Do your kids suffer from irrational expectations about dinner time? If you want to change your current outlook on planning meals and serving dinner to your loved ones, then please keep reading!
In today’s world, our families have developed some seriously ridiculous expectations surrounding family meals. This deception contributes to some major dinnertime blues and creates completely unnecessary tension in our homes.
Something HAD to change
Immediately following this discovery, I sat down and put pen to paper. I needed to come up with a plan to fix this delusion.
In fact, I felt it was VITAL to my mental health, as well as the success and growth of my children.
How to start
First, I scribbled out a simple calendar for the week…
I knew with four older children (then ages 14, 11, 8 and 7), I could easily delegate one night per week to each of them—to plan and prepare a meal.
I then assigned myself all weekend meals. Which in our house looks like this:
- Friday = pizza night
- Saturday = soup and/or salad and/or sandwiches (depending on the season)
- Sunday = our favorite comfort foods (a day I could pamper my family)
Guys, I seriously couldn’t write it out fast enough…the ideas were flowing and I was super pumped to get started!
Determination is KEY!
These were not going to turn into nights of one-pot convenience meals and easy microwavable dinners from the freezer.
My kids were going to learn how to chop, whisk, measure, pour, boil, bake, sauté, puree, stir, toss, knead, fry, caramelize, blanch, dice, and fry!
Solution: OPERATION DINNERTIME
First, I gathered the entire family together and gave them each a pencil and paper. I asked them to come up with 10 meal ideas; dishes they enjoyed eating and would be happy to prepare and serve the entire family.
Next, I gathered those idea sheets, sat down at the computer, and made a comprehensive list of EVERY MEAL our family enjoys and a few of our favorite side dishes.
After I had compiled our detailed list of meal suggestions and an easy-as-pie calendar, I excitedly rushed my kids to the kitchen table to dish out our new plan-of-attack…
It takes an army to feed an army
In order to make it easier for all of us, I started by giving them my spiel about how time-consuming it is to feed our family.
- Choosing meals that everyone likes
- Writing out a weekly meal plan
- Finding recipes
- Creating a shopping list
- Shopping for groceries
- Organizing the fridge and pantry after shopping
- Preparing the meal
- Cleaning up afterward
My final plea? Mom needs help in the kitchen!!
And guess what?? It worked!!
Shockingly, each of my kids displayed an open enthusiasm and a believable curiosity for my plan. (While I secretly breathed an immense sigh of relief!)
Making a plan
We determined that every Saturday we will sit down, one-on-one, to create their personal dinner menu.
Each child is responsible for:
- The main dish
- One to two side dishes
- The choice between a special drink with dinner or a delicious dessert to have after the meal.
But I needed to let loose a little
I had resolved beforehand, that in order for my plan to work, I needed to give up some control to allow my kids to grow and learn.
My little chefs needed to be given (mostly) free-reign over their menu planning. They needed to be excited to not only COOK a meal but to EAT it as well!
By offering up my control of choosing the meal, and even allowing them a choice of a flavorful drink OR a delectable dessert, I hoped it would create a passion in them for cooperation and help in the kitchen.
No surprises here
Not surprisingly, our first week of family meal planning produced a good mixture of everyone’s favorite meals, with a few bold dessert choices sprinkled in. Their little creative juices were flowing.
And so far, my plan was working as anticipated! [Insert maniacal laugh.]
Meal planning takes work!
Next, I had them take their comprehensive meal plan and write out a thorough shopping list, down to the spices and condiments. I wanted my kids to be aware that not all ingredients exist in the pantry at any given moment.
This extra effort of making a shopping list is so, so important. I believe it gives strength to the argument that kids NEED to learn all the effort that goes into planning, preparing, and serving the people in our home.
And we’re not done yet!
With their small, but comprehensive, shopping lists in my hand, I promised to do the grocery shopping myself (for now), and told them that all the ingredients they requested would be readily available in the pantry.
This strategy gave me peace of mind when it comes to our grocery budget, while also granting them full control over the meal plan.
One step at a time, friends! One step at a time.
Now, fast-forward to today, and our meal planning strategy is still in full force!
In fact, not only does it work, but it ROCKS!!
Once in motion, I uncovered a fortuitous surprise: some of my children had discovered, that by cutting out the dessert and drink options, they could cut back on time spent in the kitchen!
In fact, I still chuckle during our Saturday planning sessions when we sit to discuss their menu options and get to the final question…
“Drink or Dessert?”
Because quite frequently their automatic response is simply, “water.”
And with that, my work here is done, folks.