The time is 5 o'clock and your stomach clenches - What to make for dinner is the question racing through your mind. You know you want to prepare healthy meals for your family, but you're tired and you don't have all the ingredients for your favorite "go to" recipe so you pull out the frozen pizza instead. There are two fantastic and fun ways you can solve this ever arising problem.
Every family has its own dynamics, however here are two ideas that if used consistently can actually make meal preparation an enjoyable experience. Choose which one suits your family best or tweak an idea to suit your particular family.
Choose a day of the week (I suggest Sunday) to sit together as a family and go through some inspiring cookbooks. Children as young as three can participate in this activity. Each member of the family is responsible for choosing a recipe for the main dish, and a vegetable that would accompany that meal. A salad is a given, and a dessert is optional.
Have everyone take turns reading out the ingredients needed for their recipe. A parent will usually be the one who writes down the ingredients, however if your children are nine or ten years old they can take this over every once in a while (great for spelling practice!)
Be sure to create a chart either made on the computer or by hand that states the days of the week along the left side and the words, Main Dish, Vegetable, Salad, and Easy Desserts along the top. Depending on the age of your children, you could add the word "Chef" along the top as well so that you rotate the cooking responsibilities. (This should be reserved for children aged thirteen years or older).
After this is done, go shopping all together and have each person go off to find certain ingredients. As each ingredient is put in the cart, cross the items off the master list. The shopping trip will take less time and everyone will stay focused on the task at hand. If made to feel part of a team, your children will absolutely love to help out. Their self-esteem will grow because they feel part of a loving unit, that they are capable and that they are a respected, important member of the family.
One parent takes the time to search through cookbooks and then asks each member to suggest a favorite recipe they would like to have that week. Again, they must list the main dish, a vegetable that would accompany that dish well, and a dessert if desired. Remember that a salad is always a must at every meal.
With this example you can decide to go shopping as a family as in the example above, just take one child, or go on your own so that you have enough time to read labels at your leisure.
Children as young as two or three can help during grocery shopping too. Simply give them three things to look for; usually one from the first few aisles, one from the middle aisles and one from the last couple of aisles. Good examples are simple items such as bananas, eggs, bread, chicken, cheese, milk and cereal.
Whichever method you choose, you can be guaranteed that the stress over what to eat, grocery shopping and providing healthy food for your family will ba a thing of the past. Not only this, but you will be teaching your children about healthy eating, how to plan and organize, cooperation, and self-respect. Pretty incredible, isn't it?