During the pandemic, many families found themselves home more each week than ever before, and as a result, cooking at home and with the family as well as food preparation, became a big focus of activities. But making three meals a day, 7 days a week, also became a bigger expense, and many people started meal prepping and exploring ways of cooking with kids on a budget to save both time and money. The good news is these skills, which may have started under stressful conditions, can help many families spend more quality time together and help in the wallet.
However, when trying to feed a family on a budget, the result can be a lot of stress, a mess to clean up, and children who can get frustrated in the beginning. There are ways to make kids part of your saving money efforts in the kitchen, from making a shopping list (print these list templates to make it fun), to peeling and prepping, or even cleaning up after the meal. Encourage children to take a role in meal prep; as they grow, they will love cooking. Each age group can focus on a set of skills that helps them play an active role in feeding the family and cuts down on boredom while also allowing them to feel some pride and accomplishment.
Ages 3-5: Pint-Size Helpers
Children exert their independence at this stage of toddlerhood and want to dive head-first into the world around them. Three, four, and five-year-olds have short attention spans and very little awareness of danger (think sharp knives or hot pans) and therefore, they cannot handle a lot of kitchen tasks; however, by getting them involved at a young age, they will learn quickly and many parents are surprised by just how much help their preschooler can be. The toddler age is a great time to have them wash produce, mash potatoes, tear lettuce, smash crackers, or knead dough.
Ages 5-7: Grade-School Sous Chefs
Children in early elementary school learn many skills that can be put to great use in the kitchen. They are now able to use scissors and have improved other fine motor skills. These increased skills mean they can take a more active role in meal prep for the family. There are some learning opportunities as well. Children can help set the table and learn about proper place settings or measure and count items as a math lesson on multiplication and fractions. They can practice reading by following along with simple recipes and reading each step. At this age, kids can also mix dry ingredients, crack eggs, roll cookie dough or meat, and chop softer fruits and veggies.
Ages 8-12: Budding Cooks
As preteens establish their own opinions and ideas, there is no doubt they will have some thoughts regarding their favorite or least-favorite foods. This is an excellent opportunity to teach them greater independence by allowing them to make simple recipes on their own. They can peel veggies, make sandwiches, do the dishes, put up groceries, and make cookies or brownies on their own. With supervision, they can really step up and do even more than this.
Ages 13 & Up: Young Chefs
Teens can learn to do pretty much anything they want in the kitchen, but it is essential to make sure they first know proper food handling and other safety techniques. They should know which pots and pans can go in the oven, how to handle raw meat, and how to use sharp knives safely. They can make recipes on the stovetop, bake cookies with friends, make waffles, press garlic, or learn to use various kitchen appliances like blenders and food processors. Teens should also be taught how to clean the kitchen and be put in charge of dinner one night a week.
- 25 Recipes for Teens: Let the teens choose from these 25 recipes they can cook with basic kitchen and safety knowledge.
- 13 Meals Teens Can Cook: Let the teens cook once a week and they can use this list of meal ideas to get them started.
Additional Cooking Resources for All AgesWhile almost everyone knows that if you are cooking with kids on a budget, members-only stores like Sam’s Club and Costco are the best at helping you get your cost-per-item price down based on the deals and sales they offer on bulk items (including everything from cereal to fresh produce). Layer those savings with credit cards that offer cash back when you shop and now you are really adding up the savings! If saving time is as important to you as saving money, try the free offers from grocery delivery services like Instacart and Walmart + for first-time users. The Walmart+ website even claims that their members are saving over $1,300 a year by using the service to get groceries and even home goods delivered as soon as same-day.Additional resources for cooking with kids on a budget:
Money-Saving Resources for Cooking and Food Buying
Sales on food are the best ways to save money at the grocery store, so make sure to download the app of your local supermarket chain, whether it is Walmart or a local Kroger, Safeway, or Von’s. All have coupons you can add to your account, so you don’t even need to cut coupons from inserts. A benefit to using these apps to find deals on food and groceries is that, over time, the app will know your go-to purchases and staples and show you sales on the foods you use the most.While most people don’t think of Amazon when they’re cooking with kids on a budget, there are tons of top brands on sale in the dry goods and bulk foods sections. If these are items your family uses often, save even more by signing up for auto-shipments with Amazon’s subscription service.
Plus, for meal planning and prepping, Amazon sellers have many creative products and options, from prep-printed list notepads to economical containers that can equal saving money over the long term after your initial purchase. The number of available meal-prep and budget-friendly items to help you save while cooking wholesome meals is almost endless! Look for items that are also targeted towards kids to get them involved in shopping and meal-prepping to make cooking on a budget a family event.Amazon Fresh also offers convenient delivery of fresh foods and there is often a deal on CouponFollow’s Amazon deals page. We recently saw an offer for $10 off on your Amazon Fresh order, a discount that is usually available year-round on first-time purchases.
Also look for dry goods, cooking utensils, and lots of storage for meal prepping at discount stores like Wayfair, Marshall’s, and Kohl’s. Try shopping these store during their seasonal sales for the best deals, and always check for any sales or promo codes on CouponFollow first.