Five More Secrets to Meal Planning: Kid Friendly

A few weeks ago, I told you about my friend Kim and her meal planning and cooking stress. I promised more meal planning strategies. This week, I want to talk kid-friendly. I won’t cook to kid demands but I don’t ignore their preferences either.

1. Drag out the cookbooks and the post it notes flags. Have kids flag the recipes they would consider trying. You might be surprised at  adventurous meal choices by your children.

2. Always include something in the meal that each person will eat. For years at our house, a green salad starred at our dinner table just because something about the rest of the meal didn’t suit one person or another. A salad ensured that no one went to bed without a bite in them. No, none of them would have starved, it just made me feel better.

3. Check your children’s calendars BEFORE meal planning for the week. Nothing messes up a week of menus like learning this is the week you have the recital, the teacher conference, and the soccer game and you have last minute prep or a meal that needs focus, planned.

If you have a home where some days mean your family eats in shifts, ensure the meal reheats well. The now 20-year-old really appreciated that weird microwave plate with the separate sections that landed in our combined homes somehow. I served dinner and put a plate away for her–ready for her to take the lid off and heat after she returned from her job. She felt like she got the “family dinner” without having to serve it herself or scrounge up a sandwich or chips and salsa instead.

4. Prep as much as you can the day you shop or the next day. Chop the vegetables. Pre-cook the chicken. Assemble casseroles and dishes to be baked. Put ingredients together. You can even measure out spices and put them in reusable bags or containers-mark the top “Pot Roast” or “Chicken Specialty” –whatever the recipe. Mark salads the same way. Add a post it note to dishes to be baked with the instructions. Use the plastic grocery sacks to hold a “meals” pieces together in the fridge. Don’t forget to chop some easily noshed on veggies and fruits for your snacking children.

5. Include the kids in meal prep too. They can chop, fetch items, stir a sauce, and when they help–they eat it. You also get a lot more information about your child’s day if you both work on a task together. My children also get the revolving right to pick the veggie served with dinner.  Most of the year this means a frozen vegetable, that gasp-I microwave. I keep a variety on hand and a child chooses and now they all know how to prep them and push the frozen vegetables button on the microwave.


  1. Great ideas! I’ve learned that if my kids help me cook, they are more likely to at least eat a few bites. Only problem is by the end of the day, I just want dinner cooked so I can rest. But, I’m getting better at finding ways for them to help.

  2. That is why it is nice to have “prep day” –they can help but then you can get dinner on the table with no stress or kids under foot.

  3. Thanks for the tips. I have a three-year-old (almost 4) who is quite a picky eater. But I ‘m always looking for ways to encourage good eating habits in him. He is at the stage in his development where he is asking a lot of questions, and I happily explain to him what I’m doing in the kitchen and try to involve him where I can (like mixing ingredients). Thanks for the idea of sharing my cookbooks with him. He may get more excited about what I’m cooking if he can also feel as if he is part of the decision making by us going through the recipes together.

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