for leftovers and for going out. In my family, we we usually go out once a week and we usually always have leftovers in some capacity once a week.
I have a spreadsheet on my computer where Ive created a template for each month and within each month I have different categories, like:
- Light meals (meatless, chicken, stir-fry, etc)
- Quick/Easy/Cheap meals
- Heavier meals
- Seasonal meals (hearty soups or stews in the cooler months, salads or grilled meals in the warmer months)
- International meals (Mexican, Asian, Italian, pizza, etc)
I like to have these categories and a template so I know what I’m aiming for each week – and so that I can spread meals out throughout the month, so things don’t get too heavy or too light throughout the week. I like to keep things spread out and full of variety with meat, meatless, etc. so that we don’t get burned out on the same flavors or textures throughout the week. In the past, Ive gotten in the habit of menu planning, but not being mindful of variety and very quickly gotten tired of the same meals over and over – so thats become really important for me.
Of course, you don’t have to have a template or categories – and go by the seat of your pants – but for me, its nice to have some kind of structure so that I can just plug things in and move on to the next step.
Step 2. Do some research and look for recipe inspiration.
This step is really just about writing down as many meal ideas as you possibly can. Go ahead and get out a notebook and start writing down as many different meal ideas that you like to eat, that your family likes to eat, and things that are important to you while you are cooking.
For example, what’s really important is to have meals that center around ingredients that aren’t extremely expensive, meals that don’t take a really long time to cook – or if they do take a long time, I’m leveraging my time by having something just in the oven or crockpot and its hands-off cooking time.
I generally try not to be in the kitchen for more than 45 minutes tops to create dinner. That just feels like a good maximum for me to aim for. Sometimes I go over, but it’s not too often.
I try and kind of like set up myself with these different points that I, that I want to hit on when I go looking for recipe inspiration.
When it comes time to go and do the research, I look at places like Pinterest, blogs, and cookbooks. I have gone to the library and checked out a couple of cookbooks every month or two if I’m feeling like really in a rut. Ill just flip through them until I find a few things that inspire me to create something similar.
I don’t copy recipes one for one because that just doesn’t feel right to me and frankly because I’m really not a good rule follower. Whenever I have a recipe, my husband always makes fun of me because I never will just follow it to a tee. I always like to put my spin on something.
Another thing I try to do is take recipes that I already know that I like and can kind of just tweak them a little bit so they’re unique. So like I said before, we like to have pizza in our International category once a month, because everyone in my house enjoys the flavor of pizza (who doesn’t love pizza?!). But I never make it the same way. I try to make something a little bit different just to keep things interesting, and so that we’re not always eating the same things over and over.
People often come to me and tell me that eating gluten-free and dairy-free can be so repetitive and boring, so my goal has really been from day one of starting GFDF Weekly to prove that we can have unique, amazing, delicious recipes every night of the week.
They don’t have to be the same over and over. You don’t have to eat chicken and broccoli every night the same way in order to eat healthy and to stay on this diet.
So get to researching recipes and inspiration, then…
Step 3. Gather your recipes.
For me, this step is to gather inspiration and write the recipes I plan to make. Now for you, you probably don’t need to WRITE recipes because you probably already have found the recipes that you want to use. But for me, I like to create my own recipes to share with the subscribers in GFDF Weekly.
This is really important to me in creating GFDF Weekly that the recipes I share are my own, and that these recipes aren’t just a copy of someone else’s. Sure. I find recipes in blogs or that I’d found on Pinterest or in cookbooks that I use as jumping off points, but I never copy them, because that just doesn’t feel right or authentic to me.
For you, this step is simply just getting all the recipes that you found on your big researching adventure and getting them all in one place (as much as possible).
As you are gathering recipes, you can flag recipes in cookbooks, take photos or screenshots of them for your phone, or save links in a place like Evernote or Google Calendar. Wherever feels best for you to have a place for you to reference come dinner time, keep your recipes and ideas there. Get them all together so that you’re ready for the next step.
Step 4. Plug the recipes into your calendar.
Whatever place that feels good to keep your meals organized, write them down. You can do this in a spreadsheet, a paper calendar, in your Google calendar, on your phone wherever!
Just write down the meals that you want to make on each night of the week. This could not be simpler!
If you want to follow the whole template or category idea, you can. Otherwise just start writing meals down on days of the week and set intentions for what you will eat.
I know people get really overwhelmed with this idea – like somehow if they write it down, it becomes REAL. And that if they don’t want to follow that that something bad will happen. Well, I’m here to tell you if you don’t follow the menu plan to the T, the world will not collapse into itself!
Don’t stop yourself from setting up a good habit for fear of failing. If you get off track one day, swap the meal with something else in the week. If you wind up going out to eat on Wednesday instead of Sunday, swap Wednesdays meal into the Sunday slot. Its no biggie. Just a plan and plans can be changed!
Set intentions to set yourself up for success and don’t get derailed when things go off track for one meal. You can easily get back on track the next day or even the next week, if need be.
This is all about almost giving you the structure so that you have freedom to be in this gluten-free dairy-free diet and feel good about sticking with it.
Step 5. Create a shopping list.
In this step, you take all the recipes that you’ve gathered for the week that you have written down in your calendar, and you simply go through them and write down all of the different ingredients that you need at the grocery store.
For me and GFDF Weekly, I write down every single item that I would need at the grocery store and I try to put it in order of the store section, because it makes it easier for me to shop that way. I think its really useful to go into a store, know exactly what I need from the produce section, shop there, then move on to the next section. I think it’s really helpful for the subscribers in service to be able to just take it straight to the store and know exactly what they need too. Of course, if you already have things like salt and pepper and olive oil, you can simply cross those out – or just know you don’t need to buy them.
When you spend time getting organized with your shopping list for all the ingredients you need for the whole week, you can go into the store and save time AND save money. You’re not buying all these extra ingredients for meals that you aren’t going to be using and then potentially them going bad.
So I like to have an organized shopping list created for me and for GFDF Weekly, so that it just makes shopping so much easier when I get there. I’m not running around the store or my kitchen once I get cooking and missing ingredients.
The second part to this step is to finally go to the store – and get all the things on your list!
Step 6. Make the recipes for dinners for you and your family.
This is where all your hard work pays off. You go into the kitchen, you know what you’re going to make, you have everything to make it, and you get it done. You knock the meals out – saving time, saving money, not wasting extra food. Its glorious!
For GFDF Weekly, I create the recipes Ive written for my family. Then as I’m cooking, I tweak them based on what I’ve written, in case I need to adjust seasonings or something.
Step 7. Gather everything together so that you can use it again in the future.
This step for GFDF Weekly and for you is to simply just keep everything together. So for me, I export all my recipes and my combined shopping list. I put it all into a PDF document and then I upload it into my delivery service for getting my recipes and menu plans out to the people who have subscribed to my service.
For you, this step will be simply finding a way to save your menu plan, so that you can use it in the future. Maybe you file it away in a folder or save your paper calendar and shopping list so that you have it again in a few weeks or months. Whats great is that when you do this work once, you can repeat the same menu plan a little while later – and the work is already done for you!
So that was a lot of steps and a lot to cover here in how to get started menu planning AND how I plan for GFDF Weekly every week. So just to recap:
- Step 1. Start with a template.
- Step 2. Do some research and look for recipe inspiration.
- Step 3. Gather your recipes.
- Step 4. Plug the recipes into your calendar.
- Step 5. Create a shopping list.
- Step 6. Make the recipes for dinners for you and your family.
- Step 7. Gather everything together so that you can use it again in the future.
Alright, so those are the seven steps that I use to create GFDF Weekly every single week. That’s how I put it out, every week and every month. Like I said, this is something I’m immensely proud of that I have been able to use something that has benefited my family for years and actually helped those of you who don’t love menu planning on your own. Again, I hope that these seven steps have helped you if you are trying to do this on your own, to kind of get some insight into how someone who’s been doing this for a long time can get started.
Of course, if you’re one of those people who would love some help getting started or sticking with your gluten-free dairy-free diet, I would love to be the person to help you do that.
I would love to invite you to join me in GFDF Weekly. This is a program that runs for $10 a month right now. With that $10 a month, you get five recipes a week plus a shopping list for all five of those recipes.
This service is really straightforward. That’s kind of my motto here – keep it simple. You get exactly what you need to put it a gluten-free dairy-free diet into practice. I include all dinner recipes, because I found that that is what people have really needed the most, and what people have been asking for the most from me over the years.
If you have any questions at all about menu planning or getting started, if you have any questions about getting started with a gluten-free dairy-free diet or about my GFDF Weekly service, I’d love to hear from you! So go ahead and pop those questions in the comments below and I will get back to you.