It’s been a long week — and it’s only Tuesday. With work, running the kids everywhere and gathering groceries, the thought of making dinner for the whole family can be stressful. In fact, even though there is now $150 worth of groceries sitting on your kitchen counters, calling for takeout sounds way more appealing. Who cares if you get three egg rolls just for yourself?
But hold on a moment and think before you dial. Those greasy egg rolls will do nothing for your waistline or wallet, which will only leave you more stressed in the long run. And it certainly won’t set a positive example for your kids.
Instead of reaching for the phone, put those groceries to good use and get your family involved in preparing a healthy meal at home.
Cooking with your kids — though it may seem like an added stressor right now – can be highly beneficial for you and for them. After all, wouldn’t you like to have your teens leave the house knowing a little about the culinary arts, and not just the number to dial when you get hungry?
Why Cooking at Home Is Important
It may seem like a big undertaking, but teaching your kids how to fend for themselves and cook a balanced meal is an essential skill that a number of teens today are seriously lacking.
Research suggests that food education — i.e., teaching your kids how to cook — is actually beneficial for their health. By introducing basic cooking skills, you are also introducing a way of eating that emphasizes the importance of a healthy diet and preparing meals at home.
While fast food can be appealing on those busy nights, isn’t it more appealing to know that you are developing an awareness within your family so they know what a healthy and balanced meal actually is? This awareness can lower risks of obesity and will ultimately help your kids make better and more informed food choices.
If that’s not enough of an incentive to continue cooking with your kids, know that this time together can increase their chances of carrying on these healthy habits well into adulthood. And it will certainly help you come together with a valuable bonding experience that will only increase trust and respect.
- Try New Recipes on the Weekend It makes sense to try new recipes when there’s an abundance of time to get it right. With that in mind, try limiting cooking new recipes to the weekend. As there are no time constraints, you won’t need to worry about getting to soccer practice or missing your favorite TV show. It also gives you ample time to choose a recipe that makes sense for your healthy lifestyle. A morning brunch calls for a heathy twist on a breakfast bar or fun frittata.
- Let Them Help Pick the RecipeThough it may be tempting to step in on this one, try allowing the kids to pick the recipe. Why?Because they’ll likely be more invested if they choose it themselves.If unleashing them on Epicurious sounds a little too intense, gather a few ideas together and ask them to choose from those. This gives everyone a little control to promote feelings of independence, as well as teamwork.
- Shop for the Ingredients Together
Once you agree on a recipe it’s time to get your ingredients. Grocery shopping together will teach your kids a valuable lesson in meal planning and money management. If your kids are a little older, consider giving them a budget to work within as they navigate the store.You may also want to consider showing your kids the power of couponing. Who knows? You may have an innate couponer in your midst who can help you save tons of cash.Tips on where to start in the grocery store are always helpful, so help your kids learn early that the outer aisles are like home base: Stay in that zone and you’ll score a hit in nutrient-rich and healthful foods.
- Let Go of Perfection
It’s hard sometimes — especially for those of us blessed with a type A personality — to let go of perfection and accept a little messiness. For those of you reading this and saying, “Oh boy. That’s me,” take a deep breath and relax.It’s time to let go, even if it’s just a little bit. Panicking about the “how” of getting your food on the table shouldn’t matter as long as your children are being safe. If Tommy turns the stand mixer on high and your family gets to enjoy a flour shower, just laugh it off. Focus on the long-term goal of teaching your kids to cook and let the rest of it be what it is.
- Cleaning is a part of cooking
You want your kids to be knowledgeable about all aspects of cooking, right? One very real part of cooking is the clean up. Enlist their help in getting the kitchen ready for making the meal, including getting the counters wiped down, laying out parchment paper for those unforeseeable messes and unloading the dishwasher. Once the cooking is done and the food has been eaten, it’s time to package up leftovers, reload the dishwasher and make sure the kitchen is sparkling for the next meal. Doing it all together will — again — reinforce that you work as a team.
Cooking with your kids doesn’t have to be difficult, it just requires time and commitment to the task at hand. It says a lot that you are attempting this venture with your kids, so give yourself a pat on the back for being a great parent! Use these tips and tricks to make the most of your time together and keep the cooking lessons stress-free.
What are your best secrets on making meal prep time enjoyable for the whole family?