If you have young kids, chances are good that finding time to cook healthy meals can be a challenge. Between school, homework, extracurricular activities and just plain ol’ being tired, it can be hard to get dinner on the table night after night. But meal planning ahead of time can make things a whole lot easier. And when you involve your kids in the process, they’ll be more likely to eat what’s on the menu. Here’s how to create a kid-friendly meal plan that will help keep dinnertime hassle-free.

Let the kids pick some dinners

Letting kids pick dinner can be a great way to teach responsibility and learn about healthy eating habits. It also gives them a creative way to connect with food and explore flavours. Plus, if they picked it, you’ve got a much better chance of them eating it.

Get the kids involved with cooking

Cooking is an important life skill that kids need to learn. It’s not only a way for them to develop practical skills, but it also helps them understand different flavours and food combinations, as well as teaches them about nutrition and the importance of healthy eating. 

It’s also just a great way to bond and make cooking more fun. To get started, choose age-appropriate tasks such as measuring ingredients, stirring batters or kneading dough to get kids involved in the cooking process.

Schedule in take-away nights

Meal planning doesn’t have to mean no pizza and movie night ever again. Having set nights to order take-out can help bring some much needed variety and balance into your weekly routine. Not having to worry about cooking or cleaning up afterwards is an added bonus!

Have some backup easy dinners

No matter how carefully you plan, when it comes to kids, there are always nights when things don’t go according to plan.  Anything you can chuck in the oven is good. It’s not the healthiest option but it’s better than overspending on take away.

Make a master meal list

If noone can remember what dinners they like when it comes time to sit down and make the meal plan, you need a master meal list. Take the time to write down all the recipes and dishes everyone in the family enjoys so you have plenty of options when deciding what to make for dinner.

You could make them up as recipe cards with pictures and keep them in a folder or box, or write them down on a list that you can refer to each week. 

Every time you try a new recipe and it’s a hit – add that to the list. (Hopefully the kids still like it the next time.)

Include make-your-own dinners

Another way to get everyone involved and give everyone a say in what’s for dinner is to include buffet style meals. Choose one day a week or every other week and make the meal about options. This could mean pasta night, where you set out sauce, noodles, veggies and protein for people to assemble their own dinner. Or it could be taco or pizza night where you set out toppings and everyone can assemble their own meal.

This type of dinner is great for picky eaters because they can choose what to eat or leave off. 

Mix it up!

One night a week , challenge the family to try something new. Whether it’s a completely different cuisine or just a twist on an old favorite, taking risks in the kitchen can be fun and rewarding.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming. By involving your kids in the process and having some easy-to-follow recipes on hand, you can create a meal plan that everyone in the family will love.