Loving Your Family through Meal Planning

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See that? That goat cheese pizza would make my heart sing if someone plopped it down in front of me. My kids? Not so much. A few of them love it, others hate it. My husband? Not his favorite.

My sister and I also had very different tastes growing up. Sometimes I would put nuts in the cookie dough just to spite her. What is she thinking? She just doesn’t know what tastes good.

Over the years, however, I’ve realized that we can love people by what we cook — and by what we don’t cook. If I make things on purpose that I know my family dislikes, well, that’s not really loving them.

This isn’t to say that children shouldn’t be exposed to new tastes and textures. And I’m definitely not saying that picky eaters should be given free reign. However, there are boundaries we can respect in allowing others to have different tastes than our own.

So how does this work out practically in meal planning?

Here are three ways to love your family through meal planning:

Create meals that allow flexibility in how it is served.

I regularly prepare meals that allow my diners to customize the food to their own taste preferences. This includes meals like burritos, chimichangas, beans and rice, even hot dogs and brats. The basic meal is the same for everyone, but vary as people top their plates with their favorite flavors.

Introduce new flavors, but allow a way out.

Recently, I made a wonderful chimichurri rice with shrimp and sausage. It was delicious. But, I knew a few of my people might wrinkle their noses at the peppers and onions in the rice. I required each of the children to taste the rice, but I also had a number of side dishes available for them to fill up on if the rice wasn’t quite what they loved.

Include at least one favorite each week.

It’s funny but my pickiest eater is also the one who willingly eats the trainwreck meals that the usually voracious eaters won’t touch. Since he’s picky all the time, he’s had to learn what the others haven’t: to eat what he doesn’t like.

Therefore, I try to include something that each kid loves at least once a week. It’s a trade-off between what they might consider mediocre dinners and the foods that they just gorge themselves over.

Over time I figure my kids will have well-rounded diets. They will eventually learn to like a variety of foods. And while meal planning puts order into the workings of my home, I can still tweak it to suit their tastes most of the time. I can still love them through meal planning, even if I don’t serve their favorites every night of the week.

How do YOU love your family through meal planning?

Put Your House in Order

I’m participating in a series, called “Put Your House in Order,” with a bunch of great bloggers. Each of us is tackling a different area of home management and sharing suggestions for organizing in the new year.

Check out how the others are tackling this season of Love:

Fruit of the Spirit Charts for Kids from Connie at Smockity Frocks
Making Family Rules Fun from Myra at My Blessed Life
Facebook and Inappropriate Relationships from Courney at Women Living Well
Family Finances from Kingdom First Mom

P.S. Jamie, I’m sorry that I purposely made cookies you didn’t like.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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  1. Oooo! That pizza looks SO good!

    Thanks for this reminder to take into account differing tastes!

  2. Fabulous tips Jessica! I love cooking for my little family. 🙂

  3. Aunt Jone says

    I always ask for meal suggestions so I don’t get the groan followed by an eye-roll and “didn’t we just have that??” My oldest boy claims we have pork chops ALL THE TIME. Apparently once a month is ALL THE TIME to a 16 year old!

    Last week I asked my husband what he wanted for supper one night and he responded (via email) with a meal plan for the rest of the week! It was awesome- the planning was done and I only had to pick up a couple things from the store. I guess my ultimate goal is for him to come up with meals only using what is already on hand! Baby steps, right?

    Also- Smockity Frocks is the best.name.ever!

  4. I love the love that is in this post. I was just at the Sally Clarkson Parenting Conference this weekend and Sally said she most likes to influence her children over food. She uses food as a means to the heart of her children…and I had not thought about the fact that if they are not enjoying the food – it might be harder to reach their heart! So this spoke Sally’s message so loud and clear! Great post! Thank you!

    • Jessica says

      @Courtney (WomenLivingWell), interesting twist! I was at her CA conference earlier in the month and I can totally see what you’re talking about. It needs to be food they enjoy definitely!

  5. Schlockey Momma says

    So… I was thinking lately, that meal planning could also be a way to love and honor God, not only through wise stewardship of your finances and your time (in trips to the store, preparations, etc.), but also in the battleground of your thoughts. In various seasons of my life, I have found myself constantly thinking about food. Trying to figure out what we are going to eat, worrying about what we are going to eat, etc. In those times, food has become a mini-idol, taking up way more brain space than it should… How to combat that temptation? Meal planning as an act of worship…

  6. I do a monthly meal planner. We do our major grocery shopping once a month, so I decide what I’m cooking depending on sales and what coupons I have. Meat we mostly buy from Costco and break down in the freezer, we do that every 6 months. There is room to maneuver in the plan and plenty of leftovers for when I don’t want to cook.

  7. This area is such a challenge for me. My mother grew up in complete poverty. So, I find myself resenting the choices my kids have when my mom was lucky to have food on her table. I want my kids to go to their family member’s homes and be polite and appreciative of what is put in front of them as it is hardship for some of them. But, you have made some good points I can incorporate.

  8. I had to quit making porcupine scramble because none of the kids liked it. My husband and I could tolerate it, and it was supposed to be a kid friendly meal, but I finally had to accept that it wasn’t worth making. I also let my kids each pick 1 food that they never have to eat and that makes meal time a lot smoother.

  9. Awesome tips! While I’m a huge healthnut, my husband is not, and like you said, cooking food that he enjoys – even though it might not be what I consider healthy or even that deliciuos – is one way I can show him that his tastes and opinions matter to me.

    Can food be the 6th love language?

  10. Brandy says

    I am curious at what age do you start requiring your kids to try foods?

    • Dina says

      My son is 3 and we have him take one bite of new food. We’ve been doing it since he started eating real food-not baby food. We call it the “No thank you” bite. He knows that if he doesn’t like it he does not have to eat it but through doing this he has discovered many more foods that he now loves. Sometimes there are tears and I don’t wannas but general he takes a quick bite and is done with it.

      • brandy says


        i am still baffled at how you make this happen! my daughter is 26 months and it is very frustrating to know you have made food that she will enjoy but she won’t taste it. then she will randomly start eating a food like green beans.

        • Kate says

          @brandy, I have a twenty-six month old as well. What we do is put a small serving of everything on her plate. If she wants seconds of anything, she knows she has to at least sample everything on her plate first. We just repeat: “We try everything” as our dinner-time motto!

  11. Melinda P says

    My kids can’t stand Mexican food, my husband L-O-V-E-S it, so in those cases I make something kid friendly for the kids, and hubby and I eat mexican. Like last night: We got taquitos, kids got mac and cheese and meatballs (they are 4 years, 2 years, and 1 year so to be kid friendly in my house, it has to be REALLY kid friendly), everyone got veggies, all were happy.

  12. Kate says

    Great post. I struggle with this because my husband is a picky eater. He’ll eat anything I put before him, but I sometimes know he doesn’t like it. Ultimately, it doesn’t bring me joy to cook food he doesn’t like, so I try to stick to things he does. Though I believe it’s good for him to be stretched a bit, too, just like our kids! When our children are older, we’re planning to let each one plan the menu for one night of the week.

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