Meal Planning 101: Ask the Eaters

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Including your family in the meal planning is a great way to ensure better dining for everyone and less waste.

Meal Planning 101 is an ongoing series to help you find ways to make mealtimes easier, tastier, and more economical.

As much I love takeout and letting someone else do the cooking and cleaning up, I know that it’s not really the best choice for my family’s health or our budget.

Experience tells me that effective planning and grocery shopping will help me feed my family in a timely, tasty, and budget-friendly way.

So far in the series, we’ve covered the idea of tracking our eating habits and taking inventory of what you have. Last week over on Life as MOM, I shared a list of quick meals for busy nights. Back in the intro to this series we commiserated on how busy our fall nights are going to be. This list gets you started on dinner in 30 minutes or less.

This week we’re going to “ask the eaters”.

If you cook only for yourself, then you’ve probably already done this. But, if you cook for a spouse, roommate, parent, or child(ren), there are other tummies to consider beside your own.

I learned this in my newlywed days when I discovered that my husband was throwing away the meatloaf sandwiches I packed for him! He didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but he really did not like meatloaf sandwiches. I love them and never thought to ask. By clearing up that misunderstanding, we wasted less food and money and hubby enjoyed his lunches more.

So, this week’s assignment is to ask your eaters.

1. Poll your family about their favorite meals.

Take notes and create a list of their likes and dislikes. This will become a catalog of choices to draw from in future menu planning.

Pay attention to any comments they make about side dishes. My eldest child prefers Poblano Enchiladas or Lawnmower Taco to have side dishes like rice and beans. These cheap eats make a big difference to his enjoyment of the meal.

2. Ask them to participate in the week’s meal planning.

As you craft a plan or menu list for the week, ask the other eaters in your household what they’d like to eat. I let my kids plan this week’s meals. Easy peasy. And I’ll know each one will be happy at least one or two days in the week!


all served with fresh fruit

  • Scrambled Eggs, toast
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Sausage Muffin Sandwiches
  • Granola and Milk
  • Scones
  • Cinnamon Rolls


all served with fresh fruit and/or veggie dippers

  • SBJ
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  • Pasta Salad
  • Turkey Sandwiches
  • Mac and Cheese
  • BLTs
  • Leftovers


  • Pizza Night, Salad
  • Burritos, Fresh Fruit
  • Tacos, Fruit Salad
  • Hamburgers, Veggies and Dip
  • Hot dogs/Brats with Peppers, Homemade Buns, Chips, Fruit
  • Spaghetti and Spaghetti Squash with Red Sauce, Salad, Garlic Bread
  • Chicken and Peppers, Rice, Fruit Salad

3. Follow their suggestions.

Your eaters are more likely to give you good feedback if you actually take it to heart. Regular feedback on meal planning will help you craft better menus that your family will enjoy. In turn, you’ll all eat better and you’ll waste less. Win-win!

How can you include your family in meal planning this week?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Molly says

    Like. 🙂
    Finally figuring this one out, after, oh, 6+ years of living together.

  2. My kids are so super picky, and each one about different things, I think if we all sat down and tried to agree to a menu we would end up living on chicken bites and fries. I try my best however to make sure that at least 3 out of 5 people will be happy with the nights meal and the other 2 can survive off eating a side, or the bread served with the meal after they have tried their required one bite.

  3. Eryn says

    I have one super picky eater, we let her choose one meal per week. Most of my children will eat anything you put in front of them, with the exception of potatoes. My #2 has such a long list of dislikes there is no way I could make a menu just using what she likes. Thank you for the encouragement to get into menu planning again, I went away for the last week of July/first week of August and since I got back I just can’t seem to get back into the swing of things. Grocery and eating out budgets were blown through the roof in August because of this. September has begun and we need to buckle down and get back on track. Excited for the fresh start the new month has brought!

  4. Love this suggestion! This week, I’m trying to specifically keep in mind what my family does NOT like that I tend to serve out of habit.
    Really like that you let the kids plan the menu… now if only everyone could cook for themselves!

  5. harriet says

    I asked last night what everyone wanted me to cook for tonight. My hubby said, “we are eating the leftovers out of the fridge. No need to cook more and waste stuff.” I love this man! And, that’s exactly what we are doing tonight. Tomorrow, beef stew in the crock pot that our middle child requested.

  6. Every week I ask my boy what he’d like for dinner, and I try to incorporate at least one of his suggestions. Hubs is pretty good about telling me what he’d like if we haven’t had it in the rotation for a while.

  7. Jessica C says

    Its just me and my husband, and he has no suggestions ever on what he wants to eat. If I left it up to his input, it would be spaghetti every night. I try to be flexible and we have that about once a week, but the other nights are a huge frustration

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