Getting your family on board with meal planning can be a challenge. Switching from take out habits, to eating at home habits doesn't have to be hard. Here is how after years of drive thru dinners and take out, I transitioned my family to healthy meal planning!
We have not always been a meal planning family.
Up until 2015, we used to live off take out and eating out.
But, after my husband and I hit the scales at our heaviest weights, blew through a ton of money on eating out, the birth of our daughter chaos, and both of us working full time out of the home, it was time to make some changes.
I have to admit that this guy has been an absolute trooper in this adventure into healthier eating and the habit of meal planning.
He has every right to put up a bit of a fuss, I mean wings out of cauliflower and replacing spaghetti with zucchini noodles?!
Nowhere in our wedding vows did we agree to stay together through thick or thin vegetable noodles.
I am not going to lie, this hasn’t been the easiest transition.
But, here are the 4 things that worked in our house in an attempt to get us all on a healthier path
1. Engage Everyone in Building the Plan
I don’t just dream up a plan and then force it upon the family.
Well – sometimes I do that, but I try not to!
Sunday morning over coffee, we talk about the week ahead and plan our meals. Both my husband and daughter get a say and I even force them to pick some of the meals!
This allows us to talk about what is going on in the week. Who has to be somewhere right after work? Who's driving who where? and allows us to plan our dinners accordingly.
I am the one coming up with most of the meals and do sometimes get some resistance.
Sneaky wife trick – always present the “worst” food first that you know he will hate – anything after that suggestion looks amazing. Well… well…. Well look who’s child psychology classes are coming in handy now!
Seriously though, when we talk about the plan, there is definitely a lot less back and forth with "what do you want to eat" and dreaded decision fatigue during the week.
Besides, don't you have bigger things to disagree about than food!?
2. Make a list of "go to meals" - a Master Meal list
One of the hardest parts of meal planning is to come up with things to put on it that everyone will like.
Then you end up all arguing for 30 minutes, and default to ordering pizza or eating cereal.
What we did was sit down and just make a big ol list of our favorite meals.
I also did a list of our favorite meals we order when we eat out. Then when I am feeling adventurous, I head to Pinterest and try and make a copy cat version.
Once you have a big master meal list, sort it by categories.
Think chicken, beef, pork, soup, stirfry, vegetarian, etc.
This way, right at your finger tips, you will have tons of ideas of what to put on your plan - and you know the family already likes them.
This helps me too, when I am trying to clean out the freezer.
I see that I have ground beef, so then I look at my ground beef list and start my plan from there. Knowing that is in your freezer is a super helpful way to inspire meal plans!
3. Use Theme Nights
Creating theme nights takes even more of the decision fatigue out of meal planning.
Themes can be things like meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, pizza Friday, fake out take out Wednesday. You get the point.
This way the theme for eat night is set, and it limits the decision of what to put on the plan. This is also a good way to get the kids involved!
Lets say you pick 14 themes (2 weeks), and then you put 2 recipes under each theme. You just made 14 dinner plans. This can really help narrow it down and make meal planning go alot faster.
4. Lead by example
In all honesty, what has worked the best is just me continuing down the path I am on and they will slowly follow.
Besides, at the end of the day, if they don’t eat it, they will have to cook their own, and well… that is just far too much work for them.
Once I started eating right, and my husband started to see how much energy I had, and how much easier our weeknights were , he happily joined in.
Was it instantaneous? No way! But I just kept down the path and was consistent, and now, meal planning, talking about the week ahead, and coming up with a plan on Sunday of how we will tackle the week, taxi kids to activities, and get a healthy dinner on the table, is now just second nature to us.
Transforming the way your family eats will not happen overnight. That is OK. My decision to change my own habits took YEARS of contemplating and excuse making. Keep down your path and be patient.
So, there you have it, how I transitioned my family to healthy meal planning... with limited resistance and delicious home cooked meals!
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