The time is 5 o'clock and your stomach clentches - what to make for dinner is the question racing through your mind. You know you want to prepare healthy meals for your family, but you are tired and do not have all the ingredients for your favourite "go to" recipe, so you pull out the frozen pizza instead. There are two fantastic and fun ways you can solve this ever-arising problem.

Every family has its own dynamics, however here are two ideas that if used consistently can actually make meal preparation an enjoyable and meaningful experience. Choose the one which suits your family best or tweak an idea to suit your particular family dynamics.

First idea:

Choose a day of the week (I suggest Sunday) to sit together as a family and go through some inspiring cookbooks. Children as young as 3 or 4 can participate in this activity. Each member of the family is responsible for choosing a recipe for the main dish and a vegetable that would accompany that meal nicely. A salad is a given and a dessert optional. Have one person be the writer. Everyone then takes turns reading out the ingredients needed for their recipe and the writer records this. A parent should usually be the writer unless the children are at least 9 or 10 years old. (great spelling practice!) Be sure to create a chart either made on the computer or hand drawn that states the days of the week along the left side and the words Main Dish, Vegetable, Salad, and Dessert along the top. Depending on the age of your children, you could add the word "Cook" along the top as wll so that you rotate the cooking responsibilities (Most ideal if your children are teenagers).

After this is complete, go shopping all together and have each person go off to find certain ingredients. As they are put in the cart, cross the items off the master list. The shopping trip will take less time and everyone will stay focused on the task at hand.

If made to feel part of a team, your children will absolutely love to help out. Their self-esteem will grow because they will feel part of a loving unit, that they are capable and that they are a respected, important member of the family.

Second idea:

One parent takes the time to search through cookbooks and then asks each member of the family to suggest a favourite recipe they would like to have that week. Again, they must list the Main Dish,Vegetable,and Dessert, if desired. Remember that a salad is always a must at every meal.

With this example you can either go as a family, take one child, or simply go on your own so that you can read labels at your leisure. Children as young as 2 or 3 can help during grocery shopping. Simply give them 3 things to look for, usually one from the first few aisles, one from the middle aisles and one from the last couple of aisles. Good examples are commonly known items such as bananas, eggs, bread, chicken, cheese, milk and cereal.

Which ever method you choose, you can be guaranteed that the stress over what to cook, grocery shopping and providing healthy food for your family will be a thing of the past. Not only this, but you will be teaching your children about healthy eating, cooperation, self respect and how to plan and organize. Pretty incredible, isn't it?

Author's Bio: 

Erin Kurt, parenting & life coach to working mothers, and founder of ErinParenting, is also the author of Juggling Family Life and creator of The Life Balance Formula and the How to Get Your Child to Listen program.