Rushing home and frantically pulling together something fairly nutritious (that the kids may or may not eat), while listening to the cherubs arguing about whose turn it is to pour the milk, is no way to spend precious family mealtime. Try putting the kids in charge once a week. If it doesn't work, at least they'll know what it feels like to be totally frazzled and unappreciated.
- Start a list of simple meals your kids like, along with the necessary ingredients. Leave it on the fridge and let them add to it when they think of menu ideas.
- Have the kids give you their grocery list when you do the weekly shopping, or if they're old enough, give them money and let them do the shopping themselves.
- Let them look through cookbooks or online for recipe ideas ("How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman and epicurious.com are two places to start).
- Go over the meal plan with them ahead of time so you know which parts of the process they will need help with.
- Well-balanced doesn't have to mean complicated. Grilled cheese sandwiches, carrot sticks, and sliced apples make a great dinner.
- As they begin to feel more confident, encourage them to experiment a little.
- Sometimes arguments can be avoided if each child is "in charge" of the menu on alternating weeks.
- Have duct tape on hand if you're the kind of parent who constantly tells the kids how to do it "better."
- Whatever the meal is: relax, smile, and eat it!