Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Order Up!--Making special meals for picky eaters without being a short-order cook

The biggest source of food waste around here is me cooking up a great meal, serving it up to the family, then being met with a chorus of "I don't like this" from anywhere from one to three children (the toddler is a good boy and eats what's put in front of him!), frequently before they even take a first bite.  They then snub their noses at it and, either eat what's on their plates that they do like, or walk away from the table completely, only to complain about being hungry ten minutes later ("There's a perfectly good meal on the table for you.  If you're that hungry, I think you should at least try it.") and me busting them climbing on top of the chest freezer to get the cereal on top of the refrigerator as soon as I leave the room for a bit.

Knowing this is a possibility, I have several strategies to prevent it.  First, if I know one or more of the kids don't like something, I don't fix it when their going to be around.  I wait until some night they will be at a friend's or relative's house or, if it is something I could take or leave, sometimes I just don't fix it at all.  If it is a side dish that I really enjoy, I might make it, but serve it with other things that would make it a well balanced meal even without the optional side.  Sometimes, I alter the recipe so it is more acceptable to everyone.  And sometimes I make meals to order. 

That isn't to say that I make up to six different entrees in one night.  Oh, hell no!  But there are a number of meals that I prepare on a fairly regular basis that require individual assembly, so the personal preference of each family member can be accounted for.  Such meals include: tacos, nachos, quesadillas, spaghetti (choice of sauce and cheese), pizza and yesterday I added kabobs to this list. 

The procedure is quite simple.  Set out all possibilities for inclusion and either have each person put together their own, or ask what they want as I put it together for them.  In the case of yesterday's kabobs, it was the second method, since I didn't want the kids handling the raw chicken.  Pizzas are almost always done by themselves, on the other hand.

It is a little thing, but it can make mealtime a lot more peaceable and it saves on food waste, so it is one of the little things that makes life good.


  1. We have a chart for picky eaters in our house. If you don't like something, you write it on your list. You have to TRY it (one bite, quarter sized by definition) ten times. At the end of those ten times, you have one full year before that food gets reset. You don't have to eat even a "no thank you" helping of it. Our girl twin doesn't like onions, and they were the first thing to hit her list. But she was good - it gave her a bit of control, which was nice (she's 5, she needs *small* bits of control), but allowed us the parents to "control the control" as it were.

    That said, if I cook it, they will eat at least a no-thank you helping, or they will not eat anything else until they have. We're very good about minimal size helpings. I also make a point to cater to each of the two kids once a week. I find they're more willing to eat curry today if they know they're getting alfredo tomorrow. LOL

  2. My 6 year old SAYS he doesn't like onions but there are a LOT of things that have onions in it that, if he doesn't know they're there, he loves it! The funniest thing was last week, when I made the broccoli, cheddar, & potato soup, he gobbled up a first helping, asked for seconds, took a couple bites, asked if it had onions in it, and decided he hated it! Silly boy!

  3. Arg, the cereal! That's a problem here, too. Kids say they've finished dinner, and I find them in the cereal cupboard ten minutes later. I try to just let the cereal run out and not buy any more, but my husband loves it so he keeps bringing it home.

  4. I only get it because it is free on WIC. We get 72 oz a month. I don't buy any beyond that, so if something runs out, too bad. When my youngest turns 5 (or if by some miracle, our family starts making too much money and we no longer qualify for WIC, I won't buy it any more!