Back to School: Tips for Transitioning Your Family Meals

A simple lunch for people with celiac disease  is rarely ever simple. We usually have to buy expensive prepared foods, or do a lot a work in the kitchen. With a little planning, we can reduce the time in the kitchen, reduce the cost, and relieve the stress. In the end it’s all about making the time to enjoy your family, and knowing that what they eat will be safe and nutritious. With school just around the corner, let’s take a little time and figure out how to make this happen.

There are 4 key elements to elevating your gluten free lunches, and getting back your  time and money. These are: Planning, Reuse, Linked meals and Nutrition. Let’s take a look at each of these elements.

Planning: This is a simple element, one that we hear all the time but rarely do. Planning a week of meals will allow you to shop efficiently, and save money. When planning meals, prepare double or triple to accommodate dinner and school lunches for the next day [Reuse]. This also saves time and reduces the number of meals you have to cook, saving time.

Reuse: The more common word for this is leftovers. Cooking a meal for 4 servings or 8 takes the same amount of time. Let’s look at it this way, in one week there are 21 meals. If we spend an average of 30 minutes cooking each meal, we spend more than 10 hours cooking a week (not to mention the cleanup). Cooking extra servings at dinner for lunch the next day, can save you 3-5 hours a week in the kitchen. Cooking extra food on days off and freezing it can give you whole days with little to no cooking.

Linked Meals: Linking meals is part planning and part common sense. Linking is simple, roast two chickens at the same time, debone, and use one for chicken tacos tonight and the other for soup the following night. Additionally, the chicken bones can be boiled down for an amazing stock that will make the soup delicious, and the nutritional value outstanding. Linking meals and purchasing for the week, allows us to save money by buying the items at a larger bulk rate. With linking, we reduce our effort, and save money.

Nutrition: This is where I get on my soap box. You can find good nutrition in gluten free foods, but not all of them have it. There are a lot of products that are full of starch, have little fiber, and are of limited nutritional value. A Lunch with a lot of refined starches can leave your kid hungry, and make it hard to concentrate. A child with a proper lunch is happy, full of energy and ready to learn. Remember, Plan, Reuse, Link, and Nutrition. Follow these guide lines and you can save money, time, energy, and effort. Follow these and make gluten free easy and healthy. We have included some additional tips. Enjoy.


  • Keep quick items such as premade turkey burgers on hand for those days when you just don’t have time to cook.
  • Get your kids eating more fruits and vegetables and cut down on the amount of processed food. These will keep your kids full longer because of the fiber in these foods. Start with  a small amount of one fruit or vegetable first and try the new food item when in season. Remember kids need to be offered vegetables on a consistent basis to learn to like the flavor. Follow the link for seasonal produce.
  • Mix vegetables in with sauces and casseroles to up the nutrition in traditionally made foods.
  • Use frozen vegetables if time is an issue. Steam bags are available now. All you have to do is microwave and they are ready.
  • Nut butters (such as almond butter, hazelnut butter, etc.) are an excellent choice. These butter are high in protein and fiber and keep your child satiated longer than starches.
  • To cut down on gluten free food costs buy in bulk at your local warehouse store. Rice, beans, sugar, yeast, quinoa, frozen vegetables, basic spices and even GF four mixes are significantly lower cost by purchasing them this way.
  • Soups are a good way to utilize produce that may be past its peak. Vegetables can be pureed with tomatoes for a good base for your soups or stews.
  •  Don’t forget the seasonings!  You can add a lot of flavor to vegetables and meats with proper cooking and some simple seasoning.
  • If you are on a budget, avoid buying any processed food which is typically expensive.  Shop the sale adds of your local paper to buy sale items that you can share across meals(rice, potatoes). Good quality protein first( dry beans, whole chicken, organic beef), seasonal vegetables or frozen, grains etc., are essentials in your pantry. Also, stretch your meat dollar with beans.  Dried beans have a high nutritional value, with a low cost.

Snack ideas: gluten-free pretzels with hummus, peanut butter balls, banana bread, almond cookies, sliced up flat bread with hummus or nut butter, popcorn


Sample Meals for a family of 4-5 


Breakfast: apples peanut butter, milk

Lunch: homemade tomato soup and carrot sticks

Dinner: taco salad with ground beef and bean, lettuce, onion, salsa (double)


Breakfast: boiled eggs, milk, seasonal fruit

Lunch: taco salad

Dinner: roast 2 chickens; one with risotto rice and frozen peas


Breakfast: gluten-free cold or hot cereal (choose one with higher fiber) with

yogurt(low sugar) and pineapple

Lunch: chicken salad; or for kids, shredded chicken on a sandwich with

hummus and cheese or mayonnaise, seasonal fruit

Dinner: chicken noodle soup and spinach salad with red onion


Breakfast: scrambled eggs with salsa and cheese

Lunch: romaine lettuce salad and chicken, pecans, red onion, chopped carrot with your favorite

dressing (careful with salad dressing if you are watching calories)

Dinner: lamb roast on GF flat bread topped with finely shredded fresh cabbage,

chopped red onion and hummus

Friday Leftover day. Pick one day during the week to utilize leftovers. A no-cook day

is welcome in most homes!


Have one day a week to clean out refrigerator and plan next week’s meals.

  • Plan day • Cooking day • Shopping day • Refrigerator clean out day

Breakfast: high protein pancake and sausages, seasonal fruit

Lunch: salmon and cheese and green chili quesadilla or any leftovers that are

not more than 4 days old.

Dinner: gluten-free lasagna (make 2)


Breakfast: smoothies

Lunch: leftover lamb roast

Dinner: chicken strips and steamed broccoli and seasoning, and sweet potato

fries (double this)


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