The story is all too familiar for most of us: You spend hours searching for a recipe, shopping for ingredients and prepping and cooking a nutritious homemade meal only to have it rejected by your kids. To make things even worse, in my house I usually have a toddler crying at my feet and a 3-year-old who keeps asking me for help with a puzzle, dressing a dolly, playing a game etc. Meal planning can be such a time-consuming and frustrating thing. It’s time to change that. (title photo via canva.com)
Prior to kids, I think I may have actually enjoyed cooking. Now, I’d rather be doing something else. Like playing with my children or napping. My time is too precious to be spent making food no one wants. Sure, it would be easy to just open a can of spaghettiOs but nutrition is important to me too.
So what’s a mom or dad to do? Well, for me, I’ve made things simpler. A bit of organization, some common-sense and little bit of compromise has made breakfast, lunch and dinner a whole lot easier in my house.
Organization and Meal Planning
I discovered the power of pre-planning weekly meals when I started doing home daycare. Because I wanted to be organized, I created a rotating 4-week menu for meals and snacks. I keep things extra simple by having whatever we ate for dinner as lunch the next day. My calendar has four weeks and once week four is over, we start again at week one. I change the menu around slightly at the beginning of each season (but I always keep things that my kids like the best!)
Print your menu and put it somewhere (like the fridge) for easy reference. Every morning I take a look at my meal calendar and know exactly what I need to take out of the freezer or prep that day for dinner. Same goes for grocery shopping- I just check the menu and know what I need to buy. It really makes things so much easier.
I should note that I don’t plan my meals for weekends until the week of. Saturdays and Sundays are “free days” where we sometimes eat out or pick something at the last minute to eat.
Choose Foods Your Kids Like
Why was I spending so much of my life planning meals with “new” stuff that my kids wouldn’t eat anyways? What a waste of time! I now have a repertoire of stuff my kids will eat. Spaghetti and turkey meatballs (with veggies!), pasta salad and plain chicken and rice make regular appearances in my house.
Ok so maybe plain chicken and rice sounds fine for your kids but not-so-great for you and your significant other or maybe you’d like to try something new. No problem, go ahead and mix it up, but make things easy on yourself and keep the recipe kid-friendly. Tonight I’m making chicken-pesto pasta and I’m pretty sure the chicken and pasta part will go over well, but not the pesto. So I put aside some plain pasta, chicken and veggies for my kids to eat. My husband and I get the pesto part.
I’m not suggesting you make an entirely different meal for your kids every time you cook. Just try to slightly adjust part of the meal to make it more appealing to your children or add one thing to your child’s plate that you know they’ll eat for certain. Honestly, it will make life easier and create less waste.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, YES I always OFFER new foods to my kids and suggest they try things they haven’t liked in the past. But if they say “No thanks” I drop it and try again at a later time. After all, it is healthy and important for kids to try new stuff.
My kid’s don’t like pesto, so they’ll get this pasta dish without the sauce.
Make Meals that Require Little Prep and Cook Time
Not every meal you make needs to take hours to create. When I’m meal planning I include lots of simple, quick foods; pastas, steamed veggies, baked chicken, simple stir-fry’s etc. At least twice a week we do something super easy like tuna fish sandwiches with a side of raw veggies. Usually on a Saturday or Sunday (when we don’t have a “planned” meal) we have frozen pizza.
In addition, I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t always spend time making sauces and seasonings from scratch. I often use tomato sauce out of a jar (same goes for that pesto I mentioned earlier!) But I do try to buy the healthiest versions- one’s with less salt or no-salt added. I also use frozen veggies which are just as healthy as fresh but require little prep-time.
Adjusting how I meal plan and prepare meals in our house has saved my sanity. No more hours spent over a hot stove or agonizing about next week’s dinners. It’s simple and it works for us. How do you make meal planning easier in your home?