“Hey, Mom, what’s for supper?” Have you ever stopped to consider all that is involved in your reply to that question? If you have supper already planned (and some days that’s asking a lot!), you have most likely incorporated these meal-planning skills:
- balancing the food groups,
- encouraging good nutrition,
- adjusting for any activities that may affect upcoming meals or meal times,
- determining how much to buy and make for the number of people eating,
- deciding which food items to keep on hand as staples,
- keeping track of which food items you need to create all the dishes on the menu,
- remembering where to find those food items, and
- whether they will fit within your budget.
Those are all home skills that we need to pass along to our children. And a lot of them are best taught by example and working together. Let your children help you plan, shop for, and prepare meals. Talk them through what you are thinking as you make those plans and that grocery list.
The Five-Step Approach
Remember, talking through the process one time with your children is not enough to make it an engrafted home skill. Use the five-step process we discussed way back at the beginning:
1. Watch – The child watches you do the skill.
2. Help – The child helps you do the skill.
3. Work side-by-side – The child works with you as you do the skill together.
4. Do – The child does the skill while you watch.
5. Inspect – The child does the skill alone, then you inspect the work.
Here are some practical ideas about meal planning that I’ve picked up over the years.
- Meal planning, preparation, and eating times are all ripe (no pun intended) for talking about food groups and nutrition. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the main topic of every meal, but do try to include it when appropriate.
- One mom I know assigns her older children one meal per week to plan and cook. The children get to decide what they want to serve at the meal and are responsible to give her a list of all the food items they need. She is available to coach, but they are responsible for the meal. Keep in mind that this arrangement is possible only because she took the time to teach them these skills along the way.
- Here’s a list that I posted on the refrigerator recently to help guide in selecting nutritious, balanced meals.
A Meal = Protein + Complex carb + Simple carb
Protein: Milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, fish, crab, shrimp, turkey, chicken, beef, pork, beans, peanut butter
Complex Carbs: Millet, bread, cereal, crackers, rice cakes, oats, pasta, rice, tortillas, corn, peas, potatoes, turnips, squash
Simple Carbs: Fruit, fruit juice, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, green beans, mushrooms, onions, snow peas, summer squash, tomatoes, zucchini
- Another mom I know plans enough meals for two weeks then reuses that same plan over and over. So every other Tuesday her family knows that they are eating spaghetti for supper. And every other Friday they can expect tacos. (Hmmmm, might cut down on that “What’s for supper?” question!)
- Another way to plan meals is to use an index card box. Label three dividers: Main Dish, Side Dish, Dessert, writing each title in a different color. (I suppose you could label them Protein, Complex Card, Simple Carb if you want to follow the terms in 3. above.) Cut some index cards into thirds and color code them to correspond to your three dividers. Now go through your favorite cookbooks or cooking Web sites and start listing one dish per color-matching mini-card. You might also want to note where that recipe is. (I suppose you could use a whole index card per dish instead of a third of a card, but usually a dish’s title isn’t long enough to warrant a whole card.) When it’s time to plan meals, just start matching up one main dish card with one or two side dish cards and set them aside for a meal’s menu. Throw in an occasional dessert card and you’ll have the planning done in no time. The beauty of this system is that you can mix and match for different combinations, plus you can continue to add new cards to the sections as you discover new recipes. (There is probably software that does this for you, but this is the low-tech version.)
Preparing to Minister
Planning and preparing good, nutritious meals is just one way that we can equip our children for ministry to others. Think about how often the opportunity arises to serve with a meal — family members, unsaved neighbors or relatives, Christian brothers and sisters, new mothers in the church family, grieving families, and more. If we can teach and train our children to plan ahead for those opportunities, which might occur at short notice, they will be well equipped for service.
How do you do meal planning? Got any ideas for involving the children in the process? Leave a comment; let’s share ideas.