Straight from the Source: 2 Youngsters Share How to Make Meal Kits Kid-Friendly
I am a proud “fake auntie” to two very picky little eaters named Worth and Massey. Ever since they were itty bitty babes, I had concerns they might not grow up to be open-minded diners, and my suspicions have long been confirmed. You see, their mother is my dearest friend, and despite being very happy to consume everything from escargot to bone marrow, she’s never been the biggest fan of vegetables. (I have a fond memory of someone ordering Brussels sprouts “for the table” when we were out to dinner once, and her responding with a horrified expression that left me in absolute stitches.) As someone who has built a life and career around food, I’m always looking for new ways to get her kids to join me in the kitchen. I want them to get excited about trying new and unfamiliar foods, and I hope one day they’ll enjoy cooking the same way I do. Ever since they were small, I’ve been trying out different strategies, and I went easy on them at first. They’ve both always loved pancakes, so I introduced them to crêpes. They fell in love with macaroni and cheese, so I showed them how to make it from scratch. They’re big fans of lemon poppyseed muffins, so we made pumpkin bread… pumpkin bread that I may have introduced to them as “holiday cinnamon bread.”
They’re now nine and six years old, so Worth is starting to be more independent in the kitchen, and Massey is eager to keep up. My ‘get the kids cooking’ strategies have also matured. They’ve recently become interested in what adults do all day, and when they found out that I get to write about food, they were intrigued. “What kinds of foods?” they wanted to know. “Do you get to eat all day?” they asked.
I knew I needed their help for this piece, and my initial plan was to be a little sneaky about the whole thing. I was going to call them up, ask them all about their favorite foods and how they help their mom in the kitchen, and then come up with some tips for how to make meal kits kid-friendly. My mistake? These children are clever. They saw what I was up to from a mile away, and they wanted in on the fun. So I agreed to let them to help me write this piece for MSA.
Let’s start with an introduction. Meet Worth and Massey:
This is Worth. Worth’s favorite food is pizza. He likes to cook, especially when he can make everything from start to finish himself. He sometimes preps his own lunches for school, and he likes making complicated smoothies (“with lots of ingredients!”) and mac n’ cheese. He doesn’t always like to try new foods, but he will sometimes, especially if everyone is trying it together. He hates soup.
Massey isn’t yet old enough to make meals by herself, but she’s eager to help where she can. She enjoys cooking scrambled eggs, and she loves to bake. Whenever I’m in town, we always make biscuits together, and she’s a whiz with a biscuit cutter. Her favorite foods are pancakes and mac n’ cheese. She does not like trying new foods. She also hates soup.
We put our heads together, and we’ve come up with a five tips to help get kids excited about meal kits. Let’s dive in!
1. Choose a Meal Kit That Features Kid-Friendly Recipes
There are a lot of different meal kits to choose from, and they’re not all created equal. Some feature adventurous recipes and global flavors, while others are more likely to put simple dishes, comfort foods, and familiar meals on the menu. If you’re shopping with little ones in mind, you can always opt for a meal kit that’s designed just for kids, but that might not be the best choice if you’re feeding the whole family. If you want meals that with work for mom, dad, and the youngsters, the following are likely to deliver meals with widespread appeal:
- HelloFresh– With 40+ meals to choose from every week, there are plenty of meals sure to suit everyone in the family. This popular meal kit has pastas, sandwiches, and burgers on almost every menu, and there are plenty of healthy options too. Some menu items are a little adventurous, but there are also simple items that should work for kids.
- EveryPlate– EveryPlate is a great choice for those looking for kid-friendly meals on a budget. Tacos, meatloaf, burgers, and grain bowls are all on the menu, and the flavor profiles tend to be simple and not too “out there.”
- Dinnerly– Dinnerly is on par price-wise with EveryPlate, and the recipes are also great for kids. There are usually fun things on the menu like pulled pork fries, taquitos, and biscuits and gravy. There’s also always a dessert on the menu that you can whip up as a sweet treat for the week.
- Home Chef– If you have kids who enjoy eating chicken and veggies or meat and potatoes, Home Chef is a great option. The menu tends to feature comfort foods and home-style classics
I showed the kids a few menus to confirm they’re kid-approved, and I got the thumbs up. Worth liked the look of EveryPlate, and Massey was drawn to the idea of eating Dinnerly’s dessert option as an alternative to dinner (though I’m not sure an evening meal of brownies will get Mom’s stamp of approval).
2. Let Kids Help Pick Out the Meals
When I asked the kids to give me their number one recommendation to pass along to you all, they didn’t have a hard time agreeing on the message: let your kids help pick the meals. Massey put it best: “kids don’t like food surprises.” We chatted over Zoom in preparation for this article, and they surprised me with their openness to unfamiliar menu items. Worth was excited to discover that “flatbread” is really just a fancy name for pizza, and he was open to trying enchiladas, “if everyone else tasted it, too.” I think being able to see pictures of the completed dishes takes some of the mystery away, and we were able to talk through the meals to make sure they understood what was in each one. A lot of them were hard-passes (the kids take after their mom; Brussels sprouts were never going to make it into the box), but at HelloFresh, EveryPlate, and Dinnerly, we were able to find three recipes they were willing to try.
3. Choose Easy Recipes
In preparation for this piece, I also had a long chat with Worth and Massey’s mom, and this is a tip that comes directly from her. When kids will be cooking, she recommends choosing easy recipes without a lot of steps. She points out that kids under the age of ten don’t always have the patience for time consuming recipes, and it can be satisfying for them to complete a recipe from start to finish. To set them up for success, she recommends looking for recipes with ten steps or less. The increases the chance of success, which means kids are likely to walk away with a sense of accomplishment. Simply written recipes can also offer the opportunity for a bit of reading practice. Sure, there are some tricky cooking words here and there (like purée, sautée, and braise), but it’s a great opportunity to introduce new vocabulary.
4. Customize Recipes So They Work for Picky Kids
Some meal kits allow you to customize the recipes, which can be a great option for kids who steer clear of certain ingredients. Massey, for example, loves chicken but won’t eat shrimp. Home Chef lets you swap any of the proteins you want, so it’s easy to turn a recipe like “Shrimp Tacos” into “Chicken Tacos.” This opens up new possibilities, and expands the number of workable menu items. Worth gave me a firm head shake when I asked about “Tuscan-Style Pork Chops” on Home Chef’s menu, but the frown turned upside down when we talked about subbing in chicken.
5. Invite Kids to Help With the Cooking
As I mentioned previously, both Worth and Massey like to cook. They enjoy being in the kitchen, and I’m pretty sure they like being able to see exactly what goes into their meals so they can make sure adults aren’t sneaking in hidden veggies. Their parents have set strict rules for them to follow in the kitchen– like they aren’t allowed to turn on the oven or the stove without adult supervision– but they’re eager to get their hands dirty when they can. Says Worth, “I can do a lot of the cooking myself when I’m allowed to help.” Massey agrees. She says, “I like to stir things on the stove, and I also like to lick the spoon.”
I couldn’t be prouder that they enjoy helping out in the kitchen. (I like to think this is thanks, at least in part, to their Aunt Lindsey’s influence.) When I asked, “would you like to help out more with cooking dinner?” They both nodded immediately. “Maybe not every night,” says Worth. “I have a lot of homework. Maybe once or twice a week.” You hear that, Mom? Put those kids to work!
Worth and Massey don’t live in my city, so we weren’t able to get together to actually cook for this article, but their curiosity has me utterly delighted. The next time I see them? I think we’ll have to follow through with making a couple of meal kits together! (If you enjoyed this article and would like to read about that when it happens, please let me know in the comments section below.)
Thanks so much to Worth and Massey for stepping in to help me with this article. We all hope that you find these tips helpful, and the two kids would like to remind you that when you’re picking out your meal kit recipes, you should stay far far away from soup. Because yuck.
Do you use meal kits to feed your family? Do your kids like to help out in the kitchen? Head to the comments section and let us know!