Let kids help decide what’s for dinner

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, June 9, 2011

By LISA PHILLIPS / Guest Columnist

School is out and one of the changes we will face for a couple of months is an increase in the grocery bill.

Not because food prices are soaring, but because the kitchen is now open around the clock with kids who need to eat their body weight in snacks. Add in a few friends and sleepovers and you will find yourself making multiple trips to the grocery store, buying in bulk and wondering how they made it from breakfast to lunch for 10 months without falling over with hunger pains.

You have a pantry full of boxed meals, canned goods and frozen bags, yet you hear comments, “There’s nothing to eat in this house,” “I don’t like that,” or “Why do you have to eat that?”

Along the course of raising kids, or even if you live alone, we find our shelves are packed with odds and ends: a can of tuna, a jar of pickles, and a package of pasta.

The challenge is how to organize what you have with what you need with the least amount of items to buy to create a meal. Make it a game! Here’s how it works.

-Who’s cooking tonight: Take turns figuring out what can be pulled together for dinner, trying to use up as much as you can before making a trip to the grocery store. Getting your children involved is key to making this fun versus a dinnertime disaster. Kids will support it if it’s their idea! Everyone can have a role in preparing the meal, from creating the menu to cooking and cleanup.

-Decide on a budget: Your budget will depend on how much is stocked on your shelves, how many you are feeding, and your comfort level of meals. Start with $10 per person and see how creative you can be. Sometimes your meals may not be nutritious or pleasing to the eye, but the goal is to eat up what you have, not to make the cover of Food magazine. No one will starve.

-Make it fun: Talk about what you can make, look at cookbooks together, and try new combinations. Menu planning is a lifelong skill that can be taught at home. The kids can go online for recipes, make the shopping list, and learn how to navigate a grocery store. Teach them how to check sale flyers and price compare.

-Keep going: Create a cookbook using the recipes from the summer. Encourage the children to write their thoughts about the meals, the trip to the store, and even a cooking mishap. Can you see this becoming a family tradition each summer?

Lisa Phillips is the owner of SimpleWorks. She can be reached at lisa_phillips@bellsouth.net or at 205-981-7733.