Fun ways to get family meals organized

Deanna and her kids invent a fun game to help with their meal planning.

Project Rainbow: Deanna's daughters display their fruits and veggies selections.

We called it Project Rainbow. Our mission (that we chose to accept) was to shop together for fruits and vegetables in every colour of the rainbow. We started with the essential list — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The rules were that we needed to buy at least one thing that we don’t usually buy and that the rainbow needed to be made up of half fruit and half veggies. We then hit the grocery store for a fun adventure in the produce section. Sure, it took longer than usual (and there was some great debate about whether yellow should be beans or corn) but it was a pile of fun and the kids have already asked to do it again so they can make different choices.
 
I’d like to thank Today’s Parent for the lightbulb moment I had this week — food and meal planning can be fun and can be something we do together. It took me three weeks with the Healthy Family Challenge to realize that the way I’ve been thinking about food is one of our family’s biggest issues. Suddenly we’ve started Project Rainbow, the kids are helping to prep meals and we’re making grain-filled muffins and putting out assorted berries and chocolate chips so that the kids can decorate them like they used to decorate cupcakes.
 
I’ve always looked at meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation as a chore — just another thing that I have to do that takes away from what little time we have with the kids. When I don’t plan and am forced to make something quick or grab something on the go (which has been more the norm than the exception), I get the “mama guilts” and start questioning my own priorities and my ability to take proper care of my family. It has been a vicious cycle — negative thinking surrounding food has really taken up way too much of my brainspace in the last few years.
 
Early on, I wrote that I almost gave up when I saw the meal plan for the first time. Even though making every meal and snack on the plan isn’t realistic for us, it has been a huge benefit to have it. We’ve tried many new things and I think it has been crucial to our family moving out of our current food rut. I’d take another four week plan following this one in an instant and I’d also pay big bucks for a pre-written grocery list that details all of the ingredients needed to make the week’s meals — I do find it time consuming to click on every recipe for the week and write down what is required.
 
Something big clicked in my head this week and my gut tells me there won’t be a bigger or more important “A-HA” moment for a very, very long time. Me + food = chore. Now, family + food = fun. Who woulda thunk?

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