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Food Preparation & Cooking for Single Dads

Dad and kid preparing food

A Guide to Preparing Healthy, Wholesome Meals

Single dads wear many hats, ranging from (their kids’) BIGGEST FAN and SUPPORT SYSTEM to LIFE-GUIDE and MONSTER-SLAYER, so it’s only fitting to add PERSONAL CHEF to the mix. When it comes to promoting proper health and nutrition, it can be difficult enough to prepare meals for yourself, but adding extra mouths can complicate matters even further. The good news is preparing delicious, healthy meals for your kids and yourself doesn’t have to be some overly complicated, painstaking struggle. So have no fear; we are here to dispel any anxiety you may have in the kitchen department.

Burrows’ Food-Prep Guide for Single Dads

  1. Know what foods your kids like and will/won’t eat. Before you head into the kitchen, it helps to know what ingredients you need, and that largely depends on what your kids will and won’t eat. Some children are super picky when it comes to food while others are content with whatever you put on their plates. So be sure to take the time to get to know your kids’ food preferences (if you don’t know them already). A good place to start is simply talking to them and discussing what foods they like. Or, if that doesn’t provide the direction you need, pay attention to what your kids order whenever you go out to eat and start there. 
  2. Plan ahead. When single dads take the time to plan out all the stops on their food-prep journeys, everything falls into place much more smoothly. Once you have an idea about the foods your kids will eat, it’s then time to consider two things: 1) how many meals you’ll need to prepare each week and 2) how many days you can conceivably cook. For example, if you are responsible for feeding your kids five to seven days’ worth of meals and can only devote enough time to cook a few times a week, plan to cook more upfront and refrigerate/freeze the leftovers for use on another day. It’d also be good for you to plan how you can use the leftovers in different dishes on different days (e.g., using leftover roasted potatoes and vegetables from Thursday night’s dinner for a breakfast hash on the weekend). Once you’ve got a handle on these items, it’s time to make a grocery list. If creating a grocery list makes you anxious, here is a handy list of kitchen basics to get you started. Be sure to keep that list handy (i.e., on paper, on your phone or computer) so subsequent trips to the grocery store go as smoothly as possible. If you need nutritious recipe ideas before heading to the store, this site is a great resource. So is this one.
  3. Go grocery shopping and stick to your grocery list. Once you’ve created your grocery list, you’re ready to tackle the shopping, which should be as painless as possible since you have a plan and know exactly what you need to buy. If you know you will use certain ingredients more often than others, it’d be beneficial to buy them in bulk, if possible. Items to buy in bulk include: dry pasta, rice, beans (canned and dry), oats, corn (canned and/or frozen), apples, berries (to keep in freezer), onions and peppers (to chop and refrigerate/freeze), spices, meat (to keep in freezer) and cheese. While grocery shopping, it’s often essential for single dads to pay attention to budgeting, so shopping during sales and using coupons can be highly beneficial. If you’re one who simply detests setting foot inside your neighborhood grocery store, consider using major stores’ smartphone apps that allow you to order your groceries in-app and pick up at the store. 
  4. Prepare your meal(s). Once you’ve stocked up on ingredients, it’s time for the real magic: putting it all together in a healthy, delicious meal. If you already know how to cook, kudos to you! If not, there are tons of online videos that can help you become a master in the kitchen. If you’re still a bit apprehensive about food preparation and cooking, it’s time to embrace the slow cooker, which allows you to put all the ingredients in and simply wait until your food is done. This site has some great slow cooker recipes if you need some help. It’s also a good idea for single dads to have some standby dishes they can put together for their kids in a crunch, such as slow cooker chilipasta dishesstir-fry dishes and casseroles.

Additional Food-Prep Tips for Single Dads

  • Cut up frequently used vegetables (i.e., onions, peppers, carrots, celery, etc.) at the beginning of the week—or right after getting home from the grocery store—so they’ll be readily available when you need them. Be sure to label and refrigerate or freeze. 
  • When cooking, consider doubling recipes so you can refrigerate or freeze leftovers so they’re on hand for another day. 
  • Invest in a slow cooker; so many possibilities, so little effort. 
  • Cook with your kids/allow them to play an active role in food preparation; they’ll be more likely to eat what they help prepare. Plus, they’ll learn valuable kitchen skills that will stay with them forever. 
  • For especially hectic days, it’s not a bad idea to have a nutritious frozen pizza or two on hand. Just pop it in the oven and go on with whatever it is you must do.