Meal Planning and Sharing Cooking Responsibilities with Teenagers

I’ve noticed an uptick in views on my two autumn meal planning posts in the past couple of weeks, and I thought I’d take a moment to write about how we’re doing dinner in our home these days with four relatively kitchen-ready kids. Quarantine really had the kids baking and cooking a lot out of sheer boredom, and I’ve had a lot of back and foot pain for the past year, so we’ve morphed into a more “all hands on deck” meal preparation group.

Summer Recipe Master List

As summer was beginning this year, I put in three zucchini plants in the garden because our one zucchini plant in 2020 failed and I didn’t want to run that risk again. I then decided to go through all my cookbooks and find every zucchini recipe I could so that I’d have an arsenal of ideas for dealing with the very likely avalanche of zucchini we’d encounter. Whilst perusing zucchini recipes, I noticed a lot of fantastic vegetable recipes that I’d always wanted to try every summer but had never gotten around to preparing, so I decided to make a giant master list of summery recipes in my bullet journal. I tried to choose as many recipes from this master list over the summer, and the kids got caught up in the novelty of it and started helping me prepare dishes. By the end of the summer, we often had four different people working in the kitchen at once and could get a full, vegetables-included dinner on the table in about forty minutes.

Another recently-added consideration is that I’ve developed a soy allergy, which means I can eat very little processed foods anymore. Soy is in freakin’ EVERYTHING, people, UGH! So we’ve had to start making a lot of stuff from scratch, which means more cooking and time in the kitchen.

I decided to invest in a 24″x36″ whiteboard at the beginning of autumn and drew in gridlines. With school and after school activities returning to something resembling normal, I knew I was going to become very busy very quickly and that we were going to need a dinner command center that the kids could consult if I wasn’t home when it was time to start cooking dinner.

I went through my cookbooks again, this time for autumny recipe goodness, and now I spend a little time each Saturday morning while Michael and I are catching up and planning out the next week to write down each day’s activities in the top boxes on the meal plan board, and then I use my autumn recipe master list to plug in some dishes in black ink. (Or, for busy weeks, we just have easy-to-make foods, obviously.) As the kids wake up, they come along and write a star in their personal color next to the dishes they’re going to make, keeping in mind what they’re going to be up to that particular day in regards to music lessons and the like. (Don’t volunteer to make anything if you’re not even going to be home at dinner!) It’s been a godsend with my foot surgery recovery…very little standing in the kitchen for me anymore.

Last week’s meal plan, with activities blurred out because it’s a bad idea to post your kids’ schedules on that internet.

It’s interesting to read through the many iterations of meal planning that I’ve done over the years. It just goes to show that we’re always adapting to new circumstances and abilities, and if it works for you in that moment, then it’s the right choice. I used to get critical of myself for not doing things the way I saw other adults doing things in their homes, and it’s only been recently that I’ve really figured out that it’s ok to change the way you do things and it’s ok to not take another person’s advice if you have a pretty solid expectation it will not work for you. You do you, and I’ll do me. But share what you’re doing so I can steal the ideas that will help me out, and I’ll keep sharing what I’m doing in case you want to steal some of my ideas, too.

Happy eating!

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