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To suddenly expect my 4 children to eat the same meals? (2 are teens & 2 little one's)

(50 Posts)
peachcake Sun 17-Feb-13 11:12:00

I have absolutely had enough of cooking 2,3 or sometimes 4 different meals to feed my fussy family? It's too difficult and time consuming and half the food ends up overcooked or burnt trying to cook too many things at once.

So in organising a positive change I have got as far as doing a list of dinners that have at least a few meal options that they will all eat (although they all have meals they will eat these just aren't the same) that is the problem!! So I know I'm in for plenty of abuse, but I have had enough!

My questions are,

1. Do I offer plain buttered toast if dinner is not palatable to them? Or do they go hungry until breakfast?

2. Do they get pudding regardless or only if they eat some of what is on offer or only if they eat most/all of their dinner?

Please offer your advice and opinions and share your experiences with me.

P.S. I know I am a complete and utter fool to let this situation continue until my older kids are in their teens, but I have just let things slide and now I'm in big trouble and youngest is 4 years old so really want to make the change :-)

5madthings Sun 17-Feb-13 13:43:42

I ask pretty sure parents will of course cater for allergies, but those haven't been mentioned by the op.

Your aunt sounds a horrid person worrid but I don't know any parent that would make their child eat something they are allergic to.

A child with sn's or sensory issues relating to food or a child with allergies may need to be treated differently, but for your average child the take it or leave it preach is fine.

As the op didn't mention any sn's or allergies I ask assuming that's not an issue.

Pandemoniaa Sun 17-Feb-13 13:45:45

I'm sure the OP has taken account of allergies or food intolerance. What she's asking is whether it is reasonable to expect her children to eat food they like without her cooking separate meals. And the answer is she is NBU!

momb Sun 17-Feb-13 13:55:12

YANBU.
I have 5 girls including SDs at the weekend and they all prefer different things but fortunately don't have many real dislikes. I serve a selection of veg in the middle of the table at every meal and they help themselves. No one starves, and frankly I don't want to hear 'I don't like green beans/swede/cauliflower' so just offer several and then they don't need to have the one they don't like!

As others have said, get the teens cooking, my youngest (15) has SN and only does cakes, puddings, on her own, because of issues areound textures, but my middle DD (17) cooks a range of meals from scratch, with the help of my youngest.

DancingInTheMoonlight Sun 17-Feb-13 14:04:12

I agree with everyone on the take it or leave it strategy, however with the teenagers (and the others if they are old enough to understand) i would get everyone together and tell then it will be happening as if a specific day. I would also give then all the opportunity to make one suggestion each for the menu. That way it gives them some control over the menu, you get to only cook one meal, and they are aware it is happening..

Molecule Sun 17-Feb-13 14:19:04

I have four and got fed up with the "I don't like this" at meal times. I then said each person in the family could choose the meal one night a week, with Sunday being a roast (which they all like). The conditions were that they all ate the meals, and anyone who complained didn't get their turn to choose, and they had to choose different things (so we didn't get pizza four times a week).

It worked really well, and they now pretty much do eat most things. They were quite young when this started, so OP you should be OK with your youngest.

2rebecca Sun 17-Feb-13 16:10:48

I've never cooked more than one meal and only occasionally do a pudding and then you only get it if you eat your main course.

quoteunquote Sun 17-Feb-13 18:23:06

In this house food gets cooked , it goes in dishes in the middle of the table and you help yourself, you can take what you want, but only take what you will eat,

You can come back for more. no one is fussy as they know no different, everyone what ever age cooks.

no one is allowed to say,"I don't like ...." , if you feel you must express an opinion, it is, I haven't learn to appreciate .......... yet" it amazing how people do change their taste when their brain starts to recognise things as food, if you don't like a food, it is because your brain does not recognise it as food, you can retrain your brain, but not if you continually tell yourself you don't like it

Self brain washing isn't helpful and it is extremely rude to make negative comments about perfectly good food, served to you.

Unless you are running a restaurant stop cooking different meals for people.

theoriginalandbestrookie Sun 17-Feb-13 19:08:33

I like that phrase quoteunquote - will teach it to DS after another painful meal grrr. He has now progressed to liking rice which is a great step forward, but moaning and groaning over the peppers because they are roasted rather than stir fry or raw.

Yfronts Sun 17-Feb-13 20:23:49

You are not a fool, sometimes things happen - the great thing is that you are reflective and wanting to make changes.

I have been very lucky with food/kids. I was too lazy to cook multiple meals and so from the start weaned them onto adult meals.

In answer to your questions - don't offer alternatives like bread/toast. Happily accept that they don't want to eat and lightly tell them you will keep the original meal just in case they get hungry later.

If they are hungry later give them the original meal.

Don't mention not eating/eating at tea time, instead concentrate on their day/chatting about other things. Have some nice banter.

Don't bribe them with pudding. At the end of the meal present them with a yogurt if they have eaten a good amount (not necessarily all the food).

Agree get the teens cooking. Give them your recipe book to look through.

Yfronts Sun 17-Feb-13 20:26:11

Another idea is to serve the veg first before the main course.

peachcake Sun 17-Feb-13 23:58:48

Thank you! Great common sense suggestions here, now just need to put them into practice! The main difficulty being that there is no meal that anymore than two of my children will eat, it's hard to believe I know but there isn't one single meal that they like in common. Example, dc1 eats plain pasta, no bolognaise, dc2 would have pasta with pasta sauce, no meat, dc3 pasta with squirt of ketchup and dc4 pasta and bolognaise sauce. It's very difficult because they only have one ingredient in common and that may sound okay but I then end up cooking chicken for the 2 that have plain pasta to supplement their meal! That is only one example! The rest of the week meals get no better in fact some are much worse.
Would you go that far adapting meals to suit? Even on a weekend junk food night two children want nuggets, one fish fingers and one veggie burger! I think my lines of what is acceptable for me to alter are getting blurred and i need some clarity! It all sounds so petty now but there is never a night that I can just do one dish, but perhaps I am being unreasonable to think I can change such long term eating habits. I have mentioned my plans to the kids and the older one's are so negative. Still going to do it though!!
Thanks all, most helpful and interesting :-)

itfcbabe Mon 18-Feb-13 05:03:40

I have 6 kids,4 are teenagers,i cook one home cooked meal,if they don't like it or want it,they have to cook themselves something else from the freezer or have a sandwich. Sometimes i will cook something like a fish pie which i know 2 of the wont eat so i make them something else as they have never eaten it. Same as number 2 hates shepherds pie so i but him a pizza and he cooks it. Pasta bake is popular in my house but the younger 2 don't like the sauce so they have plain pasta before i mix it. Can be difficult with lots of kids but we get it sorted ad i refuse to cook 6 different meals.

merrymouse Mon 18-Feb-13 05:16:57

I also think its important to restrict eating between meals - more difficult with teenagers.

I agree with not offering an alternative, but not much point if they are going to make their own toast later. You aren't going to tempt them to eat something new if they aren't hungry.

merrymouse Mon 18-Feb-13 05:24:29

Also, 'eat something new' means something they haven't yet learned to like, not just things they haven't tasted yet.

googietheegg Mon 18-Feb-13 05:36:19

I think fussiness with teens reduces if they have to make the alternative themselves wink so they can have something else but you don't make it, stay sat at the table with the others. They may not be as bothered! And don't have too much interesting, easy alternatives in the freezer, or yummy chocolate spread for toast.

KeatsiePie Mon 18-Feb-13 05:53:26

I don't know if this would actually work but am midway through a big freezer cook so it occurred to me: what if you made e.g. a casserole-dish-sized meal that DC1 likes, a casserole of something DC2 likes, same for CD3, same for DC4. In other words, cook an entire 6-8 servings dish for each kid. Then put all dishes in freezer. Every night, each DC gets a serving from his/her dish. You yourself could eat from whatever dishes you would like.

If you did this a few times and got ahead a little, each kid could even have a couple of options in the freezer for some variety.

Maybe it's too weird? But I'm a big fan of cooking a whole lot on the certain weekends and then just pulling things out of the fridge/freezer most nights. And it seems like half of the problem here is how much work it is for you to cook 4 meals a night -- that would enrage me. I realize this does not solve any concerns you may have about picky eating.

teacherandguideleader Mon 18-Feb-13 08:38:36

I don't have children myself but in recent years we have changed the way we operate at meal times on Guide camp as children seem to be getting more fussy.

The rules we have are:
1. If someone hates something, they don't have to eat it.
2. If a meal contains a product a child doesn't like, they can pick that out and leave it on their plate
3. If a child likes the main part of the meal but not the sauce that is going into it, they can take there's out of the pan at the last minute before the sauce goes in
4. If it is a meal a child has never had, they should try a mouthful before declaring they don't like it. There are no repercussions if they don't like it - we would never force them to eat something they don't like.
5. There is bread and butter on offer for anyone who has not had enough to eat (for whatever reason) - we can't do toast, its a bit impractical on a fire.

We have actually found that being relaxed about them picking things out, leaving what they don't like etc we can feed all 60 of them on just one meal. The relaxed attitude tends to get a lot more of them happy to try stuff. Bread is offered as I can't let them go hungry (especially as they are not my children!).

If I have my own children, I like to think that I will follow these rules (although I realise I may be being completely optimistic and could end up with a child like me who refused point blank to eat anything - bizarrely until I went to Guide camp aged 10, and there was no pressure to eat).

teacherandguideleader Mon 18-Feb-13 08:45:16

Just an add on, we obviously make exceptions for vegetarians. Allergies aren't too much of a problem for us as we collect the information in beforehand and don't bring stuff that contains it as we can't guarantee that the food won't become contaminated when children are doing the preparing and cooking.

Astelia Mon 18-Feb-13 09:19:16

What I do to get around hardly anyone liking the same dish is I put, say, a bowl of cooked pasta out, a separate bowl of sauce, another bowl with prawns in, grated cheese or whatever etc and everyone takes the combination they like.

So whatever the meal there are lots of dishes to choose from. Sometimes we see some strange combinations but that's fine. I have always done this with mine and it means there is no fussing.

When I can't be bothered to cook or there is plenty in the fridge that needs eating up we do PYO (pick your own out of the fridge/store cupboard)!

ZumbaZara Mon 18-Feb-13 09:28:42

What about a sort of transistion week. Provide a carb such as plain boiled pasta , potatoes or wraps and put on the table a bowl of grated cheese, one of tuna and one of salad. They can then help themselves no negative comments from them permitted.

Next stage week 2 if they have been polite, postive ask each of them for their choice of a bowl of filling. 1 childs choice each day.

Week 3 they can start to chose /prepare fillings for their day.

momb Mon 18-Feb-13 09:42:32

pasta problem:
bolognaise is tomato sauce with meat in. So this child will eat a tomato sauce, they just prefer bolognaise.
Everyone gets a bowl of pasta and a fork. On the table is a jug of pomodoro and a bowl of grated cheese.
Everyone has the option of protein (cheese) and veg (tomato/onion and herbs. The teens can learn to make pasta sauce. They are more likely to eat it if they've made it themselves; it's super-easy and much less sickly than jar sauce. By being able to add it themselves they can try the sauce without committing to haviong their whole dinner covered in it. I know it isn't elegant and it doesn't feel as if you have given them such a lovely dinner, but you have, the only difference is they get to do their own choosing at the last stage rather than you having to faff in the kitchen.

It does sound as if your four are mistaking preferences for likes and dislikes. Are you asking them what they want for dinner and then aquiescing when they all ask for something else or is it that two of them really hate nuggets? Is one of them a veggie?

multitask Mon 18-Feb-13 10:22:23

I provided my teenagers with a list of all fruit, vegetables and meat. Three columns, love, like and hate. I told them to tick and fill it all in and to remember there was food that would be tolerated in recipes but were not favourites and they were to go into the like column. It has made life a bit easier, I have it on fridge door and when there is a mutiny I refer to list and tell them they ticked the box get over it! Really when given a chance to do this there actually wasn't that much they actually hated, once it was explained that they can't have their favourite every day and by eating a bigger range of food favourites became more special. I appreciate that we all have food we do hate and avoid that food when they are home or if it's mushrooms that my DD hates I tell her to pick them out and DS takes them.

2rebecca Mon 18-Feb-13 10:44:36

In the example given if 2/4 children don't eat bolognese sauce then I wouldn't cook it. Just do a chicken pasta sauce instead. They don't need meat with every meal though and plain pasta tossed with butter sprinkled with parmesan accompanied by a salad is fine. Adding in chicken is an unnecessary faff unless that's the meal you are cooking.
1 meal if they don't like items in the meal they don't have it eg bolog sauce.

peachcake Mon 18-Feb-13 23:26:03

Well my eldest DD dislikes meat other than MacDonalds burgers and pepperoni on pizza, she would never eat meat in any other form as she hates the chewy texture and refuses it point blank, she doesn't like the thought of eating animals either. She likes veggie alternatives. Likes cheese and pizza. She enjoys veg and pasta, rice, potato and noodles etc. She loves all vegetables. Doesn't want to try salad other than cucumber. Hates fruit other than grapes.

My youngest DD, just doesn't like the taste of chicken, she does like minced beef and sausages and some veggie alternatives,likes cheese, she also eats pasta, rice & potato and noodles etc. Carrots are the only veg she will tolerate! She refuses salad. She loves lots of different fruit.

My eldest DS only likes chicken and gammon. Will eat pasta, rice, etc, etc. Will not eat veg or any salad. Will eat apples but that's it. No sauces on anything! He likes only very plain foods.

My younger DS likes chicken, gammon & sausages. Will eat pasta, rice etc, etc. will eat pizza. He won't eat veg other than carrots and only cucmber from a salad. No sauces tolerated again!

Only youngest daughter will eat fish, and that is 2 fish fingers.

OMG, what a complete nightmare, look at the problems I have unwittingly created!!!

I know this is a very detailed description but felt it necessary to explain in full so that you can see what I'm trying to deal with and hopefully improve on!

Suggestions please (hahaha!)

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