Make Family Meal Planning Fun & Rewarding
Family meal planning doesn’t have to feel like such a chore.
When cooking for a family, it’s easy to get burnt out in the midst of summer vacation. (Especially if you have picky eaters who complain about the food!) Parents often feel hurried, opting for a quick dinner-in-a-box and sacrificing nutrition for something their kids feel like eating. And then comes the guilt and the anger, making family meals more stressful.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Sometimes altering our routine is a good thing and we can come together to make positive changes in our family rituals. Here are a few creative ideas for making family cooking fun:
1. Let everyone choose a meal. Even kids know what they like to eat.
You can make mealtime planning a family activity and invite each child to choose a meal for the upcoming week. If your kids are old enough, they can also help prepare the food.
Sure, you may run into a few bumps with younger children who always choose chicken fingers or pizza. But here’s a way out of this: Provide younger children with a list of 3-5 menu items to choose from. if that doesn’t work, you can always look through a cookbook together to come up with new ideas.
Encourage older children to look for coupons and savings in the sales circulars and help you plan what you’re going to eat. They’ll be applying some much-needed math skills and they can help you save money when they’re making their menu choice. (Pro tip: This strategy is also a great way to motivate children to try new foods. Give them an age-appropriate cookbook that they can choose their recipes from. You may be surprised what they come up with.)
2. Make your meals ahead of time.
Make ahead meals are great time savers. You can make them, freeze them, and then warm them up for an easy mealtime. They’re great in a pinch when you have a busy day planned ahead especially on the weekends. There’s another benefit to make-ahead meals: They offer you the opportunity to ask your children to help with the preparation.
For example,if you’re making a plate of lasagna, you can have your younger children mix the cheese sauce while older children brown the meat. Kids love to cook with their parents, and along with developing fine motor skills, they’ll also learn how to cook and manage recipes. That’s certainly a skill boys and girls will need when they get older — and it will also teach your kids to cook for themselves.
3. Have Your Kids Cook for You
When your kids are old enough, usually in their teens, ask them to be responsible for a meal one night a week as part of their chores. (You may have to make the occasional schedule adjustment if they have an after school activity or major school projects due.) However, this is a fantastic lesson in responsibility, and you’ll be surprised at how receptive your kids will be to the responsibility.
When you do this, try to be supportive. Not all meals are going to be delicious and this is a learning experience. (You can help them dress it up if there’s a quick fix to a problem that you notice when they cook.) It’s so important to teach your children how to choose and cook nutritious meals — and it’s a skill they will use throughout a lifetime.
4. Get everyone involved.
Some meals are just made for group activities — so why not adopt a weekly family meal night and have tacos, burritos, or pizzas that you make together? Prep the fixings ahead of time and buy the ingredients that family member likes. Then let everyone DIY. Plan it around your favorite sports night or weekend meal when you have a lot of time to laugh and cook.
5. Make breakfast for dinner.
Lighten it up once in a while and make breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, eggs, waffles – you name it,it’s always fun and novel. Who says breakfast can only be served in the morning?
There are many ways to get the whole family involved and to make family cooking fun. Adapt your strategies to the ages of your children. Offer support but let them learn and make mistakes too. Cooking teaches many life skills including planning ahead, improvising and of course learning from our mistakes. It also helps your kids eat more healthy foods — when they’re out on their own, they won’t be afraid to take time to learn new things in the kitchen.
So what are you waiting for? Why not try something new in your family meals?