Whether your solo parenting status is a permanent thing, or just a week-long adventure while your spouse is away, one thing is for certain: it’s hard to be a single parent. You may be on your own by choice or circumstance, or your partner may travel for work or live part-time in another city, but rest assured: there are a lot of people parenting without a partner.
While there’s no denying that there are plenty of problems that come from this situation, one of the areas that can be a real challenge is the task of getting dinner on the table, especially if you work outside of the home.
To give you a helping hand we’ve put together a week’s worth of meals for when you’re solo parenting. These are healthy, well-balanced dinners you can feel good about serving, but simple enough that dinner truly can be on the table in about 30 minutes. Before we launch into the suggested meals, here are few tips for the single parent meal maker:
1. Make a Meal Plan: This tip is really for any home cook, but being organized when you’re solo parenting is the secret to being successful. Knowing what you’re going to cook and when you’re going to do it will help you with both the grocery shopping and the actual act of getting dinner on the table.
2. Set the Table: It seems obvious, but sitting down for dinner as a family, even if there is only one parent present, is a great motivator for making a meal. Light a candle and use cloth napkins, plus real (not plastic) cutlery and plates.
3. Don’t Forget that Kids Can Cook, Too: Enlist your children to help you with dinner. Even if they are toddlers they’ll be happy to help set the table, while older children can pour drinks or cut veggies. Whatever your child’s age, there is usually a task that they can help with.
As for the actual meals, each of these suggestions is quick cooking, healthy and budget-friendly.
Day 1: Pasta is a staple for so many families, and this Pasta with Broccoli and Toasted Breadcrumbs comes together just a quickly as a box of store-bought mac and cheese. Serve with a side salad or yogurt and some fresh fruit for a complete kid-friendly meal.
Day 2: Instead of making tacos, which can be a tad time consuming, try our Super Fast Black Bean Quesadillas with a side of guacamole for those nights when the family is craving a Mexican-inspired meal. Be sure to make a few more quesadillas than you need, because the leftovers will make a great lunch for the following day.
Day 3: Give yourself at least one no-cook meal a week—it is essential to a single parent’s sanity! Our Parisian Platter is a great example of this type of dinner. Simply scrounge up some items from the pantry and fridge, placing them on a platter for a ‘finger foods’ supper everyone will enjoy.
Day 4: Our Chicken and Kale Pizza Bake is a one-pan recipe that will please the entire family, including the cook thanks to the short ingredient list and speed with which this meal comes together. Serve with a side salad and some crusty bread for a complete meal. Bonus recipe: use any leftover bread and chicken to make sandwiches for the next day’s lunch.
Day 5: If you take an hour on the weekend to make a pot of soup, you’re already halfway to a decent weeknight dinner. Store in the fridge for up to three days and serve with a side sandwich to make a complete meal.