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What's for Dinner Dad?

Beans on toast again? Sort that out right now

Chef with plate of food

Daaaaadddddd. What’s for dinnnneeerrrrrr????

This continues to be one of the most frustrating parts of single dad-dom for me. Not for the cooking part. I like cooking, I’m relatively good at cooking. My kids tell me their friends come over because they like my cooking. It’s deciding what to cook in order to keep everyone happy and when there’s time to cook, that’s the issue.


When I’m trying to fit around work, picking up and dropping kids off to various after school activities, getting dinner done at a reasonable time before bed is a big juggling act.


I think there are only a few meals that all three of my children like. Anything I cook at least one or two of them like it, but finding something all three love is limited.


Part of my hang ups about sorting out dinner is always trying to ensure I’m being a ‘good dad’ by having a variety of healthy meals, without recycling the same ones over and over again or feeding them crap.


Chef preparing food

I’m Not Teaching You to Cook

Anyway, this isn’t a cooking article, I’m not here to be Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey or teach you how to cook. My purpose is to give you some great tips and tricks to make the process of mealtimes easier for you. Although, I might throw a few favourite recipes at you for examples. This continues to be one of the most frustrating parts of single dad-dom for me. Not for the cooking part. I like cooking, I’m relatively good at cooking. My kids tell me their friends come over because they like my cooking. It’s deciding what to cook in order to keep everyone happy and when there’s time to cook, that’s the issue. When I’m trying to fit around work, picking up and dropping kids off to various after school activities, getting dinner done at a reasonable time before bed is a big juggling act. I think there are only a few meals that all three of my children like. Anything I cook at least one or two of them like it, but finding something all three love is limited. Part of my hang ups about sorting out dinner is always trying to ensure I’m being a ‘good dad’ by having a variety of healthy meals, without recycling the same ones over and over again or feeding them crap. Anyway, this isn’t a cooking article. I’m not here to be Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey or teach you how to cook. My purpose is to give you some great tips and tricks to make the process of mealtimes easier for you. Although, I might throw a few favourite recipes at you for examples.

Why Plan?

Get yourself a whiteboard or blackboard and write the days of the week down the left hand side. Then at the start of the week, grab your kid/s together and ask them to pick a meal each they really enjoy, then based on what your week looks like, write it next to the day that meal suits best.


For example, if one of my kids wants a full roast, I’m not going to put it on a Wednesday when one’s out a badminton lesson and the other is at rock climbing or something. I might pick Monday because it’s a day I finish work early, and all kids are at home so there’s plenty of time to knock up such a meal.


Work through the rest of the days of the week so everyone feels included and try to ensure you’ve ‘guided’ or made an executive decision about some of the meals for both ease of cooking and nutrition. Here’s what and average week menu planner looks like for us:

  • Mon - Salmon, mash and veggies

  • Tue - Pasta usually just with a tomato based sauce, bacon, garlic and cheese

  • Wed - Chicken/vegetable Stir Fry and rice

  • Thur - Chilli con Carne (either with rice or nachos)

  • Fri - Fish and Chips or other takeaway

  • Sat - Pizza

  • Sun - Roast

Recipe on iPad in kitchen

Why it Works

What I try to do, I’m not sure why, is make sure each week there are potatoes, rice, pasta, salad or something bread related like pizza meals, but alternating so I don’t have two rice dishes on consecutive nights etc. Trivial? probably, but that’s just me.


Now there are a couple of very good reasons for doing this menu and trust me it works:

  • Kids know what’s coming, eliminating the surprise factor which usually leads to someone groaning or kicking up a fuss because they don’t want or like it.

  • You know what’s coming and are mentally prepared for what you’re cooking and how much time you’re going to need.

  • You know all the ingredients you need to buy at the start of the week, so you can buy everything at one time.

Selection of Indian food

Tip Time

1. Buy a bunch of takeaway containers (or save them from takeaway)

Cook in bulk those meals that can be. There are a couple of fabulous meals that allow for this. Something like Chilli Con Carne. If I make one batch, it does the the 4 of us with about a third left over. If I make a double batch, it does us for 3 meals, so we use one and freeze the other two. I do one with rice the first week, nachos the second week, then on top of a baked potato or quesadillas the third week. I’ve always used this recipe (but often add extra can of black beans), its a winner: Click Here


Similar meals you can cook in bulk include curries, bolognaise, fish or shepherds pies etc. Trust me, making bulk will ensure those days when you don’t have time or don’t feel like cooking will still mean you can get good quality food into your kids.


2. Spend a bit of time browsing cookbooks or recipes online with your kids to choose some meals together for inspiration. It might also be worth checking with your kids’ mother (if on speaking terms) to see what meals the kids love at her place.

3. Have a look at some of the food delivery services like ‘Hello Fresh’. They can save you time, for both shopping and planning, and some inspiration and exposure to new meals.


4. Get groceries delivered if you don’t have time or can’t stand to do a big shop each week, then you only have to pop out for a couple of bits through the week like milk and bread.


Dad cooking

Michelin. What’s That?

Look, it doesn’t have to be restaurant quality every time you plate up a meal at home, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for takeaway here and there. Even a simple oven meal of chicken kievs, jacket potato and baked beans is ok.


Just try to make sure there’s balance so it’s not all processed or takeaway. Having some bags of frozen mixed veg to tip into a curry or stir fry if you don’t have fresh is another great way for healthier meals. If like me you find yourself with a bunch of slimy veg in the crisper drawer of your fridge just when you’ve already started cooking, it’ll be a saviour.

Invest some time, experiment with new recipes, get inspiration and don’t stress. You got this!


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As with any of my articles and posts, feel free to contact me with feedback or other ideas about things you'd like to see on my site. justdadit42@gmail.com

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