Over the years I’ve found that children tend to be less picky at meal times if they are involved in the process of getting food on the table. For a long time I thought that meant letting them help prepare meals (and it still does), but like Together CountsTM often mentions, the process really begins at the planning stage. Kids love to feel valued and important, and getting them involved with meal planning and shopping is a great way to teach good habits as well as give them part ownership of mealtime.
5 simple ways to get your kids involved in meal planning.
1. Set 15 Favorite Meals
Before you start shopping, sit down with your kids and ask them what they love to eat! Making a list of your family’s favorite meals is a great way to get everyone involved in the planning, shopping, prepping and most importantly eating!
Make your meal plan using the meals your family loves as a resource. Many kids will be happy to try new foods if they know they are getting their favorite dishes the next night. Also, don’t forget about the sides! Ask your kids what vegetables and sides they want and remember to incorporate familiar sides when serving new main dishes or vice versa.
2. Let Them Plan
Using the meal list you created with your family, help your kids plan the menu for the week. Encourage them to make smart choices and incorporate fruits and vegetables in every meal. When I first let my kids plan dinner for a week we did eat more grilled cheese and macaroni than I preferred, but they were so proud of themselves that it was worth it! It didn’t take long before they were creating more nutritious meal plans and even cooking some of the simpler dishes on their own.
(see also Menu Planning Makes Family Dinners Easier)
3. Give Them Store Circulars
When children are toddlers give them the circular and have them circle or color their favorite foods. This is a great way to see what they really like (or think they like). As they get older show them how to use the store circular to find the best deals at the grocery store. Use the circular as a tool for learning about price per ounce, coupon match-ups and loss leaders. Help them identify good, bad and great deals in the circular and use that information to help make a shopping list.
4. Let Them Clip Coupons
If you don’t have time to clip them, let your kids do it for you! Not only does this help them with their cutting skills, it teaches them at an early age that coupons are a great way to save money at the grocery store.
Have an older child keep track of how much money is saved every week at the store using coupons. If finances allow, use the money saved using coupons towards a family gift or vacation. The kids can help keep track of the savings and feel like they are helping save for vacation or a fun family activity.
While shopping let your child be in charge of the list. Let them cross off items once they are in the cart and find coupons that match with items you are purchasing. This can be great accountability if you tend to stray from the list. Most children get so excited about being the “list-crosser-offer” that they won’t let you put something in the cart that isn’t on the list!
It is usually harder to do anything with the kids, especially if you are used to doing it yourself. But, teaching kids great habits by letting them plan and shop with you when they are young goes a long way towards raising budget conscious and healthy young adults.
Toni is the founder of TheHappyHousewife.com a website dedicated to helping others live well on less. When she isn’t helping others become better family managers, she loves spending time with her family, homeschooling her kids, and exercising.
For more menu planning resources from Together Counts, check out these great links: