Marilyn: The way to get kids into a frugal mindset at any age is NOT to say “We can’t afford that.” I’ve frequently spoken at workshops about how we, as parents, have to stop saying that to our kids because it sends the wrong message. Frugality is not poor. Frugality is about recognizing how to value our time and resources without sacrificing quality. One way to do that is through teaching kids to cook. No matter how much they complain about it, cooking teaches them a number of things. It proves to them that they can create something out of “nothing” without relying on anyone else to do it for them. It proves to them that they can create something delicious and of quality at a fraction of the cost of eating out, ordering in or buying unhealthy processed convenience foods.
My two teens pretty much dislike cooking. But they can do it. We tried to get them to like cooking when they were younger. Backfired. But today, they commandeer the kitchen after we go to bed. They are night owl teens who are hungry so they cook (sometimes together). Quesadillas, French fries, leftovers, omelets…or they raid the freezer…whatever they find and they can figure out how to throw together, they do it. Sometimes I smell something cooking at midnight (or 2:00 a.m.) Sometimes my husband and I wake up to a mess, but it’s worth it to us and the house is still standing. So, they may never use a coupon in the future, but who cares! At least they’ll know how to make a mean Quesadilla for mere pennies!
Aimee: When Harry Potter Book 1 came out, I was teaching 4th grade in NY. My students and I were mesmerized by the magic. What does that have to do with cooking with kids? For me, cooking and baking are the closest things to making magic!
After becoming a stay-at-home mom after my second was born, I upped my scratch-cooking game and saw how much $$ we saved by planning and cooking. I involved each of my three children in the kitchen at an early age, and now that I’ve been back to work full-time for the last four years, the lessons have proven to have paid off.
They’ve experienced the quality, the taste, and the cost benefits of meals cooked at home vs. meals out at a restaurant. Not that there is anything wrong with going out to eat once and awhile. Ya gotta live a little in this life, after all! It’s been great to hear my kids say that they’d rather have our homemade pizza. Or at the grocery store looking at the tubs of hummus, when one said, “Let’s make hummus; we’ll get more for the money anyway.” The other said, “And we won’t make garbage, too.”
The best was to come home from a hard day’s work, just last week, to a surprise dessert and homemade pizza dinner made. You can make this happen – Start involving and teaching your kids to cook at any time. New to cooking yourself? What better role model you can be than to involve your kids in learning something new yourself? Suggestions on how to get started follow photos below.
Here are short lists of things your child can do to help with meals:
help with choosing recipe/menu
Write grocery list/unload groceries
Retrieve items from the fridge
Tear salad greens
Cut vegetables (at least 5 years old – with supervision)
Compost vegetable scraps
Measure and add dry ingredients/wet ingredients (when older)
Turn off/on blender/food processor
Roll out dough
Use mixer with supervision, Pour batter with a cup, Flip pancakes
Set table with placemats, silverware, cups, and napkins
Get serving utensils ready
Make placemats with construction paper, crayons, or pens
Cleaning – See my post on The Chore Wheel –Here– it really works!
Sort clean silverware
Take kitchen compost to compost bin