Teaching essential kitchen skills

Getting Kids Involved in Freezer Meal Prep

by Leanne Ely


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Start Teaching Your Kids about Food

Kids in the Kitchen

As far as I'm concerned, basic kitchen skills are every bit as important to teach our children as are basic hygiene skills. We brush our teeth and wash our hands multiple times every day of our lives, and we also have to eat multiple times a day, every day of our lives. So, why is it that we don't seem to put an emphasis on teaching our children basic kitchen skills at an early age?

My children were up at the counter helping me with age-appropriate tasks right from the time they were in diapers. I never had to worry that they wouldn't know how to put a meal on the table when they were out on their own!

If you are among the thousands of folks who love our Saving Dinner freezer menus, I hope you're using your prep as a teaching opportunity.

The way our freezer menus work (in case you're not familiar) is that you do all of your prep at once so that you can cook your meals fresh from the freezer on those nights when you're frazzled and tempted to order takeout.

Not only are these freezer menus a real life saver and an essential tool in the kitchen, in my opinion, but they are also an ideal way to get the kids involved in dinner prep. Depending on the age of the child, this could give you a bit of help and we all know that when kids have a hand in the meal, they are much more likely to eat it! If you're tempted to chase the younger kids out of the kitchen because it creates more work, remind yourself that the teaching opportunity is worth it!

Freezer Meal Prep

The following are the ways you can involve your children in freezer meal prep:

Have the kids help with the grocery list. Meal planning and grocery shopping are essential skills! Our freezer meals come with shopping lists, so go over them with your child before you head out to the market. Have them help you determine which items you already have on hand. When you're at the store, show them why you're choosing those darker avocados over the light green ones. Explain best before dates and why you buy certain items in bulk. Talk about budgeting and why you buy certain items frozen rather than fresh. Grocery shopping is a giant teaching opportunity, so don't leave the kids home. Take them along!

Make your child the sous chef. When you get home and are ready to do the meal assembly prep, while you handle the protein, let the kids set up the produce required for the recipes. Depending on age, this might be simple stuff like passing you two onions or selecting the right spices from the cupboard. If your children are of chopping age, let them do some of that prep while you supervise. If they aren't old enough to master knife skills, they can stir spice mixes and help place the assembled meal into the plastic bag, sealing it for the freezer.

Have them do the labeling. Hand your child the marker and ask them to label and date the bag for you.

When it's time to take that meal out of the freezer and cook it, get junior back in the kitchen! Go over the cooking ingredients together and see what you need to get from the store and what you have on hand. Not only does this teach cooking skills, but it also helps with literacy and math skills.

Then, show the kids how you safely thaw the meal (in a bowl of cold water), and let them help you prepare the side dish you'll be serving alongside the meal. Kids are great at making salads!

If you have multiple children, put someone in charge of setting the table, someone in charge of clearing it, and make sure to enlist help with the dishes. Preferably enlist someone who didn't help with the cooking!

I am so passionate about getting the family around the table together, and having everyone pitch in at dinner table is a fabulous way to let everyone have a stake in the meal you'll be enjoying.


Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular, FlyLady.net, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. SavingDinner.com. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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