Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cooking Made Easy

By Suzanne Cramer

I know I can hear you mumbling under your breath as you read this, "The last thing I want to do after working all day, running my kids to their activities, and tackling homework is prepare a meal. All I want to do is hit the drive thru window and head home." I hear you and believe me, I have been there...

As a single parent we tackle the everyday responsibilities of work, kids, and household chores on our own, there's no one to call home to, "Hey can you cook dinner tonight, I'm running late. Or, "We need milk can you hit the store on your way home?" Nope the onus is on you, the single parent. So how can you make your life easier, serve nutritious meals for yourself and your kids and save money?

Plan, Plan, Plan!

For me cooking is a challenge, somewhere along the way it is a skill I have never mastered, but that does not keep me from trying!
  • Use the internet.  Since I need all the help I can get I save recipes I see throughout the day from some of my Twitter friends, bloggers, and internet searches and keep an entire folder of them on my computer. Then each week I take a peek in there and establish what we will have for the week.
  • It's ok to take the easy route.  Of course, some nights I take the easy road and prepare a boxed taco meal, or host make your own pizza night with my son and his friends during a sleepover. But, most nights I try to prepare a well-balanced meal; and that my friends requires some planning.
  • Shopping lists--a must!  After determining the week's meals I prepare a list of the necessary ingredients so they are on hand either in the fridge or cupboard, (no last minute trips to the store for me).
  • Stock up to save.  Occasionally I will "stock up" on frequently used items that are on sale saving me money on future meals.
Considering "ordering" from the menu...

Travis from My Journey Out of Debt, had the most ingenious idea I've ever heard of, allowing your family to "order" from the refrigerator menu. Not only does this give your kids the power of choice, but you are ready with the necessary items (because of prior planning) and can easily prepare a meal from any of the ones listed on the "menu". Travis says, "I don't plan a meal for a specific day. Instead, I create a dinner "menu" of all the meals that are currently available to be prepared. I place it on the refrigerator door, allowing my family to "order" dinner each night."

Cook Ahead...

Let's face it some nights it is so late till we arrive home cooking anything is out of the question. Enter my DIY TV dinners.
Establish a "cooking" day.  Sundays are typically a "cooking" day for me. I may make 1-2 meals and freeze the leftovers for nights just like these. Yes, the microwave is your friend.

Crock-pots Can Be A Life Saver...

My go-to meal plan for nights I know I will be home late include the use of my crock pot. I can throw in ingredients in the morning before I leave and return to a home-cooked meal. For great ideas for crock-pot meals check out:

I have found the important things to remember about single parent cooking are: keep it simple, easy to manage, and plan everything. Just like all of our other daily tasks as a single parent cooking takes time and we all wish for that extra hour in the day that never seems to come around. Make life easier for yourself and save money by taking the time to prepare quick, easy, nutritious and inexpensive meals at home. 

Suzanne Cramer is a certified credit counselor and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne Debt Relief ServicesSuzanne writes for Divorce, Debt and Finances and Major Life ChallengesFollow Suzanneon Twitter @ADivorcedMom where she shares her insights as a single-divorced mom with tips and tricks to keep your finances in check.  


  1. I agree, shopping lists are SO important! I feel so disorganized and all over the place if I get to the store without one.

    I've been wanting to get a crock pot for the longest time. I love the idea of cooking ahead, so the meal is done by the time I get home with the kiddos.

  2. I so agree with you on this! Planning and sticking to a well mapped out list is key to success in the kitchen and the budget too. These are wonderful and practical tips anyone can do, thanks so much for sharing them! Oh, and look at you grow with the cooking skills, I love your tenacity. Good for you!!


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