A divorce brings a number of new lifestyle changes. For many dads, that means tackling meal planning for the kids for the first time.
In many families, mothers often handle cooking duties. Having to suddenly prepare meals and shop for groceries can be intimidating for some fathers.
Fortunately, there are plenty of free online resources to help you learn to cook healthy, nutritious meals for you and the kids. Dinnertime can also be a great opportunity to spend quality time with your children.
You might even find that you enjoy cooking and develop a new hobby!
Here are some pointers on how to take on cooking and meal planning as a divorced dad.
Figure out what your kids like and dislike
You probably know this already, but make sure you know your kids’ favorite and least favorite foods.
You can’t have pizza and ice cream every single night, but you can treat them every now and then. You can also avoid foods they can’t stand, as long as it’s within reason.
Develop a few standby dishes
If you’re new to cooking, start slow. You don’t have to be Emeril Lagasse to cook some decent family meals.
Even if you’re a complete newbie, you should be able to whip up some spaghetti, meat sauce and a salad right away.
Use the nights that you don’t have your kids to try out new recipes. Again, start with meals that are easy and gradually spice things up.
You can find thousands of simple recipes online. Allrecipes.com is a great place to check out and has recipes for just about every style of meal you can think of.
You don’t have to be a nutritionist, but you need to know some nutrition basics, especially when cooking for children.
Mix in plenty of fruits and veggies, and avoid foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat.
A simple rule of thumb that can help is to try buying as many unpackaged, fresh foods – that are typically found on the outer edges of grocery stores – as possible.
The importance of planning ahead cannot be stressed enough when it comes to cooking and meal planning. Organization is key.
At the start of each month sit down and plan out each day’s meals as much as you can. Are there nights where the kids have school events? That might be a night to order pizza or grab carryout, but don’t rely too heavily on fast food and other convenience foods because they tend to be very unhealthy.
Once you determine which nights you’ll cook and what you’ll be having. Create a meal calendar to help you say on track. Fortunately, there is no shortage of free meal planners and apps to assist with this.
Use one day a week to buy groceries
Once you determine what meals you’re going to prepare, go through each dish and figure out what ingredients you need to buy. Compile a list and, again, keep it organized.
It’s a good idea to pick out one day each week to head to grocery store to get everything you need. Try getting there early in the morning to avoid all the crowded aisles and long checkout lines.
If you budget is tight, there are also a number of steps you can take to save money on groceries.
Use dinner as bonding time
You might be surprised to find that cooking can actually be really fun once you get the hang of it, and sometimes it can even be an activity your kids enjoy helping with.
Try looking for some fun deserts or appetizers every now and then and let the kids help you put everything together.
And use dinner as a time to spend time together. Recent studies have linked family dinners with lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem.
Don’t just grab a plate and head for the couch and TV. Sit at the kitchen table and spend that time visiting and learning what’s going on in your children’s lives.