The problem: You are too tired to cook for your kids when you are a solo parent. Keep reading because: you’ll learn 15 easy meals kids can cook, plus simple meals they will love, and kids can cook themselves!
Do you get frustrated cooking for your kids and having them reject your food? Especially when it is something you made before and thought they liked! Cooking is always a challenge during deployments. I am home alone with four kids for seven months, so it is hard enough to get a fresh meal on the table. It is doubly frustrating to be so outnumbered by the kids. When my husband is home, I cook something fresh and different five nights a week, because he loves new flavors and recipes. When he is deployed, all the kids ever want is pizza or mac and cheese. Of course I can’t (and don’t) just feed them junk! But it is disheartening to spend time preparing a healthy meal, if most of it is left over or wasted.
There seems to be two different attitudes toward cooking during military deployments.
- I am going to cook healthy every day and plan all my meals and lose so much weight!
- I am too tired to cook. We order takeout or eat frozen pizza more often than I want to admit. Ok, it’s almost every day.
Well, I tried #1 for the first 2 months of deployment. I was pretty successful, lost a few pounds, and got into some healthy exercise routines. But the diet I was following was too strict to work long-term. I was overwhelmed with the meal prep, and the challenge of cooking low-carb meals for myself, plus affordable meals for 4 kids. Option #2? We haven’t gotten there… yet. But I could see things starting to move in that direction, the more the kids rejected my healthy meals and the more exhausted I became as deployment plodded along. Refusing to go down that road, I wracked my brain for an Option #3. And I found it! Today I present to you my newest brilliant discovery: the kids won’t turn down food they made for themselves! There are healthy meals kids can cook!
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After eight years of me being the only one preparing every meal, I am finally asking them to prepare things for themselves. Since my oldest is eight, she has learned some easy meals kids can cook. She really enjoys helping in the kitchen, and asks to make things on her own. I recently gave her a kids cook book. She and the brothers enjoy looking at the pictures, choosing a recipe, and then making it themselves! And I enjoy the happier mood in the home. Of course I am always in the kitchen helping them, especially if anything needs to be cooked on the stove or cut up. But it is really refreshing letting the kids choose some meals and cook them…and then actually sit down happily to eat them. So, I will share some of their favorites.
Need a hand in the kitchen? Here are easy meals kids can cook!
- Toast with butter, cinnamon, and sugar
- Bacon cooked in the microwave
- Eggs fried or sunny side up (yes, the 8 year old can flip them!)
- Oatmeal cooked in the microwave
- yogurt parfait in a tall glass layered with cereal, yogurt, and fresh berries
- lunchmeat or peanut butter sandwiches cut into shapes
- grilled cheese sandwiches cooked on the griddle
- cheese quesadillas
- canned soup, like chicken noodle
- Portable picnic: I give the kids a muffin pan, and they fill it with pieces of meat and cheese, baby carrots, fruit, and crackers. Then they take it outside to eat!
- Homemade granola bars: melt 3 Tbls. butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey, and 1 Tbls. vanilla. Remove from heat, then stir in 3 cups quick-cooking oats, plus any dried fruit, nuts, seeds, or chocolate chips. Press into a pan, refrigerate, then cut up into bars.
- smoothies with frozen berries, bananas, yogurt, and milk
- fruit salad made from whatever fruit we have
- trail mix made from cereal or granola, yogurt raisins, nuts, and chocolate or mini marshmallows
- chips and guacamole (mash avocado with some salsa, salt, and lime)
- bean and cheese quesadillas
- tacos or burritos with a toppings bar. My oldest can cook ground beef on the stove.
- pasta tossed with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese
- gazpacho: soup made by throwing 6 tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 1/2 green pepper, 2 garlic cloves, 2 pieces of toast, 4 Tbls. olive oil, 4 Tbls. sherry vinegar, 2/3 cup tomato juice, and 1 1/4 cup of water into the blender. Then, refrigerate and serve cold!
- biscuits (the kids can cook up drop biscuits as a side to soup or salad)
- Make your own pizza. Yes, store bought dough and sauce are ok! Get some fresh toppings and let them decorate.
So do you think you will give it a try? Any time of year is great for kids to be in the kitchen, but the summer is an especially fun time to get them involved in meal planning and preparation. I think I will let them pick one meal or snack each day to be involved with. Then they will be more alert and involved at the grocery store, more helpful in the kitchen, and more gracious at the table. What do you think? What age is a good age to start cooking? What food do your kids prepare?
If you liked these recipe ideas, you may also enjoy my easy breakfasts to prepare ahead of time. These are high-protein adult breakfast meals that you can make ahead to help your mornings go more smoothly!
Want to get more of my brilliant deployment ideas?