A Single Dad's Guide to Quick, Cheap, Healthy Meals

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Whether you’re dealing with food allergies or just a picky eater, it can be a struggle to put together a quick meal that is both healthy and delicious. Singledad.com is the best food resource for single parent families.

Whether you’re dealing with food allergies or just a picky eater, it can be a struggle to put together a quick meal that is both healthy and delicious – not to mention affordable. We’ve found that a nice meal out costs us the same as two weeks of food made at home. It’s also healthier and faster than a restaurant too.

As a parenting coach and instructor, I’d like to share some ideas that have helped us provide affordable delicious meals our kids enjoy so much that their friends frequently join us!

Have a plan…and a back up plan:
Start by knowing what your kids will eat and not eat. Expand their horizons by having other foods available to try but realize that forcing them to eat food they don’t like is torture for everyone.

Plan out your meals for the week. Let’s say you start with a spiral ham. The first time I did this I thought it’d be expensive and difficult. It was simple – and one ham gave me three meals for two teens and a table full of their friends for about the cost of one drive through meal and about 20 minutes of active prep time. First night – baked ham and potatoes. Night two – ham sandwiches. Third night – ham and bean soup. Our vegetarian had a potato with cheese and veggies, a veggie sandwich and bean soup without meat.

But let’s say someone eats all the left-over ham. That’s where the back up plan comes in. Night two might be BLT’s or a veggie sandwich. And the soup can be made without the ham as well. Serve the soup with a nice crusty bread!

Prepare ahead
What are the staple foods in your life? Most people have 10 – 12 ingredients they build meals around. Know what yours are and watch for sales so you can stock up. This saves you a ton of money – plus you won’t have to run to the grocery at the last minute. If you’ve never cooked from home before, watch what your kids are eating at the restaurant and start there. Burgers and fries – beef and potatoes. Pizza – cheese, tomatoes, pepperoni.

TIP: Let kids help prepare meals and they’ll be more likely to eat.

Around here, we use tons of onions, garlic, carrots and peppers. So at the beginning of each week, we chop up enough of each for the week. If you have a food processor it makes quick work of the chopping and slicing. In about 10 minutes you have enough veggies cut up for the whole week. Toss the veggies into stir-fries, soups, stews, salads and casseroles.

TIP: If you make soup, saute the veggies in a pan before tossing into the pot. It brings out their full flavor.

Do double duty
Make twice the amount and freeze one batch to use when you’re too busy to cook. This saves you from a constant stream of expensive, time-consuming and unhealthy restaurant meals.

TIP: Label items you put in your freezer with the date and contents. It’s hard to tell what you have by looking at it.

Keep it simple by using a crock pot
The crock pot is your friend. You can toss in meat, veggies, water and spices before work and come home to a delicious meal. Check out crock pot (or slow cooker) books from the library to give you ideas. Soups, stews, roasts – all can be made easily this way.

And finally, consider your schedule. Mondays are insane at our house. Football season – even more insane. Plan your easiest, most well-rehearsed meals for your nuttiest nights. New recipes and more difficult meals can be saved for when you have time.

Here’s a sample menu from our house:

Mondays – Sandwich night. Bread, mayo, mustard, ham, turkey, cheese, peanut butter, jelly and chips.

Tuesdays – Salad night. A tub of lettuce, bite sized tomatoes, salad dressings and left-over deli meats from the night before.

Wednesdays -Soup night…or chili or stew. Remember those veggies I cut up at the beginning of the week? Three handfuls of those and some spices and we’re all set. Burger meat on the side.

Thursdays – Breakfast for dinner. Eggs, toast, bacon, ham, cereal, pancakes…. Depends on what we have time to do.

Fridays – Left-over night. Back up plan – spaghetti.

Saturdays – Delicious experiment day. We cook with the kids to help them learn how to cook. It’s even more fun if you’re learning too! This is when we try out new recipes.

Sunday – Grazing day. Keep healthy foods around and let the family pick all day. With smaller children, they may need help. And you’ll need to hide the sugary foods and chips or that’s what they’ll graze on!

Meals don’t need to be complicated to be simple and good. In fact, the simplest meals are often the best.

Bon apetit!

Richard JaramilloRichard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”

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Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com, a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children. RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents “Make Life Happen…Again!”