In my role as a kids’ cooking teacher at Kids Cook Real Food, my goal is to train children in over 30 basic skills so that when they finish all 3 levels of our course, they can make almost any (average) recipe they come across.
It’s very comprehensive…but it’s missing something.
Want to know what the most requested additional module is?
How to plan meals, from budgeting to grocery shopping to the calendar.
What I don’t know is how the kids feel about it. Do they want to learn how to meal plan?
I can tell you that my own children, the two oldest at ages ten and thirteen, struggle with the planning portion of cooking. We spend time discussing how long it might take to make their recipe, when they’ll need to get in the kitchen to start, whether they know where all the ingredients are, and so on.
And to be fair, it’s not that they’re poor at planning, but it’s obvious to me that it’s not second nature and will take practice.
I also see a little “deer-in-the-headlights” look in their eyes when I ask them what they want to make for their next kid-made dinner. My son tends to immediately turn to a few favorites that he enjoys and knows how to make quite proficiently. Nothing wrong with that!
My daughter is more adventurous, exploring Pinterest at times to find something totally new. But it’s definitely a skill that benefits from guidance.
I like to start with the philosophical and move to the practical – so today let’s see if we can set up a compelling argument for kids to learn to meal plan (Warning: may apply to adults too!).
1. You need to know when to start the meal so dinner is on time.
Nobody likes dinner an hour late, and if you have little siblings who would get hangry, you know you don’t want to listen to them whine!
2. You need to make sure you have all the ingredients so your meal doesn’t fail (ordering pizza doesn’t count as kids’ cooking night).
Whether you get to be involved in grocery shopping or not, you have to make sure you have everything, or you’ll have to feel the stress of switching dinner plans at dinnertime, which typically interferes with step one above. #hangrysiblings
3. If you can show your parents you are planning ahead, they’ll let you choose meals more often – and then you get to eat what you like.
Get good at planning and you might even be able to help with that task without all the cooking falling to you. Plan what you like!
4. You waste less food if you plan to use it all.
This probably doesn’t impact kids as much as those who hold the grocery budget, but I try to raise my own children to be good stewards of the earth too. In a world where we throw away almost 25% of all food produced, let’s work together to conserve, shall we?
That means if you choose to make a meal that calls for half a head of cauliflower, it’s up to your creative brain to figure out how to use the rest of it within the week (even if that mean whipping up a dip and serving it raw).
5. You can prep breakfast ahead so that there’s always something amazing to eat in the morning, even if you can’t hardly open your eyes when it’s actually time to eat it.
My 7-year-old asks the same question every night at bedtime: “What’s for breakfast?” He cannot bear for me to leave the room without knowing this important bit of information.
Imagine if you knew the answer because you planned ahead and prepped something awesome after school! My daughter loves to make a big batch of homemade granola bars, which lasts for 2-3 breakfasts and some snacks.
We’ve included this recipe in our My Kid Made This Challenge and it can be accessed directly through your Plan to Eat account:
6. Meal planning actually SAVES you time.
When you know what’s coming up, you can thaw frozen meat in the fridge without “thaw meat” having to be a step in your cooking night, or you can make sure you buy fresh meat that doesn’t need to be frozen. You might be able to cut up extra veggies on another night or at snack to save you time on a night you’re cooking. And if you’re really lucky, your parent might cut up something for you just because they know your plan.
7. When you grow up, your poor college student budget will be thriving.
While friends are running out for takeout whenever they feel hungry – or eating mac and cheese and cereal every single day (ew) like one college roommate of mine did – you will enjoy wholesome meals without overspending.
If planning for your future is something you’d like to do, meal planning practice should definitely be part of that for so many reasons.
Check out this video of me and my daughter making a slow cooker meal that turned into an Instant Pot meal because of mediocre planning. The key is that even though Plan A didn’t work out, I knew all along that Plan B was there and would work, so it was still a well-planned meal.
We’ve also included this BBQ Chicken recipe in our My Kid Made This Challenge and it can be accessed directly through your Plan to Eat account:
Let’s get our kids into the kitchen and teach the next generation to appreciate healthy food! And as always, if you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.