5 Reasons You Should Always Menu Plan Together as a Family

7 minutes
April 28, 2023
Carole Jones

Figuring out what to make for dinner every week has to be one of the most dreaded household tasks. Often times it falls on the shoulders of one person to make those decisions but if you are ready for dinnertime to run more smoothly, it is time to get the whole family involved in menu planning. I know it might sound like more work, but it will actually solve multiple problems at the same time!

menu planning together as a family

When readers tell me that they’ve already tried to get their families to help with menu planning and it’s never worked, I already know what their failed attempt looked like. Usually, a call from the kitchen of, “What do you guys want for dinner this week?”

Yeah, that is never going to work.

Instead, schedule 10-15 minutes to sit down together and plan. It is important to involve everyone. Yes, even those grouchy teenagers and picky eaters.

If you don’t already have your personalized Family Recipe Vault to use as a resource, go grab it because it will make menu planning a much faster process!

So, let’s jump right into WHY involving everyone will make your dinnertime experience so much better.

1. There will be significantly less complaining

I know it sounds much too good to be true and scientifically impossible, but it is and here’s why. When everyone has input and feels their opinion matters, they are much more willing to compromise and go with the flow.

Here’s what this looks like in a real-world setting:

Let’s say you have three children who like to complain (a lot) about what’s for dinner, no matter what is being served. When these three adorable kiddos get to be involved in deciding what is served, not only does it give them something to look forward to but it also calms their anxiety on the nights when you are serving someone else’s choice.

Children of all ages like to feel that they are in control of what is happening to them, especially when it comes to their food choices. Actually giving them some of that decision power will automatically lower their instinct to fight when they do not have complete control.

I suggest letting each family member be in charge of picking what is for dinner at least one night a week. Yes, their first choice will be Lucky Charms and waffles, so you will have to guide them and remind them of other (healthier) options that they love. Again, this is where your personalized Family Recipe Vault will come in handy because they can have their own list of dinners that they love to choose from.

2. Your picky eater will become more adventurous

This second perk is closely related to the first, but almost more important for many parents because a picky kid can be such a source of frustration and contention in the home. Remember, one of the main reasons picky eaters are picky is because being so allows them to obtain a level of control they wouldn’t have without it.

If your child has a voice in you menu planning, not only will your picky eater feel empowered by that bit of control, but as they become more involved in the planning process, they will become more confident in trying new foods. Let them look through Pinterest, cookbooks, or your favorite food blogs and mark recipes that look good to them and they want to try.

My youngest is hands-down my pickiest eater out of my six kids. And for years, she has claimed she hates rice (even though she ate it for years when she was a toddler). A few months ago, she chose a recipe for dinner that had brown rice in it, ate it, and now talks about how much she loves brown rice. I’ve tried to get her to try white rice again, but still nothing 🙂 Hey, you have to take progress where you can find it!

If you can get your picky eater to go a step further and also help prepare the dinner they have chosen, that is an even more powerful tool in overcoming pickiness. Seeing, handling, and preparing food helps eliminate their anxiety over new colors, textures, or flavors.

If you are looking for some picky-eater friendly recipes for them to choose from first, you can check these 10 picky eater dinners out and see if you have any luck!

3. Naturally leads to them cooking on their own

Children are naturally curious little beings. While they may not have expressed a curiosity about cooking on their own, once they begin to be involved in the early stages of getting dinner on the table, it peeks their interest about what happens next.

Here is what this third perk looks like in a real-world setting:

Let’s say your son picks tacos every single week as his meal during your family menu planning session. And since the internet only allows tacos to be eaten on Tuesdays, you invite him into the kitchen every Tuesday to lend a hand with “his” tacos.

The first week, he shreds the cheese. The week after, he shreds the cheese and then chops up some lettuce. The following Taco Tuesday adds a simple chopped tomato to his skills, along with the cheese and lettuce. By the time week four rolls around, he learns to brown and season the ground beef.

So, not only has your beautiful son learned how to make dinner on his own in a short time, from here on out, YOU no longer have to cook on another Tuesday night!

4. Rescues you from your recurring dinner rut

Please, don’t try to convince me that you don’t get stuck in a dinner rut of the same 5-7 dinners over and over again. I’ve published two cookbooks and have over 600 recipes on this blog and I get stuck in one often. It’s just a part of real life.

When you plan together as a family, you have more than just your brain trying to figure out what sounds good. It naturally multiplies the amount of brain power and memory available. Granted, some brains are more helpful than others, but still. Once this responsibility becomes part of your family’s reality , their minds will naturally notice opportunities it would normally overlook.

For example, one family member will mention a great pasta dish you used to make that you completely forgot about. Then another will pull out their phone to show you a saved a recipe video on Instagram they thought looked yummy. And your partner will share a recipe their co-worker told them about at the office.

This won’t happen unless they are involved in the planning and gain access to their brain’s radar. You can compare this to when you buy a new car and suddenly start noticing how many people have the exact same car as yours. It happens only because the new car becomes part of your reality and on your brain’s radar.

5. Lightens your load

The average Mom spends 68 minutes per day on preparing meals. That comes to over 8 hours a week and does NOT include planning or shopping! I think you deserve for your dinner-related load to be lightened a bit my friend.

Now, I won’t lie to you and say that the first time you sit down to do this as a family will be a smashing success. In fact, it will probably make you doubt every single point of this post. However, like all worthwhile changes in your life, if you stick with it a few times around the block, you will reap the rewards for the rest of your life.

Want to get your family to help with every aspect of getting dinner on the table?

If you’re ready to permanently calm the chaos and get 3-5 hours of your free time back every week, then I couldn’t be more thrilled to invite you to join me inside Family Dinner Academy! 

Family Dinner Academy is the ultimate, step-by-step system for getting dinner on the table very night by working together as a family. It is the only comprehensive program that teaches the WHOLE family how to meal plan, prep, cook, & clean it up so you don’t have to do it alone! 

Carole Jones

Carole Jones is an Arizona-based cookbook author & food blogger. She's authored The 30 Minute Cooking From Frozen Cookbook and the self-published Take 5: Chicken e-cookbook. For the past 15 years, Carole has shared her culinary adventures cooking and baking for her six brutally honest children here on My Kitchen Escapades. Hot, crusty bread is Carole's love language, but her two adorable grandchildren are a close second. Yes, second. Don't judge.

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