Mom, What’s for Dinner? Cheap Meals for Single Moms
It’s tough being a single mom, but you’re not alone. The US has the highest rate of single parents in the world. Almost a quarter of American minors live with just one loving parent like you. This figure is about 7% higher than anywhere else in the world.
One of the biggest challenges of single motherhood is finding the funds to feed your little ones, but this obstacle can be overcome with some basic meal prep ideas and an understanding of basic nutrition for kids. Read on to learn some of the best cheap meals for single moms that you can prepare regardless of your budget.
You’ve likely heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but did you know that about 25% of Americans forgo it altogether? If you and your children feel forced to skip breakfast for financial reasons, this is far from your fault, but there are options available to you. Read on to learn some cheap breakfast ideas that you and your children are sure to enjoy.
Cereal and Milk
Cereal may seem expensive if you’re looking at brand-name boxes on the supermarket shelf. However, you can purchase off-brand cereal at shops like Aldi (a store with countless devoted fans) or even on Amazon for only a couple of dollars. Because these off-brand alternatives often come in large bags that the entire family can share for a week or more, this makes for a worthwhile investment. Just be mindful of the sugar content of these cereals and choose the lowest-sugar options for best nutrition.
You may be reluctant to prepare cereal because milk can be expensive. Powdered alternatives are out there for slightly lower prices. While it’s nowhere near as economical as it was in the past, the savings that you get from choosing powdered milk add up, and you can purchase more groceries for you and your family. You may also want to consider non-dairy milk alternatives like almond or soy milk when you find them on sale. They can be very nutritious and some kids even prefer them!
Eggs and Toast
Bread can be bought very affordably at inexpensive supermarkets such as Aldi. (Note that breads with whole grains are much more nutritious and filling than plain white breads.) A dozen eggs can usually be had for a dollar or two. If you make a breakfast with two pieces of toast and a single protein-filled egg, you will be able to get 10 full meals for under $3 and still have 2 eggs to spare for other meals.
To make the meal more flavorful, consider cutting a square in the center of the bread and cooking the egg inside it. This is called ‘eggs in a basket’ and is a lot of fun for children to eat. If this is too time-consuming, you can make a runny egg and place it on top of your toast like a sort of sauce.
If your kids don’t like runny eggs, then olive oil, butter, or butter substitutes can also add a bit of flavor to your toast. This can be eaten alongside scrambled eggs or fried ones. Fried eggs can also be put between two toast pieces to make a breakfast sandwich.
If you have eggs and bread, you can make french toast. This is a bit of a time-consuming process, so it should be saved for special occasions.
- Add a few eggs to a bowl and whisk them up (if you don’t have a whisk, you can also use a fork)
- Add 1/8 cup of milk for each slice of french toast you plan to make
- Add a pinch of cinnamon if you have it (if not, that’s totally okay)
- Dip both sides of your bread into this batter
- Fry and serve!
Meals From the Box
Because single moms often need to work many jobs to stay on their feet, you may prefer fast meal prep. Making meals from the box is an inexpensive way to make meals for your children quickly and efficiently. Since many of these options can be made in large quantities and stored for reheating, they will get you multiple meals.
Instant ramen is a classic staple for those who need cheap meals. A stovetop brick costs only about 80¢ while a microwaveable cup that contains freeze-dried vegetables is only slightly over a dollar. Cup noodles come in many delicious flavors (beef, chicken, pork, etc.) and can be prepared in less than 5 minutes, making them a timeless favorite. If you have them handy, saute a few fresh or frozen veggies in a pan on the stove and serve them with the noodles for a nutritious boost. You can even cook an egg over easy and serve it on top for delicious boost of flavor and nutrition.
Mac and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese from the box is very affordable if you have access to milk and butter to cook it with. A single box is enough to feed one person a full meal, but it can feed two in a pinch (especially small children). Purchase it in bulk for better deals. Make large pots of macaroni to reheat and serve later when you don’t have time for meal prep. Again, you can add veggies like peas or broccoli or even some canned chicken or tuna fish for protein.
Spaghetti (or Pasta) With Sauce
You can buy store-brand pasta at Aldi or Target for slightly over $1/box. While it’s a bit more expensive than mac and cheese, a single box of pasta can feed your entire family (sometimes multiple meals). You can also purchase store-brand marinara or alfredo sauce for only a couple of dollars, which covers an entire box of pasta (or more).
If you can afford it and want to add some protein to your sauce, consider chicken, fish, or cooked ground turkey. Lean meats are significantly cheaper and healthier than beef or pork and taste just as good.
If you do have access to beef, Hamburger Helper is your best friend. Each box costs about $1.50 without beef and makes five servings. They also come in 24 different flavor varieties so picky children can find something they’ll eat.
While beef is a luxury, you can make Hamburger Helper with cheaper chicken or turkey if you need to. It will still taste good and give you just as many meals.
Meals From Scratch
If you have time to cook, meals from scratch cost even less than those from boxed kits. There are many different ways that you can make delicious home-cooked meals for yourself and your kids. With love as an additional ingredient, you can’t go wrong with these classic comfort foods.
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Grilled cheese sandwiches are extremely easy to make. Butter two slices of bread, stick a Kraft single between them, and grill them until their golden brown. Serve this with tomato soup and watch as your kids enjoy dipping and mixing flavors!
Rice and Beans
There’s a good reason why the combination of rice and beans appears in the recipes of almost every culture in the world: together, they make a nutritious mix that can keep you going on the cheap. From Louisiana red beans and rice to Puerto Rican arroz con gandules and the delicious mix of lentils and rice found in the Middle East, cooks all over the world know that a bag of dried beans and a bag of rice mean you can eat like a king.
If you’re eligible for the Calfresh program, you may be able to add fresh veggies to your beans and rice. Check to see if this is a possibility for you, but if it isn’t, frozen and canned veggies have all the nutritional value that you need.
Potatoes are cheap and versatile and can be used in many different ways. Mash them up yourself and add some powdered gravy for a side dish to go with some grilled chicken or fish. Slice and fry in a pan to serve with any protein or bake and top with veggies, protein, and cheese.
Fried Rice With Veggies
You can get a giant bag of rice for $10-20 that will last you anywhere between six months and a year. Make some of this rice and fry it up with soy sauce and frozen vegetables. This is a filling meal that can be made in bulk quantities and reheated over and over again. (Just be sure to store leftover rice quickly and reheat to piping hot within 24 hours; otherwise it can make you sick.)
Snacks are also important when considering how to feed growing children. It’s important that these snacks actually have some nutritional value, making them often difficult to access. Here are some snack ideas that work for most single moms:
- Fresh fruits such as apples, oranges, pears, peaches, and pineapple
- Home-popped popcorn (unpopped popcorn is very cheap if you have oil and a big pot with a lid)
- Peanut butter and crackers
- Yogurt (look for larger containers for a better value and add your own fruit or other toppings)
- Oven-baked chicken tenders or nuggets (that can be bought in bulk from the supermarket)
- Baby carrots and hummus
Remember to vary the snacks and meals for a balanced diet.
Get Cheap Meals for Single Moms
While raising children on your own isn’t easy, it’s gratifying to watch them grow and thrive while eating delicious home-cooked meals. Now that you have some ideas on the best cheap meals for single moms, it’s time to get more tools to help you raise your beloved family.
If this article about cheap meals for single moms was helpful, you may qualify for free wireless service through the federal Lifeline program. You can check your eligibility now by clicking here. Talk and text are a great way to keep tabs on your children — and let them know when it’s time for dinner!