I remember being in college and making a quick easy meal for dinner…I had a few memorized, and sharing with my bestie roommate. She was amazed I could whip up something fast for dinner. I thought it wasn’t impressive..but it was definitely yummy. We chatted for a bit and I realized that because my mom taught us to cook & made us learn a handful of recipes, this is how I was able to cook healthy meals when I was away from my home.
As a mother of 6 now I realize that this life skill of learning to cook is essential, not just to mothers but to all adults. And sharing this talent of cooking can be taught to children as young as 2! Inspiring kids to cook and be helper cooks is where it begins.
Now that I have a few older kids that are eager to cook, meal planning has become easier! We give each of our kids a day to be in charge of the meals. They get to plan each meal of the day & help prepare the food. Of course, depending upon their age you will be helping with some of the cooking. But there are TONS of meals that kids can prepare all by themselves, check out my Pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.com/OhanaAdventure/meals-kids-can-cook/
#1 – FIRST things FIRST – List Food you HAVE!
Before we sit down to plan our meals for the week, I ask the children to stand by the fridge and tell me what food we have: leftovers, vegetables, fruit, broths, etc. Making a list of items that are in the fridge will help you to not waste any food that might be hiding in the back. This also teaches the kids to be innovative with their cooking & to think outside the box.
Let the Planning begin.
Each week on Sunday we sit down and ask the kids what they want to cook that week. With our meal plan paper ready & our list of items from the fridge we brainstorm.
#2 – Gather RECIPE Ideas –
It may take perusing Pinterest or Allrecipes.com to search for recipes that include items from the fridge. Follow this Pinterest board to find a ton of LEFTOVER recipes: https://www.pinterest.com/OhanaAdventure/meals-made-from-leftovers/ I also like to use ALLRECIPES.COM – because you can do an ingredient/ recipe search. This got me through many years of having little food budget. You can type in ingredients you have and there is also a section of ingredients you DON’T have. This way if you know you have lots of potatoes, but no cheese or milk – you obviously can’t make potato soup or potato casseroles. You will LOVE it!
#3 – Let the kids choose!
START with breakfast..this is easy. We tend to rotate some of our favorites; pancakes, cereal & oatmeal. I like to suggest ways to spice up our regular meals; some days we put apples in our oatmeal, or we do overnight oats, other days we donuts & maple syrup. There are so many options out there…but when you FIRST begin, go simple.
I like to make rules for certain foods; cereal we only have once a week. This is personal preference because the kids eat a ton of it and it never seems to fill them up. OR another rule is – when we have berries we use them for specific meals or special occasions..so designate those!
**And remember most kids can cook breakfast, even if it’s getting things out and making sure you have everything you need.
Lunch can be simple too. At this point I try to suggest easy lunches, so we don’t end up eat sandwiches 6 days a week….everyone can get bored of their fav meal no matter what it is!
Lunch ideas can include *Meat & Cheese roll-ups with a side of fruit *Potato Bar *Chicken Salad *Pasta Salad *Egg sandwiches *Charchuterie board – meat & cheeses with fruits & veggies.
Dinner is where YOU are going to need to help! But stay in there, it may seem that you are doing all the work..but really picking out what’s for dinner is half the battle. I like to ask my kids what side dishes are we going to have, reminding them of how many vegetables we should be eating, and also teaching them of things that might go better together than others.
#4 – Instruct & inspire!
This one is easy…make something super YUMMY on YOUR day. That’s right you will probably have a day or multiple days, where you get to be the chef. My Day is SUNDAY and I like to make bigger meals, sometimes multiple courses, or desserts. This really helps the kids to be inspired on their cooking day.
Your cooking days are also a wonderful time to instruct your kids on how to cook. Go over how you measure items, cooking methods, terminology, reading a recipe and more. In your 30 minutes, you take to cook a simple meal kid can learn so much.
After a few times of helping/teaching the kids how to plan, prepare & cook the meals…they will want to jump in and make the MEAL! Trust me…it will come. And soon you will have days where you don’t do any meal prepping or cooking at all…it will be a glorious day. YES I have a few of those days a week & I also have days where I help the younger kids….but the BEST part of this is I Don’t Stress About Dinner AT ALL!
LAST STEP Write it Down!
I just recently made this cute printable that we laminate & use as a dry erase board so we can use it over and over again!
The first page has a space for each day of the week, each meal & space for their name by the DAY of the week.
The 2nd page is great for brainstorming ideas, writing your go-to meals, approved snacks..or use it for whatever helps you out in this meal plan adventure.
Have fun & Tell me how it goes!