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 :-)

DesiderataHollow Sun 17-Feb-13 11:15:08

You cook a meal. You offer the meal.
They eat the meal.
Toast can be made for the little ones, or the big ones may make their own.
Pudding in our house is fruit, sometimes fruitcake and cheese. unless it's a special occasion. It's unconditional, you don't have to eat the main meal to get it.
They do the washing-up

GW297 Sun 17-Feb-13 11:23:49

Tioli for tea tonight everyone - Take It Or Leave It!

LeaveTheBastid Sun 17-Feb-13 11:24:08

As above. We rarely have puddings unless special occasions. I think it's unnecessary to have one if you have just eaten a decent meal. If anyone fancies something sweet after dinner then they're pointed towards the fruit bowl or yoghurts. If dd refuses dinner then I'll make her a plain sandwich (ham etc, just not her favourite peanut butter) or some toast. She is 3.7, she used to be hellish to feed at dinner times any would only ever want mash and for me to feed her and me doing it because I wanted her to eat. Past month I've stopped, she gets what me and DH have and we don't comment on her eating or not eating at all, 7/10 she will clear her plate.

GregBishopsBottomBitch Sun 17-Feb-13 11:24:31

My daughter is real pain in the arse for this, i make her something she wants barely eats anyway, so to maintain control, she has to eat a certain amount to get a small yoghurt, if not she goes hungry, that usually gets her eating some more.

Bakingtins Sun 17-Feb-13 11:35:27

YANBU. I cook and serve one meal. If they don't eat a reasonable amount there is nothing else on offer. If they eat most of it then there is fruit or yoghurt Etc for pudding. To some extent I pander to their tastes e.g. DS1 hates mushrooms, I still include them but he can pick them out. My DS2 had to be dairy and soya free for 2 yrs, I made dairy free family meals and other members could add cheese, yoghurt, sour cream if they wanted. I would not cook seperate meals for different family members. You are not running a restaurant.

Bakingtins Sun 17-Feb-13 11:37:47

The teens should be coking for the family sometimes too. Give them some input into the meal planner and out them on a rota once a week to cook. They'll start to understand the work involved.

Bakingtins Sun 17-Feb-13 11:38:13


Pobblewhohasnotoes Sun 17-Feb-13 11:42:33

Um...cook one meal. Stop pandering to them. I bet your kids know they can get away with it.

Do the older ones wash up?

Unless there is something they really hate the older two should just eat whatever they get. The little ones could have toast later if they won't eat. Offer fruit or yoghurt afterwards.

They won't starve.

GregBishopsBottomBitch Sun 17-Feb-13 11:47:52

Even the most stubborn of children wont like to starve, unless they have a real issue with food, and eating it makes em sick.

Cook something, they can eat or have fruit, they'll soon learn.

mum382013 Sun 17-Feb-13 11:54:31

i always say you have a choice for tea. eat what i cook or go hungry. i dont think it is necessary to offer toast. its what i cook or nothing until breakfast. works for mine but all kids are different. mine have to eat all veg too. very rarely do they leave anything. if i offered toast then maybe they would leave the food for toast. my cousin ate only cheese, ham and bread for years. because it was offered as a option if he didnt want the meal. my mum didn't when he stayed with us. he ate the meal.

Sokmonsta Sun 17-Feb-13 11:57:44

To do it suddenly may cause huge fights over dinners. But YANBU.

Pudding isn't conditional on finishing a meal. But make it fruit or yoghurt unless its a special occasion or they start eating everything put in front of them.

Start by cooking meals with ingredients they all like. Might make for a random meal, but if they eat it you can progress to changing some foods for something else.

Don't suddenly expect them to eat a meal they haven't done before. Roasts are always good for catering to fussy people, especially of you do a help yourself serving of vegetables. Of course encourage them to try the ones they don't like, but they can have more of the ones they do. If you get the right meat you can put it in the slow cooker, so not really a roast but takes the pressure of evening meals. The older dc can prepare all the vegetables, or at least some. And if the younger dc want to help, they could put things in pots, lay the table, clear it after and dry up.

Don't worry about having left it this long. You've got some hard work ahead I am sure but better now than letting your teens leave home only knowing what they eat from convenience foods.

mum382013 Sun 17-Feb-13 12:00:43

good luck op

Dawndonna Sun 17-Feb-13 12:01:15

I have four children. There are two choices in this house:
1) Eat what is provided.
2) Go hungry.
That's it. Obviously I don't do things that someone really hates, eg. one hates baked beans, so she doesn't get them, if the others are having beans she gets something else, but I've always known she hates them. I don't do changing your mind on a weeklyl basis nonsense, if you ate it last week, you'll eat it this week, and that's that.

Astelia Sun 17-Feb-13 12:49:18

One meal is cooked here but the teens tend to have the veg or potato then instead of the meat or fish they'll add some grated cheese or something else out of the fridge.

I don't fuss as they sort themselves out then sit down with DH and I at the table. We don't do puddings either although toast, cereals, yoghurts, fruit are always available.

As long as it doesn't make extra work then I am relaxed about it.

BackforGood Sun 17-Feb-13 12:55:33

I'm with everyone else - this is what's for tea - eat it, or go hungry.
Obviously I use a bit of discretion around long standing things they really won't eat... eg, we'll have a curry on the nights dd2 isn't eating with us anyway, and, as long as they have some veg, I'm not fussed if there is another one they won't eat.

Also, totally agree with getting the teens to take their turn cooking the family meal at least once each week - the protests about what other people cook become much reduced.

My children eat what we eat with the exception of particularly spicy food. They either eat it or they don't but they do not get anything else until the next meal if they haven't finished what's on the plate. They have "pudding" (usually one sweetie out of a pack of haribo or whatever) but only if they finish their dinner and tbh they aren't really bothered if they get it or not. I occasionally make a proper pudding like a crumble or something if I feel like it. The point is if they aren't eating it then they can't be that hungry. They are 5 and 4.

5madthings Sun 17-Feb-13 13:24:47

Its take it or leave it here with my five. They are involved in meal planning and cooking/washing up etc and there are always some favourite meals but equally there are sometimes ones they aren't so keen on but I am not cooking separate meals, they won't starve themselves.

Squitten Sun 17-Feb-13 13:28:46

My children are still very little (4 & 2) but I cannot be bothered to cook seperately for everyone! With my two I find they just dislike different bits of the meal (e.g. the 4yr old struggles with chicken and fish whereas the 2yr old hates anything potato)

Everyone gets the same meals here. They have to have eaten at least most of the meal to get any pudding (yogurt, fruit or a dessert depending on what we have) but I don't force them to eat anything I know they don't like. Refusal to eat any of it means they get no pudding and stay hungry!

You really shouldn't run yourself ragged catering for everyone's fads!

littleducks Sun 17-Feb-13 13:31:54

I do one meal, there is sometimes pudding sometimes not. I will allow some altering, like adding yoghurt to spicy things or sauces to thinks that really dont need it but for the most part that is dinner. I dont provide toast/sandwiches instead, I cant think of a quicker method for them to switch to a carb only diet and give up eating vegetables.

Pandemoniaa Sun 17-Feb-13 13:38:43

Having watched my friend struggle with her incredibly fussy and strong-willed dd who seemed to take positive pleasure in eating as little as possible, I was fairly determined not to run a restaurant for my dcs.

I never made anyone eat anything they genuinely disliked (even now, at 30, ds2 detests mushrooms and, bizarrely, ds1 still isn't keen on red fruit) but equally I wasn't prepared to cook different meals. I tended to take the view that anyone unprepared to eat a meal that contained food they liked was not hungry enough for pudding. So no, nothing else was offered. My friend with the fussy eater would invariably give in so her dd just used to wait until the biscuit tin was opened.

I do think your teenagers ought to take responsibility for cooking some of the family meals though, OP.

worridmum Sun 17-Feb-13 13:39:15

I hope you account for allergies I still have nightmares from staying with my aunt she during my visit served pizza which I didnt eat so she then made marriconro and cheese which I also refused to eat because am lactose intolerant she then kept serving me that horrid marriconro and cheese ever meal time because she thought I was being fussy and my parents were just pandering to my tastes. with no alternitives so I went hungry for 2 days when I finally eat it I was so ill I had to go to hospital it was a nightmare thankfully I never had to stay at that anuts house again.

Booyhoo Sun 17-Feb-13 13:40:28

the whole lot can be involved in cooking the meal, not all cooking every meal but certainly a rota with supervision from you for the younger ones.

have a family meeting. everyone says all the meals they would be happy to eat and it goes on a list. you make a rota of who will be cooking on what night and ask them to choose which meal they will be cooking (this is your meal plan) so you will know that on monday sarah is making lasagne, tuesday you are making stew, wednesday jack is making jacket potatoes (easy for little ones to do) etc etc and you teach them all to wash up while they go along so the only dishes to be washed after dinner are the ones they ate off which takes all of 30 seconds to do themselves. no rows over who does the washing up then, or you could have sarah washing dishes, tom wiping table and counters and mary sweeping the floor but tbh my kitchen is tiny and they would all get on top of each other doing that.

Booyhoo Sun 17-Feb-13 13:42:12

oh yes and the meal that is cooked is offered and if refused then nothing til supper which is toast or cereal or fruit and milk in my house.

SashaSashays Sun 17-Feb-13 13:42:39

I will not reheat cook different meals for anyone in this house. Theres toast or cereal or chips (only for teens as they make these themselves) if you don't want what I've cooked and then I do say no afters if you haven't eaten your dinner or only had toast. However teens just help themselves and I normally give in to little ones its something I don't really enforce unless they have refused to eat at all.

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

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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