Meal Planning When You’re a Vegetarian in a Meat-Eating Family

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vegetarian meal planning tips for a meat-loving family – Michelle eating ice cream

Hi there! I’m Michelle, one of Collin’s sidekicks!

I’ve been married over 20 years, which means I’ve made 7,362 dinners in my married life, give or take a few hundred. And I have to admit, it has made me SO tired of dinner time! 😴

When I was first married, I loved to make dinner. Possibly because it felt a little like playing house, and possibly because I had piles of new stuff to cook with from all of the wedding gifts we’d received.

Fast forward 20 years and add kids, jobs, and after-school sports, and by the time 6 PM rolls around, I am feeling every one of those 7,362 dinners I’ve previously made. When I don’t have a plan, I dread dinnertime. 😩

vegetarian meal planning tips for a meat-loving family – planner with recipe books planning meals

To avoid this, I have to make a plan each week or else we’d end up with takeout (not really a frugal or healthy way to go). I have a weakness for takeout! Why does food someone else makes taste SO good?

Oddly enough, though I don’t like to cook much anymore, I do love to collect cookbooks and try new recipes. I guess I’m trying to channel the old me who used to look forward to making time-consuming meals and hoping she shows up again. I usually try to grab a few recipes I plan to make for the week, and then make a list of ingredients I’ll need.

On top of not loving to cook, I have another issue when dinnertime rolls around; I’m a vegetarian in a meat-eating family. My hubby starts panicking if there’s no meat on the table, and my kiddos have joined his carnivore ways. It makes things a little trickier, but I’ve got a few strategies up my sleeve to deal with the vegetarian vs. meat-lovers issue.

vegetarian meal planning tips for a meat-loving family – homemade pizza

I recently grabbed this Veggie Burger Atelier book, and I’ve been making the yummiest veggie burgers. If you love veggie burgers, check out this cookbook for sure! I also love making the recipes I find on Hip2Save and Hip2Keto. Fathead pizza is one of my family’s favorite meals, and I love that one side can have meat and the other side can just have veggies!

I generally spend some time Saturday morning planning meals and making a grocery store list so I can shop later in the day. To make grocery shopping fit my schedule, I visit one store to get everything on my list (usually Walmart or WinCo), and then I make additional stops throughout the week as needed. I’ll also hit up Costco once a month to stock up on my favorite bulk buys.

I allow myself two takeout days per week, and I plan those for days when I know I’ll be busiest (like when I’ve got packed work or after-school schedules or planned date nights).

vegetarian meal planning tips for a meat-loving family – low carb snacks of olives, hard-boiled eggs, and cucumbers

I also put together snack packs for the family on Sunday evenings. We try to eat healthier, so these small containers of low-carb foods are perfect for grabbing out of the fridge for a mid-afternoon snack. It helps me stay on track, and my husband loves them so he’s not tempted by the vending machines at work. It’s also a cheaper alternative to pre-made protein snack packs you can find at the grocery store, and I can customize them to what we like.

vegetarian meal planning tips for a meat-loving family – soup and sandwich meals

I try to create one pantry dinner a week, which means I come up with a dinner based on what’s in my freezer and/or pantry. It’s a good way to use all those random items I get through couponing. I love to score deals but found I wasn’t always using those items efficiently, so this helps me get my money’s worth.

Sometimes we have Campbell’s soup and grilled cheese if I can’t think of anything else. But guess what? That leaves just four nights a week I have to plan for — sounds like a win to me!

Here are some tried and true tips for meal planning when you’re a vegetarian in a meat-eating family…
vegetarian meal planning tips for a meat-loving family – pot full of soup on stove
Avoid one-size-fits-all meals.

I’ve become pretty good at adapting recipes to fit all of our tastes. I don’t make a lot of single-dish meals such as casseroles. Instead, I’ll cook a meat and a few separate sides so everyone can pick what they want. We grill meat all year long on our patio, and thankfully my husband is the griller in the family, so it gives me a bit of a break.

Keep proteins separate & add them in later.

When I do make casseroles like lasagna or chicken pot pie, I cook them in bread loaf pans rather than big pans. This is so I can make a vegetarian version and a meat-eater version. If I make a soup with meat in it, I make the soup and then cook the meat separately. Then I add the meat to only the bowls of those who want meat. It works for us, and I’ve become pretty creative at working around the difficulties.

Bond over meatless courses, like dessert! 😍

And, of course, I believe dessert should be part of every meal plan! We try hard to eat healthy all week (we tend to skip dessert), but on Sunday nights I either make dessert or buy ice cream. Sunday desserts have become a family tradition, and we often invite grandparents or cousins over to have a big group enjoy this event with us.

vegetarian meal planning tips for a meat-loving family – ice cream for dessert once a week

So there you have it!

That’s how I handle my crazy life and stay sane at dinnertime! How do you manage meal planning for families with different dietary needs?

Join The Discussion

Comments 42

  1. Heather J.

    Wow. This is me! Glad to know someone else is in the same boat. Thanks.

    • Michelle Price

      Yay! Same here! It’s nice to know we aren’t alone 😉

      • Kinjal Patel

        i am vegetarian in an Indian family my husband and boys eat meat but not regularly but if you have an instant pot you can cook endless amount of recipes in it.

    • Kelly

      YES! I always thought I was the only vegetarian with this struggle. I basically do exactly what the author said by making meat separate to add to my husband and kids plates.

  2. Amy

    I need to start making those snack bowls. Where is the best place to buy the little paper dividers? I don’t want to invest in silicone ones until I’m sure it’s a habit I’m going to stick with.

    • Buckeyemom

      Cupcake liners work perfectly! 🙂

      • Michelle Price

        These are just cupcake liners!

  3. Ana Maria McCue

    I am also a vegetarian in a meat eating household. I also make meals where the meat can be added. Favorites are options like stir-fry, fajitas, spaghetti ( meatballs separate), tacos ( fake meat for me), etc. Some casseroles I can have my little meatless corner, otherwise, I will make two. A large meat for the boys and a small meatless for me. Works so far but I would still rather not cook! 🙂

  4. NF

    Yup, this is me too. I’m the only person in the family who’s a vegetarian and sometimes it’s hard! Some days I just make extras of the veggie meal and then eat it the next day while everyone else enjoys the freshly cooked carnivore meal lol.

    • Michelle Price

      It’s hard to get enough protein in sometimes too! I feel ya!

  5. callough

    Great read, even though I’m not a vegetarian and I rarely cook. Lol

  6. Kate

    Thank you! I’m Vegetarian and my family eats what I cook, and when I cook its always vegetarian, AND I do most of the cooking, so they are outta luck if they don’t like it. But my boys will eat meat outside my home on occasion. Anyways I love the post, I was feeling outside the “recipe box” with all the KETO talk lately. 😉

    • michelle (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I’d love to hear some ideas of what you make? I feel like I always struggle with making sure there is enough protein.

  7. Ellen

    When I cook, it’s always vegetarian! My husband sometimes cooks meat on weekends to placate my son, and my husband and kids are always welcome to order meat based dishes when we eat out. Meal planning is key! One of my kiddos is not only vegetarian but vegan because of milk and egg allergies. Key words are MEAL PLANNING and using meat/dairy/eggs as a side and not the main dish. It works for us!

    • Michelle Price

      I totally agree! Having a plan is KEY!

  8. Lovedeals

    I am vegetarian too.. n try making indian dishes with all beans n legumes .. perfect for protein and i do follow veganbysomi on instagram … she is awesome.

  9. Shannon

    Me too! I’m not totally vegetarian but I eat much much less meat than my family! Also I’m definitely sure that food cooked by someone else tastes better! I only cook to live not live to cook.

    • Michelle Price

      Yes! LOL 🙂

  10. BikingBev

    I’m vegan and the sole cook in the family. My college age son won’t go near any vegan protein foods, so when he’s home, dinners invariably include animal flesh. It’s a major chore for me. Not to mention the yuck factor. My husband is a lot more flexible and is happy to eat the vegan meals that I cook. This Thanksgiving I’m going 100% vegan, though I’m the only vegan in attendance. I think my guests will all be happy with the quality of my food choices. All except my son, of course!

  11. Lynsi

    I’m vegetarian too! I always feel like I’m alone in this world. Haha! I do the cooking so I always cook things without meat in them. I get in a cooking rut and can’t find as many new things though. I feel like it’s easier to find different things when you are cooking with meat.

    • Michelle Price

      This is exactly how I feel!

  12. Lisa

    I am a super healthy eating vegetarian in a meat eating family. I just do half and half or do the same thing in 2 different dishes. Like I make cauliflower pizza with parmesan and vegetables for me and meat 4 them. I make them meat chili and make me black bean with zucchini. I will make them pot roast and me some kind of tofu in the oven with vegetables. I will grill meat 4 them and tofu and veggies 4 me when I grill and a big salad 4 all. I will generally make 2 dishes that are almost the same so not as much work and substitute out the meat.

  13. Elizabeth With An S

    Happy to see my people here- it is hard being a vegetarian in a meat loving home!

    • Michelle Price

      Yes it is!

  14. Amy

    Thank you!

  15. Lissa C

    I’m in the same veggie boat too! Love this! The struggle is real for us veggies in a meat-eating household!

    • Michelle Price

      Yes! It is!

  16. Susan Crawford

    Can you give the recipe for the bread loaf pan? That is something my husband would actually try. Thank you.

  17. Elaine

    Right there with you! Vegetarian for 23 years. Husband and kids all eat meat. Luckily my husband has become a master at grilling my veggie burgers. Glad to see there are so many others in the same boat.

    • Michelle Price

      I had to train my hubby and all my family members that when you put a veggie burger on the plate of juicy burgers, the veggie burger is no longer veggie 😉 It has to stay seperate!

  18. Stephanie

    I’m also a vegetarian and my husband eats meat. He doesn’t mind eating vegetarian though. He keeps meatballs and precooked chicken breast in the freezer to add to meals easily. Some of our both ways dishes include breakfast for dinner (vegetarian and regular sausage on the side of pancakes or egg dishes ), pasta with meatballs added separately, soups with meat added separately, and veggie dogs/regular hot dogs.

  19. Ashley

    Thanks for the post! I wouldn’t label myself as vegetarian, rather I’m a “picky” pescatarian! But I feel your pain! I don’t order meat when we are out, but occasionally will have a bite of my husbands food if he’s really gushing over it-but you all get it, it just doesn’t do it four us. My almost 2 and 4 year old aren’t big meat eaters but I try to make sure they get balanced protein in there diet with plain Greek yogurt with added fruit, PB, and lentils/beans. Anyone buy Madras Lentils 🙋🏼‍♀️, it’s mine and the kids quick chili substitute! I would love to hear other recipes and processes!

  20. Elizabeth

    This was SO helpful to me, Michelle! Thank you for taking the time to share this!! I’ve been a vegetarian for just over 20 years now, also in a meat eating family (the kiddos took after daddy!) and honestly, planning dinner recipes has just become so frustrating to me these days! And that’s coming from a girl who used to really LOVE to cook as well! 🤷🏼‍♀️ I’m definitely going to implement your ideas, and I think that is going to be a game changer for us! 🙌🏼

    • Michelle Price

      Awesome! I’m so glad to hear it is helpful!

    • Michelle Price

      Never heard of those! I will try those for sure!

  21. Wren

    I’m not a vegetarian, but I identify with most of the first half of this post 🤣

  22. AZinOZ

    I have one son that is allergic to dairy, egg, peanuts, and bananas, a husband that is diabetic (low carb/low sugar), another son that can eat anything he wants, and then myself. I sometimes wind up making 3 versions of the same meal to feed everyone.
    For example: this week I made Zucchini boats. I made the beef/veggie/tomato mix together and then put the zucchini boats in 2 separate pans. One pan got cheese on the top of them, while another pan got the diaya “cheese”. Then the boys got some rolls to go with theirs, while my husband had a salad. This was an easy meal….. sometimes I will literally make 2 completely different things to ensure everyone is full and healthy. It’s exhausting….

  23. Ali S.

    I am so happy to know that I’m not alone! THANK YOU! I’m the vegetarian mama to a very meat-heavy husband and two kids. Husband gets frustrated when I’ve made a vegetarian meal (like veggie lasagna), but I feel like if I work full time and do my best to cook some of the days, everyone should be grateful. We make a lot of tacos and fajitas – meat for them with beans/veggies for me. Fried rice is also easily vegetarian and you can add a meat topper (like shrimp). My family also likes egg salad sandwiches for lunches on the weekends. Breakfast for dinner is also easy as the bacon/sausage can be completely separate for me. Those are my top meals to cook.

    • Michelle Price

      Yes! We eat breakfast for dinner a lot too!

  24. Haley

    I’m not vegetarian by a long shot, but my sister is and I sometimes dream of it. No worrying about contamination on your cutting boards, no over or undercooking expensive cuts of meat, and probably a smaller grocery bill!

    What we have found works well for us is when she visits I made more sides than I normally would and she makes a meal out of the sides. Especially for Thanksgiving- I make sure to have a vegetarian stuffing and a vegetarian gravy and then she fills her plate with mashed potatoes, veggies, sweet potato casserole, rolls, etc., and eats with the rest of us carnivores.

    • Michelle Price

      That’s exactly what works good for us too. Lots of sides so everyone is happy!

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