Menu planning happens in spurts around our house but I find that I’m much more consistent with it if my kids are involved. They keep me accountable. If they know they should expect an updated menu plan on the fridge each week and it’s not there, you’d better believe they are going to ask where it is.
I’m often overwhelmed with the responsibilities of work and family so delegation is a necessity. Training kids to help out with things around the house, like menu planning, requires a bit of extra work in the beginning. As kids form habits and develop valuable life skills you’ll be amazed at how simple menu planning can be when you turn it into a team effort.
Put your Kids In Charge of Cooking
My kids love to cook so anytime I give them the opportunity to prepare a portion of the meal or the entire thing, they jump on that. I’ve found it’s a great way to get my kids excited about trying new foods because the chef has to try his own creation and it’s a wonderful way to teach your kids life skills. My 9 year old is in charge of planning and preparing dinner one night a week and it’s his favorite night of the week. I’m also counting on the fact that his future wife will be more likely to love me if I can hand her, not only a fully trained chef, but one who does dishes too.
Have a Kids Night
I have never been one to plan my meals around what I think my kids will eat. I’m convinced that’s why I now have such ambitious eaters. It never hurts to have one night a week when you let your kids pick their favorites (or discover a new one). Make this an anything goes night where they can choose whatever they’d like to eat . . . even if it ends up being popcorn and spaghetti. Your kids will love the chance to assert their independence and you’ll be showing them how much you value their opinions.
Make your Cookbooks Accessible
My kids love to flip through my cookbooks and find new recipes they want to try. I don’t often have the time to do that myself so I’ll often leave a small pile of cookbooks out with sticky notes next to them for my kids to mark recipes they want me to make. They are always excited when a recipe they discovered ends up on our weekly menu plan and it makes it much easier for me to get out of a menu planning slump.
Assign Mealtime Jobs
Kids are generally willing to help but I’ve found that when my kids push back it’s usually because they don’t know what they are expected to do. Assign mealtime jobs so your kids know how to help out and you’ll have the assistance you’ll need to simplify mealtime prep. Get creative with this and make things fun. You could assign one child the task of not only setting the table but of coming up with a creative centerpiece idea that displays something they’ve been working on that week. Put another child to work coming up with the menu and make it a game (and a great way to limit food waste) by requiring them to included one or two ingredients in your pantry.
Make a “Family Favorites” List
I’m often guilty of making meals that sound good to me rather than making things that appeal to the rest of my family. That’s just sort of what happens when you are the one in charge of the menu plan. I’ve found it’s easier to include some of my kids’ favorite recipes if I know what they are. Sit down with your family and create a “Family Favorites” list. This could be as simple as having everyone shout out their favorite recipes and writing them on a list you stick to the fridge. However you choose to do it, make sure everyone gets a say about what makes it on the list and put it somewhere visible so you don’t forget about it. At least once a week, choose a family favorite recipe in your menu plan.
How do you include your kids in menu planning?
If you need some help with your menu planning, I’d highly recommend Plan It Don’t Panic by Stephanie Langford, the blogger behind Keeper of the Home. Stephanie offers some great, realistic solutions that will help you get into the habit of menu planning so you can save time, money, and get healthy meals on the table.
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