How to feed your kids now that they're home 24/7 and keep your sanity

Combine Home cooking and home schooling in the social isolation era by adding a few projects thot you and they won't hate.

Everyday Instagram shows us amazing meals from ambitious culinary amateurs and experts alike. Me, I have a challenge with anything that starts in the kitchen. From the basics to even reheating a meal somehow it never comes out as planned. Therefore I turned to the experts.

Cooking meals for a family of four is hearty job (84 meals a week - 4 people x 3 meals x 7 days), plus snacks. The reality is that this is very challenging. It's overwhelming and I can only imagine how others, unaccustomed to the rigors of this extreme cooking are faring so I wanted to help by breaking it down to assist you in the managing during this time.

If my experience as a leader in business has taught me anything feeding kids on a schedule is the key to daily survival with a minimum of breakdowns. Kids want to eat constantly. If you have younger kids, you might be on the hook for providing and serving everything. But if you’ve got older kids (or even one older kid, who can help the younger sibling), let them get their own snacks. Set up a “snack station” in a mixing bowl set near their desks. That way kids can choose their own healthy snacks during the day instead of driving you insane with their requests. The snack station has fruit and crackers and seaweed and cheese sticks (they eat those quickly enough that so you don’t worry about the lack of refrigeration), and replenish it as needed. They know they can help themselves from these snacks whenever they want; they have control not only of when they grab a snack, but also what they choose. And let’s be honest⁠—whether we’re big or small, we’re all wishing for a little control right now. When it comes to meals, try to think ahead. At lunch time, prep for dinner, or for lunch the following day. If grating cheese for quesadillas, grate extra for macaroni and cheese planned later in the week. If cooking rice for dinner, cook twice as much as you need and freeze half, you'll have it on hand for a speedy hot dog fried rice or a quick side.

So many of us normally work jobs with long hours and long commutes that have us racing in the door with takeout, or missing mealtime with our kids altogether. If there is a silver lining of this time, let it be this opportunity for togetherness at the table.

Food itself can be reassuring, so make sure you’re frequently serving some of the comforting things they love to eat—be it buttered noodles, or dumplings, or meatballs, or even white bread. But then surprise them, too, with “fun parent” moves, like serving pancakes for dinner, or ice cream for breakfast, or buying a box of that junky cereal they’re always begging for. Surprises help deflect boredom.

Try and think of kitchen projects you can do with your kids that will occupy a few hours of each day, while also producing food that we can actually all eat. Kids like to rub the butter into flour for cookies or pie dough. Some like to chop things, make granola, roll meatballs, boil hot dogs together. Enlisting the kids means it’s going to be messier, and it’s likely to take longer, but if it’s time you’re spending anyway, at least it keeps them occupied. And even the most resistant kid will probably want to join you to make dessert, especially if you give them tastes along the way.

There’s also an opportunity here to combine the job of making your children one zillion meals and your new job as ad hoc teacher. To practice their writing and reading, ask kindergarten-age kids to write a daily menu, then read it to the rest of the family. Teach a fraction lesson, using a pizza or cake as a real-life, delicious illustration; if you only want a half-batch of cupcakes or muffins because you’ve been baking nonstop, have the kids do the division. Get teenagers to read through a whole recipe before preparing their ingredients and cooking it for or with you. (These executive functions will take them far in their cooking life.) Now more than ever there’s a need for helpful, enriching productive activities, and making dinner is one that you can entrust to your children. The kids are just so proud to contribute during this time when we all want to be doing something to help. I guess it’s true for me, too. I see people wondering how to feed their families, how to source the groceries, how to prepare them, and how to pay for them. It’s another challenge leveled at parents who already feel as though they’re being mightily challenged. I hope that some of the ideas above make things a little bit easier.

When we get through this (and we will get through this), may some of the legacies of this challenging time be a renewed connection to family dinner, a greater appreciation for the cooks and delivery people who make it so we don’t always have to prepare it, and a kid who can scramble their own eggs and make their own cheese sandwiches.