I oftentimes get asked what a typical week of plant-based and gluten-free eating looks like for our family of five. So today, I'm sharing an example week that looks pretty standard for our family. This includes breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner for all seven days of the week. So 4 meals per day per person (if you count snack-time which for us is basically a mini-meal). With five of us this means a typical week includes 140 meals! This is where meal planning, meal prepping and a couple of mom-hack shortcuts come in handy (especially during busy weeks). Below I'm sharing it all and I sincerely hope you find this helpful and inspirational as you think about your own families.
Our family dietary preferences
Before I dive into our family's typical plant-based meal plan, I thought I would share a little bit about our food preferences. Every family is different and every person in every family is usually a bit different when it comes to what they can have and what they like. My hope is you can draw from this general weekly example and create something that will work for your crew.
When it comes to food, my husband, Bobby, is as flexible and easy to please as they come. He will pretty much eat anything I make and never complains. I even got him eating Brussels sprouts and mushrooms which he used to not like. So he keeps things easy. Thank goodness!
Currently, my kids are ages 3, 5 and 7. I would not categorize any of them as picky eaters but like any kid they do have their preferences (i.e. nothing too spicy or too flavorful and it definitely cannot look "weird" or "too brown" or "gross"). But they are willing to try things usually and the more I offer the better they seem to get. I never pressure or force them to eat a certain way. My philosophy has always been to lead by example and make it as fun as possible. It also helps to have variety and color. And, involving them in the cooking process is a huge piece of our overall healthy eating success because it gives them ownership over the meal. My kids love fresh fruit, smoothies, applesauce, yogurt, granola, avocados, hummus (only if I make it lol), sandwiches, muffins, mac n cheese, creamy pasta and basically anything dipped in ketchup! I have to get extra creative with vegetables and sneak them into smoothies. For dinner they usually go for roasted sweet potatoes and peas. Sometimes maple roasted cauliflower too. Those are usually our go-to veggie sides. Carrots are a new addition to their vegetable rotation with my new method of preparing them.
As for me, I'm gluten-free, vegan and seem to do better with my migraines when I avoid refined sugars. I'm also allergic to dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts and corn. Outside of my food sensitivities/allergies, I'm very focused on making sure we get balanced meals throughout the week. I aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables depending on what is in season. I also tend to focus on whole grains like quinoa, brown or black rice and oats. I also try and incorporate healthy fats each day from nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans), seeds (sesame, pumpkin, chia, flax, hemp) and avocado. For us, plant-based protein comes from peas, chickpeas, black beans, quinoa, black beluga lentils, nuts and seeds.
So that is a bit about our family and our dietary preferences. I do all the cooking in our household and I try and involve the kids whenever possible. They love helping me make smoothies and pancakes. And they love to bake cookies and muffins with me too. They are starting to learn how to use a kid-safe knife and prep some softer vegetables and fruits with me too. Their greatest kitchen skills are mixing, pouring, measuring, pressing buttons on kitchen tools and licking the stirring spoons. With all the cooking I do throughout the week and all the time we spend together, it would be impossible not to involve them in the action. They get better with each recipe and I love to see them learn and for their confidence in the kitchen to grow. It is a wonderful (and very messy) bonding experience for us.
So given all this, you still are probably wondering, how do you make it happen each week? We are all so busy and life is stressful. Feeding your family nutritious home-cooked meals should not be something we dread. Below are my secrets for streamlining the process and keeping things as efficient as possible. Then, I share exactly what a week of meals looks like for our family (with all recipes linked) in the hopes of showing you that it is all possible with a little bit of forethought and planning.
Tips for Meal Planning
First things first, write it down. Write down what you have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry and use that to build your meal plan. Prepare a list of your family’s favorite meals and work off that list as you make your plan. Try and pick recipes that are easy to prepare (think one-pot, 30-min meals or Instant Pot when possible) and also recipes that make enough for leftovers. Plan your meals so that one sauce, dip or dressing can be used in two or more recipes for efficiency. Be sure to check out my round-up of my 25 Easy Weeknight Meals and Tips for Meal Planning article for more in-depth information on this.
Look at your pantry and freezer and then make a shopping list. This helps prevent food waste and also means you won’t have to run last minute to the grocery store. Be sure to check out 40 Easy Recipes Using Pantry Staples.
Highlight on the meal plan what you can prepare in advance. The weekend before I usually make my sauces/dressings, soups/stews, and a batch of hummus as well as prep veggies and bake breakfast muffins. I also make smoothie freezer bags for easy breakfasts or prep overnight oats or chia seed pudding in advance.
Keep nutritious snacks on hand. Energy balls/energy bites are a great on-the-go snack option to help get you from one meal to the next. I make a big batch and use throughout the week. Sometimes I double the batch and store extra in the freezer. Back when school was in session these were great to pack in lunches. My kids think they are dessert. Snack boards or snack muffin trays are always a quick and easy last minute snack solution. Be sure to check out my Healthy Snacking Tips for Kids and Toddlers article for tons of easy and nutritious snack ideas beyond what I highlight in this article.
Stay flexible. Leave some wiggle room in your meal plan and have a backup plan in case your week gets extra crazy for whatever reason. One of my favorite shortcuts is using Little Spoon meals for the kids a couple times a week. They offer both fresh, organic baby food and now toddler and kid’s meals called Plates that have been a game changer for our family! I'll share more about it next!
About Little Spoon Toddler & Big Kid Meals Plates
Note: all Little Spoon links provided below automatically apply my promo coupon code, “ELAINE” for one free Plates meal.
We used to use Little Spoon for their Babyblends (100% organic, pureed baby food) when my kids were infants. I loved that their Babyblends were made fresh with organic, nutritious and unique ingredients like turmeric, chia, pitaya, and more. And they were delivered fresh straight to my front-door - so convenient for new moms. Their baby food never contains additives, preservatives or stabilizers. And they don't use extreme heat to cook the food which can destroy key nutrients. I sometimes would add them into the kids’ school lunches or morning smoothies for a nutrition boost.
Once my kids were quickly past the baby food stage and eating solids, I was at a loss for that type of nutritious and convenient shortcut for dinnertime. Until now! Little Spoon contacted me to help launch their new line of Little Spoon Plates which are toddler & kid’s meals that are fresh (not frozen). The meals are balanced nutritionally, made fresh, non-GMO and do not contain preservatives or anything artificial. And for those of you who do eat meat and dairy, all proteins are antibiotic and hormone-free. Best of all, each meal contains one serving of protein, servings of vegetables, and superfoods and hidden veggies (that kids will actually go for) in every bite. Each meal comes with full nutrition facts and a full list of ingredients. They offer vegan and gluten-free options, too!
Here are my kids' favorites:
• Sweet Potato Millet Dippers with Broccoli
I have tasted them myself and was seriously blown away! They are delicious, fresh, satisfying, perfectly flavored and filling. I like to use Little Spoon’s kid’s meals once or twice a week to make life a little easier and avoid a night of dishes.
Everything is delivered straight to your front door in an insulated box to keep the meals cool. All you have to do is heat it up for 60-90 seconds in the microwave or pop it in the oven for a few minutes. It comes ready to go in a dishwasher-safe, BPA-free and recyclable plate so it’s easy for your little ones to join you at the table. We save all the plates and reuse them all the time. Little Spoon will also be launching a giveback program, allowing customers to send back their Plates for reuse once it’s safe to do so.
They also offer superfood condiments to compliment the meals. Geniuses! My kids absolutely love the "Veggie Ketchup" and I love that it is fortified with a superfood blend and made with clean, real ingredients. I stock up on extra to use throughout the week instead of regular ketchup. I wish they would bottle it!
Our Weekly Meal Plan
Below is our family meal plan for next week with notes on what I plan to make in advance. I included my grocery list for items not already in my pantry (scroll all the way to the bottom for that).
Note: All recipes are 100% vegan (no meat, dairy or eggs), refined sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free, peanut-free and corn-free.
Lunch: sunflower seed butter and raspberry chia jam sandwiches on whole wheat bread + strawberries + baby carrots
Dinner: The Best Vegan Mac N Cheese (with frozen peas stirred in for added protein)
What I Make In Advance:
I make the muffins, almond butter, chia jam, hummus and crackers in advance as part of my weekend meal prep for the week ahead. I usually make a double batch of the hummus, crackers and almond butter. Sometimes triple!
I make the sweet potato in my Instant Pot for the mac n cheese in advance. You can make the entire mac and cheese sauce in advance but I recommend combining it with the pasta just before serving for best results.
Breakfast: Chocolate Tahini Date Smoothie (with added Spinach and Little Spoon Wiz Kid Booster—another favorite from Little Spoon. This clean supplement with iron, vitamin ,E and vitamin C is helpful for those facing an iron deficiency in their kids or looking to boost brain development.)
Lunch: Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwiches or Cheesy Sweet Potato Quesadillas (we love VioLife vegan cheddar cheese slices from Whole Foods) and peas + apple slices
Snack: salted roasted pepita seeds + Easy Apple Nachos
Dinner: Taco Tuesday - Crispy Avocado Tacos
What I Make In Advance:
I typically make smoothies the morning of since they are so quick and easy. But, you could make in advance if desired. You could blend everything except for the ice and frozen ingredients and add that in the morning. Another option is to create a freezer bag with everything you need (other than the liquids) so you can dump and blend the next morning. I also love to make smoothie jars which contain all the dry ingredients that go in the smoothie (i.e. dates, chia seeds, cacao powder etc.).
For the tacos, I make the vegan sour cream in advance as well to allow it to thicken. The sautéed veggies and walnut taco meat could also be prepared in advance if you won't have time right before dinner to make them. They all keep well for a couple of days in an airtight container in the refrigerator (stored separately)..
What I Make In Advance:
The almond butter, crackers and chia jam are made over the weekend during Sunday meal prep as mentioned on Monday's plan. I make a double batch of almond butter and crackers typically. I also make the granola on Sunday. The almond milk can be made a day or two in advance and the almond pulp from it is saved to make the almond pulp hummus in the blender. The burgers can also be prepped in advance if desired. I typically make the quinoa for the burgers in the Instant Pot the night before I plan to make them so I can stir the ingredients together quickly and cook them. I make the sweet potato fries right before serving as they tend to get a bit soggy after being stored.
Breakfast: Strawberries and Cream Veggie-Filled Smoothie topped with leftover homemade granola and leftover almond butter drizzle (sometimes I add Little Spoon Sniffle Shield Booster (which is full of zinc, prebiotic and vitamins C & E ) into our smoothies to help with immune support) OR Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Lunch: Hummus Avocado Toast (using leftover hummus) + cherry or grape tomatoes
Snack: No-Bake Date Coconut Energy Bites + grapes and clementine
Dinner: Little Spoon Plates: Broccoli Bites with Sweet Potato Carrot Poppers and Green Beans (Bobby and I eat any leftovers from the week so far)
What I Make In Advance:
Smoothie freezer bag, granola, almond butter, hummus and energy bites are all made in advance. This makes this day very easy!
Lunch: bananas + leftover raw creamy almond butter + sprinkle of hemp seeds + salted roasted pepita seeds
Snack: cucumbers + leftover Almond Pulp Hummus and peach slices
Dinner: Sheet Pan Nachos (using leftover sour cream and vegan taco meat)
What I Make In Advance:
Granola, almond milk, almond butter and almond pulp hummus are all made in advance. For the nachos, you can make the vegan cheese sauce in advance. You can also make a double batch of taco meat on Taco Tuesday and use half of it in the nachos. I reuse leftover sour cream from Taco Tuesday here too.
Lunch: leftover No-Bake Date Coconut Energy Bites + mango
Snack: mashed avocado with salt + lime with Simple Mills almond flour crackers
What I Make In Advance:
The almond butter and energy bites are leftover from earlier in the week. You can make an extra batch of my homemade vegan sour cream recipe during Sunday meal prep and then use leftover sour cream in the one-pot pasta pasta recipe to make it easier. Usually on Saturdays I have enough time to make a new batch though.
Breakfast: Healthy Baked Chocolate Donuts
Lunch: Little Spoon Plates: Cauli Croquettes with Veggie Millet Poppers and Carrots (I keep it easy so I can start meal prep for the next week)
What I Make In Advance:
Sunday mornings lately are slow for us so I usually have time to bake with the kids. We love to bake these donuts and instead of topping with chocolate we use almond butter or store-bought unsweetened sunflower seed butter if we are out of almond butter. I love to serve the Little Spoon Plates for lunch so I can use lunchtime to start meal prep for the week ahead. I usually add the quinoa and sweet potatoes to the Instant Pot at some point throughout the day so come dinner time I can quickly make the tots. You can also make these in advance. Sometimes I triple the batch and freeze them for busy nights.
What I Prep in Advance for the Week
Here is a recap of what I try and make in advance over the weekend to make the week ahead easier:
• Vegan Sour Cream (takes less than 5 minutes to make)
• Blender Green Muffins (5 minutes of hands-on time)
• Homemade Almond Milk (takes 10 minutes)
• Homemade Almond Butter (takes 20 minutes but only 1 minute of hands on time)
• Hummus (takes 5-10 minutes if you skip boiling the chickpeas in advance)
• Energy Bites (takes less than 10 minutes)
• Raspberry Chia Jam (7 minutes)
• 2 smoothie freezer bags (takes 5 minutes)
• Granola (5 minutes of hands on time)
Total time spent meal prepping (hands-on time): approximately one hour (this does not include time to clean up and store everything - so allow extra time for that)
One hour! If you can spend just one hour on Saturday or Sunday meal prepping, your week ahead will be SO much easier. And you don’t have to prepare everything at once. Sometimes I break up the tasks throughout the weekend when I have pockets of time here and there (like when the kids nap or first thing in the morning while we are eating breakfast). I'm always throwing something in the Instant Pot it seems!
Grocery Shopping List for the Week
Here is my grocery list (items outside of my pantry and freezer that I typically have on hand):
• baby spinach
• fresh berries
• sandwich bread
• romaine lettuce
• bell peppers
• cherry or grape tomatoes
• almond flour crackers
Plus I order 6 Little Spoon Plates for the week:
Not too bad right!? Everything else for the week comes from the pantry. Again, be sure to check out how I keep a well stocked pantry and freezer. I buy my pantry and freezer staples in bulk at Costco when possible. Or direct from the supplier if I can get a discount that way. Of course, from time to time I do have to replenish my pantry items. So I'll always take inventory a day or so before the weekly meal prep begins to see if there is anything in the pantry or freezer I'm out of and need to replenish. But like I said in the beginning, I like to build my weekly meal plan based on what I already have on hand so nothing goes to waste and I don't wind up with a gigantic grocery shop every week.
So there you have it! I hope you found this helpful. If this post inspires you to meal prep this week for your family please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear how it goes for you. If you get a chance to snap a picture of any of the recipes then please tag me #eatingbyelaine / @eatingbyelaine on social.
This post is sponsored by Little Spoon. All writing and opinions are my own.