My father gave me the stove he cooked on as a child. My husband had it restored because I love it so much. I taught my daughters to cook starting out with cakes and crepes and tortillas. I have a crepe maker, so they loved to make them and fill them. What could be more fun than making tortillas and filling them with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and beans? I keep our favorite recipes on my phone for a quick trip to the store. Having your children be in charge of dinner one night a week helps them to get involved with meal planning and learning that cooking can be fun.
Why not use grocery time as a teaching tool. Have each person make out a grocery list with 10 items for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack. Next have them look through the newspaper to find items on sale or coupons. Take a trip to the grocery store and price the 10 items each person chose. Back at home compare the total grocery cost for each person.
Show your children how the store is laid out with the healthiest food like fruits and vegetables around the perimeter. and how much cheaper fresh food unpackaged is. Refer to the "Organic list" to know when it is worth the money to buy organic food.
I think the easiest way to involve your children in meal planning and preparation is to put them in charge of the salad. They can choose the ingredients, then wash and dry them. They can help cut up the pieces. Now they make plastic knives for children and a whole line of kitchen tools. Kids can come up with great ideas to create a beautiful presentation. My favorite salad at a restaurant, used a piece of lettuce wrapped around the salad and held in place with a toothpick. When you took the toothpick out the salad unfolded into a wonderful treat.
When the children are little, do what the storybook character Amelia Bedilia does and use baby tomatoes, carrots etc. to eliminate too much cutting. It seems like more work for you but soon you will have a real helper in the kitchen. The rule in our house was that the people fixing dinner did not have to clean up. It was more fun to make the meal than to clean up the kitchen.
In the movie, "The Big chill", the characters wash up from dinner listening to their favorite music, dancing and laughing. Let's hope meal time is fun and a time everyone wants to be together.