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We might be able to skip naptime or even a bath, but when it comes to meal times, kids are constantly growing, and nutritious food is the fuel they need to do so. However, as a single parent, time is rare, and you might find yourself heading for the drive-thru rather than the kitchen. Eating right is not only an important part of taking care of yourself, but it could be the foundation you need to start making healthier choices. Before you place your order, check out these simple tips to make mealtimes easier and stress-free.
Have a Game Plan
There’s nothing wrong with waiting until dinnertime to decide what to have, but having a game plan takes the stress out of figuring it out, leaving you with one less thought rolling around in your head. At the beginning of each week, create a meal plan and accompanying grocery list. Stick to the list as closely as possible, and resist the temptation to give in to your children’s pleas for every sweet treat they pass along the aisle. Keeping to your list will also help you to stay on budget and avoid purchasing items that will go to waste. Look for opportunities for extra savings by clipping coupons, joining your grocery store’s rewards program, and checking out weekly deals and sales. Stock up on the staples such as fruits, veggies, and protein, but don’t go overboard, as some produce has a short shelf-life. A simple solution is to purchase frozen options, which can be thawed as needed.
Don’t stress if the game plan falls apart. It could be that enchiladas were your child’s favorite food at the beginning of the week, but by Thursday, they can’t stand them. Perhaps the soccer game went longer than it usually did, your meeting went over, or you simply had a long day. It could be that you forgot to unthaw your prepared meal. Whatever the reason, don’t feel guilty for picking up a pizza or having cereal for dinner. Life happens, and sometimes it just can’t be helped. However, there are ways to still keep it healthy. Check out this list of some of the best microwave meals that are healthy too.
Make It Go Farther
Time is of the essence, so anything you can do to spend less time cooking and more time on other tasks is a smart move. If there are certain meals your kids can’t get enough of, double up and freeze the leftovers for a quick, hassle-free meal up to a month or two later. You can even spend a day meal prepping with these freezer meals you can make ahead to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner covered for weeks to come. Another great cooking hack is to use a main ingredient that can be used in a second or third meal. For example, the leftover roast chicken can be shredded and used for burritos or sandwiches.
If you have a few single parent friends, ask them to make mealtimes a team effort. When you double up your recipe, swap half with each other. Not only does this save time, but it helps to avoid the complaints when you announce that you are having leftovers for dinner. You both get a new meal without the hassle, and everyone stays happy. Working together with other single parents is also a great way to learn and share tips, as well as get the adult socialization you need.
Mealtimes can be a source of stress for single parents, but they don’t have to be. With a game plan, careful planning, and resourceful thinking, the breakfast, lunch, and dinner routine can be made simple.
This article was written by Daniel Sherwin, creator of DadSolo.com, a website for single parents. For more helpful tips, go to Dadsolo.com