Meals · Parenthood

Cooking Dinner for a Family of 5 Guidelines


How many people do you cook for? Can it be hard sometimes with picky kids?

I cook for my husband, myself and our three girls. What’s it like cooking for five?

For the most part, it’s not that difficult. I cook meals that my husband and I enjoy. I’ll then base those meals for what I’m making my girls. But there are times my girls won’t eat certain things. Even after I’ve tried really hard. And of course each kids is different when it comes to what they like or don’t like.

When it comes to soups, Katie won’t eat it, Sophia will eat some, and Elizabeth loves soup. And as far as salads, Elizabeth will eat some of mine, but Katie and Sophia won’t.

So when it comes to cooking dinner, I’ve come up with six guidelines that have helped me when dealing with picky eaters.

6 Guidelines When Cooking Dinner with Kids

1. Use the ingredients in a meal in the same or similar way. If I’m making a chicken stir fry, I’ll cook my girls chicken on the side, along with a vegetable, such as raw carrots or sugar snap peas. Plus I’ll add a third item, such as fruit, nuts, chips, etc. It makes preparing dinner much easier. In the example below, I made orange chicken, which I gave them. Instead of adding the cooked orange on their chicken, I gave my girls clementine oranges.

2. Add fruit or vegetable you know your kids will eat. I’ll add an extra item to their plate along with the vegetable my husband and I are eating. Sometimes I’ll even add a fruit yogurt pouch to have with their meal. In the example below, I gave my girls diced sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top along with some grapes.

3. Have to at least take several bites of each food. There are some food that my girls don’t care for. I ask that they take several bites. Hopefully eventually they will end up liking that food item. I’ll give them a smaller amount and try to get them to eat most of it. For example, Katie doesn’t care for rice, so I’ll give her a small amount and she’ll eat most of it even though she doesn’t like it very well.

4. Dip food in ketchup. I’ll let my kids dip their meat in ketchup. I’m happy as long as they eat the meat. Katie loves dipping her chicken and pork chops in ketchup. Elizabeth has also started to like ketchup as well and has asked for it on her plate.

5. Leave sauce off the meat. If there is a sauce that they won’t like, I season the meat with salt and pepper. In the example below, I seasoned the pork chops with salt and pepper and cooked the sauce in a separate sauce pan.

6. Make plain noodles with butter parmesan sauce. I melt butter in a sauce pan and add salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. My girls do love spaghetti sauce, but there are some meals where the sauce is spicier or the noodles are in soup, such as a tortellini soup.

What sort of guidelines for meals help you when you’re preparing and eating dinner?

This post is part of a post series called Meals in the Kitchenwhich is on the subject of food. I’ll talk about my love for food to sharing recipes that I love cooking to food tips.

20 thoughts on “Cooking Dinner for a Family of 5 Guidelines

  1. I know so many moms that cook multiple meals for their families each evening. I think having a one base meal but with minor variations is genius! Picky eaters sure are tough sometimes but sometimes a small change such as leaving the sauce on the side will please the entire group. Very Smart Mama!

  2. These are great suggestions. We tend to always cook up veggies we know the kids will eat. I like how you used the ingredients in different ways so they get the same flavors. Kids are so funny about texture sometimes.

  3. You got this thing down to a science! I just cook for my husband and I so it is really simple, but I can imagine cooking for multiple people with different taste buds can be difficult!

  4. It takes a lot of good meal planning. Great post and good suggestions!! I find it hard to cook for one. Any suggestions?x

  5. I love your realistic approach to feeding young kids. I do something similar, since I don’t believe in making “kid food” instead of a normal meal for all of us. Like you, I sometimes separate out ingredients, and I’ll add extra fruits and veggies I know they like.

  6. My kids are picky but not as much as when they were younger so that’s allowed things to get easier. My main rule is to eat at least a few bites and I’ll be satisfied. I also rotate dinner ideas with someone’s favorites that way one of my kids isn’t always feeling like they’re having to eat something they don’t like.

  7. I struggle so much just feeding 3 of us, I don’t know how you do it! These are great tips even for just us, it’s so hard coming up with similar yet different options for my toddler. He’s not too picky but we try to keep him super healthy. Thanks for the tips!

  8. I love your idea of picking a meal you and your husband enjoy and simplifying it so the kids will eat it too. My son is a VERY picky eater, and the you have to at least try it rule’s been much more difficult to stick with for him than my daughter. Good motivation here, thanks!

  9. My girls can be picky eaters too… and it drives me mad. With my first I used to make separate meals, but no more. Mama ain’t a short order cook. 😉 I love that you use part of your meal for your kids, so you aren’t making something new, just using what you have.

  10. I love the tip to set your kids’ chicken/other ingredients aside, Julie!! Way to go on cooking for 5 and keeping little kids well fed. No easy feat!!

  11. When we eat salad, my children will eat the tomato and cucumber, but they don’t want the lettuce. I oftentimes supplement certain side dishes with grapes or bananas. Your tips are excellent, and I love your child-friendly plates! You must have so much fun with three girls!

  12. Thanks for these tips. We are a family of 5 too and I am constantly having to do similar things to avoid the fussing and whining.

  13. I can never seem to predict what my kids will enjoy. Sometimes when I plan a meal for them, they won’t touch it and sometimes when I plan a meal I doubt they will like, they gobble it up. So I just stopped trying to please them with the entree and just cook what my husband and I want.

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