How much time does the average parent have for making dinner? None. How much time does the average autism parent have for making dinner? Ha! Your time is precious and so is your sanity. In addition, the task of creating a meal while dodging allergies, avoiding ingredient phobias or implementing doctor-prescribed diets can be daunting.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share a little about a website I’ve used to help keep my meal planning efficient without hitting the I’m-sick-of-spaghetti wall.
Food on the Table
Food on the Table (foodonthetable.com) started out as a website to help parents find new, healthy recipes that took advantage of sales at local grocery stores. Now they’ve grown to help thousands of families and have iPhone and Android apps to help make the process even easier.
First off, Food on the Table’s (FOTT for short) recommendations for recipes are useful, not crazy complicated and don’t require lots of special ingredients. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched for “chicken pasta with white sauce recipe” only to be inundated with a list of requirements that necessitate a trip to Restaurant Depot and 4 years of culinary training to compose. I’m just hungry, don’t have time and need something with spice! Thankfully, the list of recipes on FOTT also take advantage of prepackaged things to reduce the time to create good tasting dishes. Got food allergies? Got kiddo-won’t-touch-that-green-stuff syndrome? You can narrow down your search with categories or even specify ingredients to exclude. FOTT is not quite powerful enough to handle the most specific requests: Kay recounts to me how one of her son’s classmates in elementary school would only eat NutriGrain bars and Cheetos (his menu has since expanded). But then again, that grocery list is pretty short!
The layout is clean, pictures make your mouth water and hovering over each recipe pulls up info on local sales. Clicking on a category on the main page will bring up a list of recipes with that main ingredient, calling out the total prep and cook time on the right side. Clicking on a recipe will pull up the total ingredient list, with steps, ratings and comments from other users.
Make sure you’re really saving time by staying on task and not checking out that awesome spicy shrimp in avocado and summer tomatoes, with asparagus and crea … Focus Nathan!
Categories range from specific on-sale entrees like catfish fillet or bone-in porkchop, to more general things like pasta, shellfish, meat-free, etc. They include curated recipes (labeled original) as well as user submitted. You can also search for recipes that have been tagged with more specific information like gluten free or low carb to narrow the results. I couldn’t find any recipes tagged with casein free, but lactose free comes close.
Once you’ve picked a couple of meals, FOTT intelligently organizes your ingredient needs by category so you don’t have to spend an hour criss-crossing the store (no more cramped, dirty stick-notes for me!). You can see the estimated nutritional information for each meal and even browse all of the sales at the local store. I have an Android phone, but their iPhone app is just as functional.
For a low-tech solution, you can also print the grocery list. Easier to divvy up for the fam! You can use the phone only app if you want, but creating an account online will allow you to synchronize lists as well as protect from data loss if you lose or upgrade your phone
Free and Premium
So what’s the skinny on the cost? The free plan lets you choose up to 3 meal-plans per week. Which is to say, not a huge help if you’re trying to do all your meal planning in one place. However, FOTT does let you add your own ingredients to the recipe list (you’ll just have to remember what they’re for).
The paid version removes that meal cap as well as opening up a larger selection of recipes. Cost ranges from about $10/month down to $6/month depending on the length of your subscription. If it helps you find more, better sales, I’m sure you can make up the difference, but I’ve only been using the free plan, so take my advice with a grain of salt (hehe).
If you found this article useful, share with your friends using the pretty link buttons below!
We’re Autism Labs and we make software for low-functioning autistic individuals and their families.