Choosing to meal prep in advance for your family provides multiple benefits you all can enjoy immediately. The three most obvious benefits are reduced stress during the hectic week, more quality family time, and the bonus of great food every day without all of the daily dinner hassle or cleanup. But engaging your family in weekly meal prep also starts healthy habits that your children can lean on for a lifetime. The simple activities of planning your meals, choosing recipes, and coordinating your shopping list show your kids how to put their health first despite a hectic schedule.
Through advanced meal preparation, kids also learn valuable lessons like how to balance a nutritious diet with daily portions of protein and vegetables. They learn how the ingredients found in any grocery store come together to make wonderful cuisine. Instead of becoming adults who fret over what to make for dinner to serve their own families, your children learn how this process is positive family time for everyone in their household.
So, how can you bring your family together for weekend meal prep and great life lessons without making these tasks dreaded chores? Below, we explore six keys to enjoyable meal prep. The bonus is you will have weeknight meals together you all enjoy.
Six Keys to Meal Prep Your Family Will Enjoy
Before pulling out your recipe cards or surfing the web in search of what to make for dinner each weeknight, adopt a healthy prep mindset. Focus more on enjoying your weekly meals together, rather than just making things you can quickly reheat and clean up Monday to Friday. The entire preparatory process can be fun and enriching for your family, beginning to end. Making each step an activity that engages your family gives you the extra help you need. Everyone gets more excited about weeknight mealtimes and concepts like portion control, trying new foods, and nutrition.
Six keys to meal prep for dinner the family will enjoy include:
Make Meal Preparation “Together Time”
Instead of rushing on your own to pull together food to make for dinner each night, establish a weekly routine of your prep. Make it a predictable Saturday or Sunday activity kids participate in with you. If you have multiple children, engage each separately by giving them individual responsibilities. This gives you quality time to spend with each child and breaks up the chores into smaller bits for each child to enjoy.
For example, you can involve one child in recipe selection and grocery shopping. Another can participate in food preparation. Then, the next week, these roles can change for each child to keep it interesting and fun for everyone. At the same time, you will be amazed what you can learn about your kids while working in the kitchen together!
Prepare a (New) Variety of Foods
Instead of relying on the old go-to recipes you always prepare, make dinner a time to try new foods and meal combinations. Variety is the spice of life and can ensure your whole family gets the nutritious building blocks they need. It also makes kids more excited about the meal planning process, being “hands on” with the preparation of new foods.
Ask Your Kids to Help You Choose What to Make for Dinner
Involving your kids in choosing your family meals helps them learn about food planning. They learn to plan for balanced nutrition, grocery shopping, and cooking. They also feel pride when it is time for their chosen meal to grace the dinner table. You will find that picky eaters expand their food horizons more when they have a voice in what to eat.
Make Mealtime a Time to Talk
Besides bringing family togetherness into meal prep work, making dinners in advance can help everyone communicate better at the table. With meals prepared ahead of time, parents are less tired and more able to enjoy lighthearted conversations with kids. The heat and eat process is much less draining than trying to scrape meals together after work. Use the extra mealtime energy and focus on conversing with each other, taking the time to listen and engage.
Build Up Your Kids’ Self Esteem
When your kids help you with weekly prep, even in small spurts, ensure they know how much you appreciate them. Praise their involvement. This builds up their self-esteem and makes them enjoy the process much more. Instead of using special foods to bribe your kids, set up a reward chart that entices them to participate in activities like planning, grocery shopping, cooking, or cleanup. You can provide healthy “prizes” like focused time one-on-one or favorite outdoor activities enjoyed together.
Get Creative with Your Dinner Prep
Meal prep is a great time to infuse some creativity into weekly dinners. Try new foods and even new ways of enjoying your meals. For example, one of your weekly dinners can take place outside on the deck or picnic style. Or, choose a theme for one weekday, such as to try new foods from another part of the world on “Worldly Wednesday.” Celebrate the whole prep process through creativity and fun. Your whole family will enjoy daily meals so much more!