I have to admit I didn't think this idea through before I decided to go through with it. But there I was, standing in front of my three children – aged 13, seven and five – telling them it was up to them to plan our family meals for the next week.
These are the same children who, each year when asked where they'd like to eat for their birthday, all choose McDonald's. Their three birthdays are all within a two-week window in September, so I always end that month feeling bloated and gross. (Yes, I know I don't have to eat the food too, but I do it for the children. *side eye*)
All the possibilities flashed through my brain. Would my life be like Supersize Me for the next week – with burgers and shakes every night? Or would I get some variety with maybe some fried chicken or just mountains of hot chips?
I left them to it to discuss between themselves for a few minutes, and then I returned.
"Okay, what's the plan?" I asked, fingernails digging into my palms and sweat beads forming on my brow.
My 13-year-old presented me with a written meal plan, and all three of them eagerly watched my face as I read it.
Here's what they chose:
Sunday: sushi (prepared by my 13-year-old)
My teenager loves to cook but always tends to choose something she needs a lot of help with. This is one thing she can make without any input from me. It's healthy and super easy from my perspective, so I'm calling that a solid start!
Monday: roast chicken, roast potatoes and salad. I admit, I cheated and bought chicken pieces – ain't nobody got time for carving birds on a Monday night. But I'm impressed they asked for salad.
Tuesday: fish and chips
Our local fish and chips shop is walking distance from our house, does free kids' meals on Tuesdays, and they have wine. It was delightful – and cheap!
Wednesday: green chicken curry
My two younger kids aren't home on Wednesday nights so it was just me and the teenager. This kid checked what we have in the freezer and found a chicken curry I made last week. She thought it might be nice if we could have something easy so we could fit in an extra Stranger Things episode. I love her.
Nothing pleases my children more than being allowed to eat cereal for dinner. And nothing pleases me more than when they ask if they can please get it for themselves. There has never been an easier meal.
Friday: sausage on bread
Speaking of easy meals, every Friday we head off to Little Athletics, and every Friday beautiful volunteers barbecue a bunch of sausages and present them in a piece of white bread, old school style. My kids think this is the best thing since, well, since sausage in sliced bread.
Saturday: salad plate
Seriously, this is what they chose. I had no input. In our house, we have a meal we call "salad plate", which is a variety of chopped veggies, some cheeses, dips, crackers, maybe some nuts or dried fruit – whatever we've got in the house. It's really just an excuse for the kids to eat great wads of brie. They also love being able to choose what they put on their plates and they think eating crackers at dinner time is all kinds of fun.
So that was our week. I'm sure a nutritionist wouldn't approve of the lack of vegetables for a few days there, but otherwise, I think they did okay. And I'm super impressed that they made my week less labour-intensive than usual, without making it expensive.
I told my kids after this little experiment that I was impressed with their choices, and that I thought they would have just chosen McDonald's every day.
My seven-year-old son claimed to not have understood the parameters of the experiment, and now keeps asking me if we can do it again.
He might have to wait until next September.