Many who know me love hearing about my homeschool experiences and some have asked me to expound upon our newest adventure….menu planning!
One day Mark had a day off in the middle of the week so we decided to run errands. We got to the local grocery store and I said to my boys “OK, think of one days worth of food. You are going to buy that food and you have a $50 limit.” Now $50 for one day is a lot and not what we normally spend but this was a “fly by the seat of your pants” experiment and I wanted to see what the boys would do.
Mark and I opted for the good old fashion divide and conquer technique. He took a boy and girl and I took the other 3. C-Dog decided on two dinners; beef and broccoli and veggie stir-fry. He also got lots of fresh fruits and veggies for snack, quinoa, and organic brown rice. Bug decided on frozen pizza and pasta. He also picked up some fresh fruit and frozen veggies to go with each meal. Pizza and pasta are not easy in my house. Elf can’t have pizza so Bug had to buy kosher and nitrate-free hotdogs for her. He then bought a pepperoni pizza for dad and a thin crust cheese pizza for me and him. He then bought two Udi’s Gluten Free Three Cheese Pizzas for C-Dog and Princess. Between the 2 they eat one and a half Udi’s pizzas. Pasta involves 2 different kids. One kid is allergic to rice and the other to corn. The pasta has to be gluten free. If you know GF pasta you know the choices are rice or corn and neither are that cheap.
Both boys came under budget. Thank goodness! What was the lesson learned? Bug learned just how expensive his choices were. He thought he would have a lot more leftover than he did. He learned that whole foods are cheaper and feed more than pre-packaged foods. C-Dog learned it is always good to buy seasonal fruits and veggies as they will be cheapest and taste best (sour and expensive berries were bought).
Mark and I were thrilled with the outcome. Not the food but the lessons learned. They learned that budgeting is important, food is expensive, and planning is a must. We decided it would be great to make this part of our homeschool. The 3 biggest kids each plan a full week’s menu; breakfast, lunch, dinner, 2 snacks, and dessert. Princess gets to add input. At least 3 meals have to be meatless. We plan for everyone. If someone can’t have a planned meal we make sure we either change the meal or plan something for that person. Each child has to cook at least one, but preferably two, of the meals they planned. Mark and I will guide them and have the right to change their menus as needed.
The kids use my recipe books and my Pintrest boards for inspiration. We have some tried and true favorites but they also like to get creative and try new things. We use Sweet Bella Roos menu planners. I like menu planners because she currently has 3 colors so each kid gets their own color. It also has a shopping list. The kids can take their menus and see what we already have in the house and then create their shopping lists on what is still needed. At the store seeing the menu and the shopping list helps prevent impulse buying. I have tried several planners and these ones are my favorite and they work extremely well for us.
On Friday we sit around the table with cookbooks and my laptop and we start planning. Some bickering ensues as they fight over meal ideas, but in the end it is actually quite fun. We are together, we are communicating, we are learning.
C-Dog’s menu got used first. Bug was away on a ski trip so I randomly picked between the other two menus. How did shopping go? Well, it was an utter disaster! I very foolishly brought him shopping on a Saturday, one of the busiest days! Ugh! C-Dog has Sensory Processing Disorder. I know better! My husband knows better! In fact we saw the signs of overload before we even left the house! “I want to stay home!” is not a temper tantrum with C-Dog, it is a cry for help. I gave him some Rescue Remedy pastilles in Black Currant, his favorite, and told him he would be “just fine.” Sigh. I really do know better. This was not a stellar parenting moment. I put my own agenda in front of the needs of my child. 😦 I am just keeping it real, folks!
I ended up doing the shopping while Mark carried our very overstimulated 10 year old. Yes, he carried him. It was that bad. The girls took advantage of the chaos and were quite rowdy. It was far from an ideal trip. The trip was so insane that the next day C-Dog was still very much struggling and so we opted to not go to church. Has a shopping trip ever taken you 2 days to recover from? Sigh. This is our life and I will be thankful.
OK, back to those menus…
This week C-Dog has helped make homemade jello with organic juice, Mongolian Beef and Broccoli, Orange-Cranberry Chicken, pasta, lunch, and plans to help make homemade muffins. He has met the goal of cooking at least two meals and then some! We are still on his week, but I promise you the next shopping trip will not be on a weekend!
I want to hear from you! Do you menu plan with your kids? If so share how you do it! If not do you plan to start?
My kiddos are encouraged to suggest meals and they know how to price shop at the store, but I usually do most of the legwork when it comes to buying. They are just starting to get into cooking mode though, which is going to be loads of fun!
Oh I adore cooking with them! It gives me that one-on-one time that is a bit harder to find with 5 kiddos! I have never really shopped with my kids before. The store is a Sensory Meltdown waiting to happen. We are just not ready to integrate C-Dog into this part of life.
Each one of my kiddos gets to pick one day to plan meals for. Everyone takes their turns helping cook meals! The older girls can do it on their own these days. It’s funny cause the older ones used to think it was fun, but now they see it as a chore!!! I just want them to be prepared one day. When I got married I only knew how to cook eggs and mashed potatoes!
We split up the shopping list at the store by departments. It’s nice having the older ones. I challenge them by making them tell me the cost per ounce of smaller and bigger portion options to make the best purchase for our money. They seem to appreciate the groceries these days lol. What few snacks we buy have to last!
My kids have always helped cook, but it has always been spur of the moment “You wanna help?” Now they have no choice. This is good because Bug lacks confidence in cooking because C-Dog is so good at it. Bug is learning that just because it doesn’t come naturally to him, it doesn’t mean he is “bad” at it.
What menu planners have you tried? I’m getting my feet wet trying to meal plan, and am 100% lost.
I believe I provided a link to what we use. What advice can I offer you on getting started? Do you just need moral support? I can offer that also!
This is such a wonderful and clever way for you to educate your children. Plus getting to spend time with them! You are to be commended for being such a wonderful mom as to teach them the value of money and how far it will go towards certain foods. Wish I’d done this with my boys.
We have eight children and need to plan menus a month in advance. We use a monthly calendar and each child chooses three or four dinner meals for that month. The children help cook “their” meals. I am in charge of lunch and snack planning. Because we have two children with major sensory and anxiety challenges, I try to take no more than two with me to shop and we always use a list. We have also made a game out of matching ads with coupons to get the best deals each week. The girls usually win but all of them enjoy trying to get the lowest costs!
I have been homeschooling my kiddos for about a year now, so I am always looking for new ideas to expand on. We have been cooking together, but I never thought about letting them meal plan. They are printing off their meal planners (and are super excited) as I am typing this and I just wanted to give a quick thanks from one momma to another! Have a blessed day!
Pingback: Cooking With Kids | True Stories of a Midwest Yankee