January 29th, 2010

Cook a New Recipe Together – Free Fun Friday

While cooking isn’t strictly a free activity, odds are it’s money you would have spent otherwise, so this one at least doesn’t cost anything extra.

Pick out a new recipe that is age appropriate for you to make with your children. You can get a kids’ cookbook from the library if you want, or buy one if this is something you’ll do regularly enough. And of course there are plenty of kid friendly recipes to make online.

Make it fun or make it part of  a regular meal, whatever you want.

Cooking is a great way to teach kids about fractions and other bits of math, in a way that isn’t so intimidating. It can also teach them about responsibility, especially if your child is old enough to start cooking on the stove with you.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

October 2nd, 2009

Silly Dinner Night – Free Fun Friday

We’ve recently started a tradition in our family of a once a month silly dinner night. It got started because the kids were so tired of being told to mind their table manners, so we declared one night a month to be  freer (not completely free) than usual from the usual table manners rules.

It has now migrated into a silly dinner night.

It’s lots of fun and doesn’t have to cost anything more than a regular dinner. We choose a theme for each one. Last night was breakfast for dinner. Next month it will be dessert first.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

April 23rd, 2009

Are You Teaching Good Eating Habits?

peeling an egg

It’s not easy to get some kids to eat right.

Come to think of it, it’s not easy to get some parents to eat right. We’re the ones who start it a lot of the time, aren’t we?

When you’re at home with the kids all day there’s a lot of pressure to feed them right. You just don’t have the excuse of having been at work outside the house all day for why you’re too tired to cook. Plus you’re there to see what they eat for every meal.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always make it easy to teach good eating habits. Some kids are pretty resistant to the idea right from the start.

Start Them Off Right

Once you’re past the baby food stage, resist the urge to get a lot of prepackaged foods. It’s more work for you, but if you can cook most foods from scratch or something close to scratch you will have much better control over what your kids eat.

You’ll also be teaching them to appreciate more flavors, as most prepared and prepackaged foods are relatively bland, designed to appeal to the widest possible range of palates. They may also contain artificial colors and various types of sugar, such as high fructose corn syrup, that you are best off trying to minimize in your children’s diets.

Get the Kids Involved in Food Preparation

Most young children love helping in the kitchen. It’s something they can do with you, or at least watch what you do. Make sure you let them help as appropriate.

Kids can tear lettuce for salads, throw chopped vegetables into the bowl, help you measure ingredients and watch you do the actual cooking from a few feet away.

If you have the time, space and inclination, a garden is also a great way to get children interesting in healthy foods. Kids are more likely to enjoy vegetables that they have helped to grow, not to mention the great taste of produce fresh from your own garden.

Make Healthy Fun

Not all healthy food is boring. A common favorite is the fruit smoothie. You throw a variety of fruits, some juice and ice, maybe some honey for sweetener, into a blender and start mixing. Tastes great, very healthy.

You can make it more healthy by adding some vegetables into the mix. Carrot goes well in many cases, as do some leafy greens such as spinach. Just make sure there’s enough fruit to appeal to the kids.

I like to use frozen fruit in my smoothies, as it cuts out the need for ice.

The great thing about smoothies is that you can experiment with them. Berries of all sorts go very well as a general rule, and can easily be bought frozen for much cheaper than they are fresh much of the year. Bananas work very well. And if you want some dairy in there, yogurt adds a wonderful flavor.

What If They Just Don’t Like Healthy Foods?

Not all kids make their parents’ lives so easy, naturally. Some will express distaste for every healthy food you try to offer them.

Some say to disguise the vegetables. Books such as Deceptively Delicious and other titles provide recipes so that you can work vegetables into a wide variety of foods.

That’s not my own favorite method. You aren’t teaching your kids to appreciate vegetables and other healthy foods for their own sakes when you do that. However, if you need to work them in and nothing else is working, it’s a reasonable enough measure to take until you can get something better going.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

November 11th, 2008

Have You Taken Charge of Your Family's Nutrition?

I came across a very interesting article by Marguerite Manteau-Rao about what families spend their money on at the grocery store. The data came from Nielsen Research, and if you’ve ever looked inside other people’s shopping carts (and quite likely your own), you probably won’t be surprised.

grocery shopping
photo by ninjapoodles

People buy a lot of really unhealthy food.

It’s mostly about convenience, I think. Cooking is much easier for most people when they don’t do it from scratch. Not to mention that when you buy canned and processed foods it takes longer for them to spoil, so you just don’t have to think so hard about what’s about to go bad.

There’s also the usual bit about it being cheaper to buy processed foods, which is true to the extent that most people don’t know how to buy healthy foods cheaply, or how to prepare them.

One of the comments on the article directed me to a great resource, through this PDF. They note that the USDA’s Low Cost Food Plan is about $20 per week cheaper than what the average family of 4 spends on food. The plan itself is a bit tedious to read (hey, it’s a government publication, what do you expect?) but it does give examples of what they mean for each food group.

The USDA also has a rather interesting recipe finder. The recipes come from nutrition and health professionals and organizations, but can be rated and reviewed by users. It also lists approximate cost of making the recipe and cost per serving. Obviously these will vary by area and the sales you can find, but it’s nice to know if the recipe is likely to be cheap or expensive to make.

For my family, we gave up buying things like sodas on a regular basis years ago. We get them maybe a couple times a year if company is coming over, but not for regular use. We buy lots of fresh produce (it’s scary that this shows 4% of households not buying fresh produce!), and not too many treats.

Buying more healthy foods has a lot of benefits. There’s just something about having my kids beg me to get them an apple or some sugar snap peas, rather than asking for candy. They enjoy candy, certainly, and the Halloween supply will be here for a long time, but I’d rather encourage the healthy habits.

It’s still challenging at times dealing with everything the kids see on TV and want to try. A simple “no” works a lot of the time. Teaching children that no really does mean no is not an easy task, but if you’re consistent you can do it. Or you can give in, but only on things you suspect the kids won’t like too well anyhow. I’ve done that one successfully.

It’s probably easier with my kids just because we started them out this way. If you’re trying to change your family’s habits, I don’t doubt that it will be much more difficult. Children build their tastes so early, and some of it is just inborn, as near as I can tell. Otherwise I wouldn’t have one peanut butter fanatic, and one who cannot stand the taste of peanut butter.

If you’re trying to change your family’s eating habits for the better, don’t make the switch too quickly. Take things a step at the time and steadily introduce healthier foods. We’re all human and we don’t need to be perfect today or any other day.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

November 7th, 2008

Bake Bread – Free Fun Friday

This is something my kids love to do. Mostly we just use the bread machine, as kneading bread dough is a lot of work, but the final shaping is done by hand because I don’t like the shape of loaf that my machine makes.

To me this is somewhat better than free, once you have a bread machine. You’ll save money on bread and know exactly what you put into it. Bread has gone up in price in the past year or so. Homemade bread can be very cheap to make.

It can even be something of a science experiment. Yeast can be interesting to watch grow over a few hours. You can make your own starter for sourdough… although that takes a number of days. It’s easy to get the kids involved in checking on and feeding the starter. I wouldn’t suggest having it replace the family pet, of course.

Don’t forget the delightful smell of bread baking. It’s a great way to make the house smell wonderful too.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.