Single Parent's Guide To Feeding The Family
Women who have recently become single mothers and already have plenty of kitchen experience might think there's no need to adjust their cooking routines just because their partner is no longer around. Men who have just become single dads, on the other hand, and perhaps didn't help their former partners as much as they could have in the kitchen, may well now be wondering how on earth to shop and organize mealtimes for several kids, never mind themselves. Whether you are a male or female single parent, master chef or complete novice in the kitchen, you will probably find that going it alone means you need grocery shopping and cooking to be both faster and cheaper than they were before.
Speedy, Cheaper Grocery Shopping
If you need to spend less money and time at the store you must make a shopping list and a budget, and stick to them. Your shopping list should be based on what your family actually eats. If your children are mature enough to agree and compromise, sit down with them and plan around 30 meals, one for each day of the month. Each meal should be balanced, containing a meat or fish portion as well as some vegetables and carbohydrates (such as pasta, potatoes or rice). If your family is vegetarian you will need to include other sources of protein, iron and fat. Don't worry if a child does not like every portion of each meal; these can be swapped to suit tastes once you have stocked up on all the necessary ingredients. Once you have your menus planned you can use them to compile a master grocery list of all the ingredients you need to make these dinners. If you aim to go shopping once a week, choose seven dinners from the menus and check the master grocery list to see whether or not you have the necessary ingredients. Then make a weekly shopping list of everything you still need to buy and decide how much you are prepared to spend. This will help you to avoid spending money on unnecessary items in the store.
Other tips for saving money:
Coupons - don't automatically throw out coupons and vouchers when they come through the door, there might be something in there which is on your grocery list! A word of warning though, only use coupons if they offer a discount on things you need, don't be tempted to buy something random just because it's cheap.
Needs list - keep a list on the refrigerator of things you are running out of. That way you'll remember to buy them when you are in the supermarket or larger store. Otherwise you can end up taking time out of your evening to run to the smaller corner stores which are often more expensive.
Eat before you go - if you are hungry when you shop you are more likely to buy extra items that you don't need.
Take a calculator - this will help you add up prices and figure out whether or not you're still within your budget.
Bring a pen - so you can cross off items on your list once you have picked them up. This will save you time searching through your trolley to see if you already have something or running back from the cashier to get something you've forgotten.
Don't linger - in aisles that contain items not on your list, you're just wasting time!
Go early or late - if at all possible, try to avoid peak times such as weekends or just after work. Stores are often quietest early in the day or shortly before closing time.
Tips For Fast Cooking
The demands on your time as a single parent mean once you've actually bought the food you still need to be able to prepare it quickly and produce tasty, healthy meals. Here are some tips for time-efficient mastery of your kitchen.
Organize utensils - so that your most-used equipment is close at hand and things you don't need very often go in less accessible closets and drawers.
Clear clutter - so that your work areas are free and ready-for-use as soon as you want to start cooking.
Make a cleaning rota - if your children are old enough to help with chores, implementing a daily kitchen-cleaning rota would save you time cleaning up in the evening before you can begin preparing meals.
Gather ingredients - taking out and sorting all the ingredients and equipment you need may save you time while cooking, but if you have a small kitchen and this will clutter your working area, just take things out as you need them.
Kick the kids out - Unless your children are old enough to really help, you might find you work faster with them out of the kitchen.
Freeze extra portions - cooking a bit extra and freezing it for later can save you valuable time on evenings when you are tired or busy or even when you want to go out. For this you'll need to make sure you have a good supply of storage containers, so it's worth investing in a few of these the next time you are shopping.
Whether you're an experienced cook or completely new to the art, you're likely to have some teething problems when it comes to planning meals, shopping, cooking and cleaning up alone. As with so many elements of single parenting, good organization is the key, and this is certainly a skill that can be learned with practice, over time.