We’ve Got the Best Response to “What’s for Dinner” and “I’m Hungry”
No need to run… Meet the questions head-on with some imagination and planning
These tips may not completely save your sanity, but a bit of (fun!) team organizing with cool tools can quiet some of the family’s food-related whining. Here’s how to start:
- Make meal planning more gratifying than complaining
- Make kids think their opinions matter
- Have an Eat This - Not That list
- Put the whole family to work
- Use fun tools
It’s time to confess: These past few months have not been easy on your family’s eating habits. The lockdown and homeschooling and overall overwhelmingness of it all probably sent healthy eating habits straight to the back burner, which you then used to make lots of box mac and cheese.
No judgment here! But with summer underway, there’s a great opportunity to take baby steps back to healthier eating and mealtime routines.
That way, when we do go back to school in the fall (please!), we’ve revisited some “normal” habits, and re-entry won’t be so painful. Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?
1. Yes, meal planning can be FUN and satisfying
Let’s define meal planning as simply creating a schedule for daily meals and sticking to it most of the time. That’s a much more casual approach than full-on meal prepping, which brings to mind uber-moms and lots of Tupperware and Sundays full of slicing and dicing.
If you are already there, congrats! These general tips are directed to those of us still taking baby steps.
- Start by making a list of main dishes your family loves to eat, that are coincidentally prepared by you. Be sure to ask their opinions (see #2, below).
- Supplement that list with well-recommended family-friendly recipes you find on Pinterest or spread out among about 62 million websites.
- Consider your family’s schedule: What nights will you have a bit more time? (HA!) When will you need something super fast? When can someone else cook?
- Get really crazy and throw some “theme nights” into the rotation.
- Plan your food shopping trips or deliveries along with the weekly meals.
- Post the menu for all to see and comment upon.
- Rinse and repeat. If you’re super ambitious, shoot for planning a whole month at once.
Begin by planning main dishes, then add a rotating roster of family-approved side dishes.
For snacks, encouraging healthier choices on the demand side, and controlling the supply is a proven strategy. Be aware that as kids get older and their appetites increase, they inconveniently get much smarter about finding your hidden snack piles.
Predictability is important to kids. Keeping a fairly regular schedule of snack times and family meals will help them form healthy eating habits that will stay with them into adulthood. Or until college reverses all your hard work.
2. Of course, you care what they think!
Giving kids the chance to weigh in about meal and snack choices helps eliminate dinnertime angst. It also cuts down on food waste and eases your burden of being “the decider” of everything all … the … time.
Every few months have a family discussion about food. Offer rewards for valuable insights. Here are some conversation starters:
- What was your favorite recent dinner? (Anything not home cooked is disqualified).
- If you could veto one dish or food, what would it be? (Note: introducing the veto power is playing with fire, but in skilled hands can be an effective morale-booster).
- Are there any new foods you’d like to try?
- What are your favorite healthy/ier snacks?
- Would you like to help out more? (It’s always worth a shot).
3. Let them choose healthier options from a list you totally control
As a productive follow up to regularly scheduled food check-ins, keep a list of snack foods you know they love, and if those aren’t great choices, their healthier counterparts. For example, instead of an ice cream shake, suggest a fruit and froyo smoothie. Baby steps.
Post a list (in a central location next to the weekly menu) of approved snacks and encourage them to add their suggestions to it.
4. If they always want to know what’s for dinner, let them work a little
Harness that annoying curiosity by finding age-appropriate ways to involve them in the process of planning and preparing meals, and even with the actual cooking. It will encourage independence while lightening your load a bit. You could even use those opportunities to teach about food safety and recycling.
All family members can look for recipes or offer suggestions for family meals and snacks. Younger kids can help with prep work and clean up. Try giving older children one day a week to “own,” and make them responsible for the menu choice and ingredient list. Other adult members of the household can feel free to jump in here, too. Bonus points if they actually cook dinner, too!
Choose someone to manage posting the weekly menu on your command center. Use a monthly calendar to plan theme nights and special dinners. Write down your grocery list and stash those printed recipes close to the weekly menu, and you’re really cooking.
5. The right tools make all the difference
Getting children involved in any home organizing project is easier when you have cool tools. That’s where 1THRIVE Centers make the difference between getting the whole clan on board and screaming into a vacuum.
We make family-friendly whole-life systems with interchangeable components that can organize family needs for members of all ages. Dedicate one of our larger units as command central and give the kids satellites to handle all their meal, snack, and life-planning needs.
Check the 1THRIVE website to explore all our command center options. While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter, the 1THRIVE Corner, and download some free printables to start you on your organizing way.
Link to 9.3.4, going live on 7/15.