10 Tips For Cooking Meals The Whole Family Will Enjoy

We can’t all be domestic goddesses and whiz kids in the kitchen, cooking all organic all the time or from-scratch recipes out of the latest Jamie Oliver cookbook but we can aim to get it right some of the time. Not always easy I know! I am not a good cook, I often burn toast but I am a huge fan of shortcuts that work and hacks that make my life just a fraction easier!

One of the most frustrating times of the day in many houses is dinnertime because, as with adults, children tend to like different things. It can be difficult to get everyone to eat the same things and it is not feasible or practical to cook several different dinners every night. While this is sometimes necessary because of age (as with weaning babies) or specific dietary needs, there are steps you can take to make it a bit easier on yourself:

1. Plan Ahead

When I say plan, I mean start every week with a plan of what you are going to make every night and shop accordingly. This will save the headache of trying to think of what to cook on any given evening and endless trips to the shop for that one thing you forgot to get during the weekly shop! It also avoids having to throw out ridiculous amounts of food you thought you might use (I mean who really uses scallops apart from Gordon Ramsay)

2. Bulk Cook For Weaning Babies

This can be a handy one if you have a little one just starting out with solid food. It can be done a number of ways. You can cook up dinners, puree and portion them before freezing so you have readymade meals when you need them and baby gets used to eating what you eat or you can puree and freeze individual flavours and combine them in different ways so baby gets a good variety of flavour combinations. Bulk cooking could be done once a week to save you time every other day! This can work in a way for the rest of the family too of you think in terms of dinners that feed you for two days like casseroles or homemade soup.

3. Identify What Each Person Likes/Dislikes

Every time someone says, “I don’t like….” Write it down and write down the time of day. This is useful in planning your meals for the week. A 3-year-old may appear to like apples one week and not the next but in reality, the time of day could be the issue. Children can be fickle when it comes to food so they may like certain things at certain times of day. Familiarising yourself with this, if it is the case, can save so many arguments!

4. Make It Fun

If kids feel like food and eating are a chore, they simply won’t do it! Try making funny faces on their plates with veggies, make up stories about their favourite characters loving a particular food, let them decorate their own pizza, tell them about the superheroes that eat this particular dinner. Kids sometimes like to serve themselves too so something like Taco Tuesdays or tapas style meals could work sometimes. And what about mini versions of your meal (mini burgers, mini quiche). That might be a little bit of work but you can be guaranteed they will eat it! Basically, do whatever it takes to get them to eat.

5. Don’t Overcomplicate Matters

Simple is always best when it comes to kids. They don’t need or want the latest cuisine, they want nuggets and chips or spuds and fish fingers so make it easy on yourself and simplify!

6. Find Ways To Hide Things They Don’t Like

Our mothers did this for years. Homemade soup, omelettes, quiches; they were all great ways to hide they dreaded ingredients and chances are, your kids won’t even realise they are in there. Try making a smoothie with spinach in it; they won’t know and you can call it dinosaur juice. You can be sure they will want to drink what dinosaurs drank!

7. Get Kids Involved In Cooking

Kids generally love cooking and baking and are pretty much guaranteed to eat whatever they make themselves. Make DIY pizzas, get them to help with peeling, stirring etc. They will be proud as punch presenting their creation to the family and lapping up the praise that comes with it!

8. Try A Slow Cooker

This has been my saving grace. I find it so easy to prepare dinner in the morning and leave it cooking away for hours while I do my other jobs and it is cooked to perfection when they arrive home from school. A hot, fresh, nutritious meal with little effort.

9. Prepare Ahead Of Time

If you can do anything to help yourself ahead of time, do it. Prepare veg in the morning or even the night before for this evenings dinner. If you want to be really prepared ahead of time, why not ask the butcher to prepare the meat the way you need it. For example, if I know I am making a chicken curry, I will ask the butch to dice the chicken breasts when I am buying them, saves me doing it and doesn’t cost you anything! And there is nothing wrong with saving yourself chopping and peeling time by using frozen veg.

10. Being Lazy Is Allowed

Give yourself a break; nuggets and chips, noodles, pizza or even toast are fine as a dinner sometimes. They will not be malnourished from the odd convenience dinner or take-away so stop putting so much pressure on yourself, you have enough other stuff on your mind!

Let it go!

Most importantly, if all else fails, let it go! The last thing you want is to create an issue where there isn’t one. Kids can be unpredictable and stubborn so sometimes you should choose your battles wisely. Is it worth a 20-minute rant explaining how broccoli is good for you? Maybe we could just skip the broccoli today and try again in a couple of days. Generally, we are the ones that end up annoyed when we let ourselves get irritated by this stuff, kids have forgotten it 5 minutes later.