Do you ever feel discouraged when planning meals for your family? Do they scoff at your cooking or whine when they hear what’s being served for dinner?
You’re not alone!!
So many (MOST!) parents contend with this dinnertime frustration. In fact, I had this exact same struggle until I figured out how to teach my kids to meal plan.
For YEARS I slaved over weekly meal plans; attempting to diversify our dinner menus and include foods that everyone in our family would eat and enjoy.
Does this sound familiar?
Usually, our meals would end in a power struggle with one or more of my kids—hoping to skirt their full dinner plate—with plans to sneak a snack from the pantry to satisfy their empty belly and picky palate.
And then one day,…I snapped.
This is NOT what family dinner time is supposed to be all about; the nagging, the complaining, the whining. The weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
In one moment of frustration, my eyes were opened and I had an epiphany.
Involve kids in the family meal planning!
The answer is as simple as that! Teach your kids to meal plan so you don’t have to.
Our family discovered that when we’re all involved in planning family meals, it creates balance. It encourages teamwork. And each person feels valued and heard.
With a family menu plan, success in the kitchen and at the family dinner table can finally be achieved!
Start by thinking about all of the benefits you and your family will gain by strategically planning out your meals. Maybe you already have a meal-planning system that works, or maybe you don’t.
But what are the aspects of setting a meal planning schedule and sticking with it that appeal to you? And how will they benefit your family? Write out your thoughts and be prepared to share them with the entire family.
Take some time to explain to your kids what a family meal plan is, its purpose, and how your family will use it. Describe why creating a meal plan is important to you and how it will benefit your entire family. (See helpful tips below.)
What is a meal plan?
Kids can’t support what they don’t understand. So help them understand and watch as they get excited to be included in family meal planning!
Here’s a simple definition to help you get started:
Meal Plan: to make a list of meals that your family will eat and put them into a weekly or monthly calendar.
It’s that easy!
Your meal plan can be set to any schedule that works for your family; weekly, monthly or even bi-monthly. I personally recommend a weekly menu plan that is prepared on the same day every week. (Keep reading for more explanation and some easy tips on how to get started.)
What is the purpose of a meal plan?
There are several powerful reasons to create a meal plan for your family meals. It’s so important to help your kids understand the purpose of creating a meal plan together and why it will benefit the entire family.
Here are the most valuable reasons for developing a meal plan for your family. And some simple explanations you can use to help your kids understand so you can teach them how to meal plan too.
- Meal planning saves time: A meal plan eliminates wasted time coming up with ideas at the last minute for what to make for dinner every night. Also, if meals are planned ahead of time, then grocery shopping can also be done in advance. Having a meal plan in place reduces the time you spend running to the grocery store for last-minute ingredients to complete a meal.
- Meal planning saves money: When you plan out your meals, you can stock up on sale items, and use ingredients you already have on hand. Also, if you know what you’re making for dinner in advance, you can avoid spending money on take-out meals, saving your family even more.
- Meal planning reduces stress, headaches, and heartaches!: Planning meals ahead of time allows each family member the time to prepare their heads and their stomachs for the upcoming meal. You can encourage your kids to try new foods on the menu, include them in the cooking process, and even let them taste-test while it cooks! This will greatly reduce stress for Mom!
- Meal planning will help your family eat healthy: When you take the time to create a meal plan, you can plan to incorporate foods with as many vitamins, minerals, and colors as possible. Encourage your kids to help plan meals using foods from all of the 5 main food groups.
Get the entire family involved
After describing the importance of creating a family meal plan together, discuss how you will create it. I think it’s important to decide TOGETHER how your family will map out the meal planning and what each family members’ responsibilities are.
In our family, we assign each child one night of the week that they are in charge of planning. From choosing the menu to writing out a shopping list, and even preparing and serving the meal, they are responsible for the entire menu that night.
I discovered, that when you teach your kids to help with the meal plan, you don’t have to take on the stress of meals all by yourself. But this schedule doesn’t have to be set in stone. Dinner assignments can be as flexible as you are, depending on what individual activities are scheduled for the week.
Just try to remind your kids regularly of the vital role they each have in keeping the family on schedule and how your family meals are a priority.
Should I have a weekly or monthly meal plan?
Deciding on how and when your kids will help plan future meals can be crucial for your meal planning success. Whether you decide on a weekly or monthly meal plan, keep in mind that consistency is key. The more consistent you are with your planning, the better your meal plan will work for you.
And if the first method you try with your kids doesn’t work well, switch it up! Meal planning is very flexible!
Weekly Meal Planning Tips
Planning sessions: Keeping a weekly meal plan is simple when you schedule your planning on the same day each week. It is much easier to get into a routine.
Avoiding repeat meals: Planning your meals out weekly can be tricky if you want to avoid repeating dinners too often. You can avoid this by keeping a monthly record in your menu planner. Refer to it each time you make your weekly meal plan.
Grocery shopping: Planning out meals every week also makes grocery shopping simpler. Make a shopping list at the same time you’re creating that week’s menu plan. Make it easy to avoid extra grocery runs for items that have a short shelf-life—like fresh produce and milk.
Involving your kids: Kids aren’t very experienced with patience yet, so planning meals on a weekly schedule will keep them excited for upcoming meals. Place your weekly menu in a prominent place so everyone knows what’s for dinner that week.
Monthly Meal Planning Tips
Planning sessions: If you decide to plan your meals on a monthly schedule, pick a day to do your planning sessions and do it on the same day every single month. You can choose to do your planning on the first day of the month, or the first Sunday or Monday. Or any day of the week you choose!
Avoiding repeat meals: Having a monthly meal plan is helpful because you can plan out your menu with very few “repeat meals”. You can also plan meals in a row that use similar ingredients. Batch-cook extra ingredients to save time preparing your next meal.
Grocery shopping: When you plan your meals on a monthly schedule, try to bulk shop the sales once per month for items that have a longer shelf life (ie. canned goods, spices, and pasta). Then make a weekly run to the store to gather any fresh items you need for meals. This can save you a lot of time on grocery shopping and restocking the pantry.
Involving your kids: Making a monthly meal plan with your kids is convenient if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to planning. Each session will be a little longer because you’re planning out an entire month. But you can get it all done in one day and not have to plan any meals for the next 30 days.
Choose the best meal planning method for your family
Whether you choose to plan weekly menus with your kids or you opt to go the monthly route, both meal planning methods have some amazing benefits. You only need to choose which planning method works best for your family and your situation.
Just remember that consistency is the linchpin in this equation. The more consistent you are, the easier time you will have planning your meals and sticking with it.
How to create a family meal plan with your kids
1) Put together a menu planner—you only need to do this once!
- Brainstorm all of the meals your family likes to eat.
- Gather all of the recipes.
- Create a menu calendar—choose weekly or monthly planning.
- Keep a reference list of seasonal foods.
- Include upcoming holidays and special occasions to be aware of.
- Decide which nights each child will plan their menu.
2) Sit down with each child
- Meet one-on-one with each of your kids.
- Review the list of suggested meals with them.
- Ask them to give you ideas for their assigned dinner night.
- Write down a dinner menu with his/her ideas.
- Guide them to write a shopping list for their menu
- Repeat the previous 5 steps with each of your kids.
3) Post the weekly menu
- Rewrite the weekly menu and place it in a high-traffic area in your home.
- Consult this menu each morning and note if you have to do any prep work earlier in the day for that night’s meal.
- Remind your kids to refer to the menu if they ask you what’s for dinner that night. (one of my very favorite things about this system!!)
4) Go grocery shopping
- Gather all of the shopping lists for each dinner menu that week.
- Make a comprehensive list.
- Refer to cupboards, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for foods you already have on hand.
- Go shopping for the items on your list.
- Ask your kids to help you put food away so they know where everything is when it’s time for their dinner night.
5) Get ready to cook!
- Next, make time to cook with your kids
- Teach them the tips they need to be successful in the kitchen
- Make sure they’re doing skills they are capable of for their age
- Instruct them on how to read and follow a recipe
- Watch as their confidence grows in the kitchen and you have more free time!
Emphasize the importance of teaching your kids to meal plan
Emphasize the importance of menu planning with your kids. Explain the impact that eating healthy, saving time and money, and reducing stress, can have on the family and why you need their help to achieve success.
Because even amazing moms can’t do EVERYTHING.
So, teach your kids to meal plan so you don’t have to! Over time, they will come to understand and appreciate all the preparation that goes into planning meals, and your time will be well worth it!
Please tell me, are you interested in teaching your kids to help plan meals after reading these tips? I’d love to know!
Also, do you currently use a meal planner and do you plan your meals weekly or monthly in advance! I’d really like your feedback!