Meal planning with kids doesn’t need to be difficult or a headache. Use these easy tips to get the whole family involved in making a meal plan everyone will love and look forward to enjoying together.
Because meal planning is a huge focus in our home the kids learn about it from an early age. My four-year-old boys ask quite often what is for breakfast/lunch/dinner and sometimes it’s for days in advance. They want to know when their favorites are coming!
I want my kids to understand the reasons we meal plan as well as the way to do it. Meal planning wasn’t something I did until two years into marriage because I wasn’t taught it at a young age. I either bought what sounded good or tried to make a meal out of whatever was left in the cupboards and fridge until the next trip to the store. I’ve since learned all the great benefits of meal planning and I’m adamant about teaching it to the next generation.
So far my kids seem to understand the why behind meal planning quite well, but now we are working on the actual “how-to” side of meal planning.
Getting kids involved with meal planning is actually the easiest part of including them in the kitchen because it’s not as hands on. It was the perfect place to start letting them be involved 😉
How to start meal planning with kids
1. Ask them what they want!
They may choose chicken nuggets or mac n cheese, but it gives you a starting point. Maybe go for homemade chicken crispers or a slow cooker mac n cheese recipe instead. My kids occasionally blow my mind by asking for meals like creamy spinach and tomato tortellini or potato cheese soup.
Go around the table at a meal time and ask for food ideas. Everyone is already gathered so there is no need to add an extra meeting together.
Keep a notebook, calendar, or a note app handy for writing their ideas down. This way you don’t risk forgetting all their great ideas.
2. Look at shopping ads together for sales
One of my boys LOVES looking at the ads and pointing out his favorites. Not only will they help you pick out some meals, but you can also teach them about budgeting and good deals. If you have a club membership you can discuss why buying in bulk is often cheaper per ounce and how to decide when to buy in bulk vs. standard size.
- The Flipp app pulls together all the local flyers in one place. It also allows you to click items and add them to your shopping list so you can remember where all the best deals are.
3. Ask them to take inventory
This one came to me out of pure laziness, but it works! I didn’t want to get out of my chair where I was meal planning and making a shopping list so I asked one of the kids to check the pantry and fridge for specific items. Check off their counting practice for the day 😉
- I offer my email subscribers free printable freezer, fridge, and pantry inventory sheets that you can access after you sign up.
- If you don’t want to keep a running inventory on paper you can check frequently and make sure you know what you have. You don’t want to buy items you don’t need or skip items that are vital to your plans!
4. Create a shopping list together
Once you’ve decided on meals you can talk about the ingredients you need and ask your child to write the list. Any practice for handwriting is good in my book! They may need to go back and forth between inventory and writing the list as you think of items to add.
- We make our list by store to be certain we are getting the best price. I also organize our list by store layout so I can easily check off each item as we go. This might be what my brain prefers and isn’t completely necessary for everyone 😉
5. Go shopping together and let them hunt for items.
I know taking the kids grocery shopping does not sound fun to most people. We’ve made it a family event for the last 10+ years and while some weeks are hard, most weeks are good because the kids know that eventually we will make it to the toy aisle at Target to browse.
- The kids can help find the items on the list and check them off as you go.
- You can also talk about price per ounce and brand name vs. store brand as they hit elementary school so they can learn to find the best deals.
It’s our job as parents to set our kids up for the future. My kids may not be able to throw a football or paint a sunset but by golly they will be able to plan some meals and stretch a grocery budget!
Do you get your kids involved in meal planning and grocery shopping? Tell us your story in the comments!
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