Get a Helping Hand in the Kitchen

How to involve your family in meal planning
Published May 2, 2016

Let's face it, when it comes to time spent in the kitchen we could all use a helping hand. According to a 2010 Statistics Canada survey, women reported spending 13.8 hours a week on unpaid domestic chores in addition to working a full-time regular paying job. Getting your family to help out in the kitchen can be one way to ease the burden on yourself.

Family help is advantageous in two ways; first, you're setting your children up for a lifetime of kitchen confidence which will in turn give them the ability to produce healthy meals for themselves in the future. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this will give you the opportunity to spend time on yourself! There is a very real temptation to fill your newly freed up time with other household tasks that need completing, but try to stay mindful of this restlessness and channel it into some much needed self-care; whether you spend it on an invigorating workout, reading a great book or on any other activity that brings you joy.

Kitchen skills last a lifetime
It can seem daunting, even potentially frustrating, to think of your family helping out in the kitchen. After all, you have your own way of doing things that are probably rooted in efficiency and routine. However, even the smallest of chores can help familiarize your kids with every day basic kitchen tasks. Cristel Moubarak, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutrifoodie, a Vancouver-based nutrition counselling and education program, suggests that children can begin by taking on simple tasks like "stirring the pot, measuring ingredients or grabbing items from the fridge and washing them. If they're comfortable using knives, giving them a chopping job can be really exciting." These basic skills are the perfect building blocks for establishing kitchen independence, as well as establishing the foundation for your own personal freedom from kitchen tasks.

Get everyone involved
When your kitchen co-pilots feel comfortable in the kitchen and have demonstrated their ability to prepare a meal with success, assign them a specific day of the week where they'll be responsible for making the family dinner.  Besides being obviously helpful, another positive incentive is the lifelong benefit of being sure of one's self in the kitchen. Moubarak says that "There's been a lot of research to prove that children who are involved in their meal prep are more 'kitchen intelligent' and grow up to be healthier adults." Everyone who isn't directly involved with the cooking process can take turns setting and clearing the table, as well as doing the dishes and wiping down the counters afterwards. Not only can your family help you with dinner preparations, they now have all the essential tools to make their own lunches for school or work. Even very young children can help with this task, whether it's selecting a favourite piece of fruit from the fridge, filling up a water bottle or even adding the crucial raisin ants to their celery stick.

Keep it fun and relaxed
A final thought to consider when getting your family involved with meal planning and preparation is this: keep the mood light and try to steer away from perfectionism or critical comments. If the atmosphere is fun and creative, then your family will enjoy being in the kitchen and making their own meals. Even doing the dishes can be an enjoyable activity, put on some fun music and see if you can't get a cleaning up party happening!