Right after I had my first child I became much more concerned about what we ate as a family. I wanted to eat tasty, but healthy food. The first task was to learn to cook well. I was 30, but I didn’t know how to cook well, just ask my husband. So I started watching Rachel Ray who taught me everything I know about cooking. Not necessarily healthy, but she taught me cooking techniques that I use every day.
Fast forward 5 years and I have three kids now eating real food, not baby food, and another one on the way. I need to step it up another notch. I kept reading lots of stuff about picky eaters in my parenting magazines. From everything I had read I was sure I didn’t want one of those and I needed to figure out how to stop that from happening – fast. I was afraid I would end up like those other parents cooking 3 meals per night. One mac and cheese, one chicken nuggets and one hot dog, please. I didn’t have time for that and it scared me half to death that I would end up eating the same thing just because I didn’t have the energy to make a fourth, healthier option.
So I set out to read everything I could about how to avoid the picky eater trap. From everything I have ever read, and experienced myself, I surmised it is best to consistently offer a variety of healthy foods to your children and not cave in with macaroni and cheese on the stove in case they don’t eat the family dinner. Basically, you eat what is served for dinner or, hopefully, you will like breakfast better. After my pediatrician promised me they wouldn’t starve themselves I was willing to try this.
So I gathered my cookbooks, magazines, and recipe websites and set out to do some meal planning.
I even invited a friend to join me. We would plan our meals together each week at the gym while our kids were in the play area. (Don’t worry, we worked out too.) We made these fancy meal planning worksheets and grocery list sheets. We would get 5 recipes pulled together, write our grocery lists and call it done. It took us roughly 1 hour per week to meal plan. It’s kind of a lot of time.
But it worked. We were eating lots of new things and I always had an answer for “what’s for dinner.” I was feeling good. However, I was worried I lacked the knowledge I needed to make the healthiest choices and I didn’t really have the time to sort through all the articles on the latest food research to understand it myself.
Then number 4 came, and then number 5. That hour each week became more and more precious.
One day a few moms of 4 or more were sitting together having tea and talking about the challenges we face. Meal planning was top of the list. And one mom said she was using a service called The Fresh 20. It delivered, to her email, 5 healthy recipes each week with the grocery list.
WHAT? Then it got better – they used only 20 ingredients each week, mostly fresh food from the outside of the store (produce and meat) and very little from the (inside) processed foods area. So I tried it. Now, two years later we eat well and I have a much better understanding of what healthy looks like.
And it was easy for me!
I needed a lot of help in the kitchen. My skills were lacking at the beginning but the desire was there. Rachel Ray taught me techniques and the Fresh Twenty took me to the next level. I hope someday I can do this on my own, but for now, this is what works for me.
In my discovery phase I found all sorts of tools and resources for meal planning. Here are a few to check out:
I keep all of my personal recipes on here so I can access them anywhere I go. The rating system is awesome and the comments on recipes have helped me many times.
Search by ingredient, in case you want to get rid of something in your pantry or the CSA is bringing you too much of something.
Follow your favorite celebrity chefs and use some of their recipes.
You have to subscribe, but they also have a blog that gives great tips and info.
Chris Johnson, On Target Living
Author, speaker and health guru. I have heard him 2 times and his stuff is really good.
Free health assessment, videos, app, worksheets and blog. Make sure to check out the “Brand Favorite’s For Kids” worksheet. Very helpful.