Does anybody else get bogged down with meals for the kids? I feel like now that a new school year has started, I spend a lot of time planning for, shopping and preparing food for the children. And then, all too often either one or all of them will decide that they do not like what I have cooked...
So, I have re-introduced our meal planner - it is super flexible and gets everyone involved, so that we all know what is on the menu that day. This means that the children get a sense of ownership and autonomy over what is for dinner or lunch, they have some fun picking out what they enjoy and it seems to reduce resistance to eating the actual meal. Win - win!
This is how to make your own. You will need
Two (ideally A3) sheets of paper
A sharp knife or pair of scissors
a set of smaller Index cards
your recipe books for inspiration
Take one of the A3 sheets of paper and write the days of the week down one side, spacing them out evenly. Then, to the right of each weekday make 1-3 slits in the paper. These will be for you to slot in the Index cards that will have your meal ideas written on them for each day. You will need to make the slits slightly wider than the width of each of the cards. Underneath each row of slits (see photos) spread a thin line of glue and stick both A3 pages together. This is so the Index cards don't slip out of the bottom of your planner. Finally, pull out your cookbooks to get some ideas for meals that you know your children will like and write each one on an Index card. Then get all the family together and ask the kids to add to your meals - anything (within reason!) that they really enjoy eating. You may be surprised as they remember meals that they loved and that you have not had in a long time!
When you have a good number of recipes written out on your cards, you can sit down as a family and pick what you want to cook and eat on which day. And then simply slot these into the right weekdays. Over time, we have added a second slot for meals that only Mat and I will eat - so that I still know what we need to prepare that day and I know up front that this is something the children won't eat and what they will eat instead. We also have a third slot - sometimes this is used for 'lunch' - to plan for special packed lunches, or when one of the younger ones only have a half day at pre-school and will be eating lunch at home. We also use this slot for special desserts that we sometimes make. But have a play and do whatever works best for you and your family. In terms of the cards, we now also have one that says 'Takeout!' (for Saturdays or a special mid week treat) and 'Leftovers', for when I know that there will be more than enough leftover for lunch the next day.
The thing I like about this system, is that you can add to the cards over time and your repertoire of what everyone likes gradually increases. I also like that the cards can actually give you ideas for what to cook that week, too, when you are all out of inspiration! When you get bored of your current selection, you know it is time to go back to the cook books and add some more meals in that you want to try. And, because the children get involved and are part of the planning process, there are generally fewer arguments at the dinner table when the food is served.
There are some staples that we always have on our cards - like Daddy's Spaghetti Bolognese, Pesto or Broccoli pasta, sausages & mash, and nanny's chicken tikka - but if you would like to have a more comprehensive list of recipes and meals, click here and I will share our recipes with you.
I hope you have lots of fun with this one! :-)