The Single Parent as Cook (recipe: Crustless Quiche)

Written by Cheryl of Backseat Gourmet

Whether your single status is essentially permanent or only for the weekend, it is hard to be parenting solo. I’ve been on my own, more or less for the last two months. I know that I’m not alone in my situation. Plenty of us have partners that travel for work or work out of town entirely, are single by choice or circumstances, or are what my sister-in-law refers to as a Mingle (a married single parent).

Aside from the need for a break every now and then, I find the most difficult part of being alone with my girls is the food. From grocery shopping with a 2 and 4 year old to finding the motivation to cook a nice meal. All of it can be enough to make me want to throw some grilled cheese and ketchup on the table and call it a day. But I ran out of bread.

As parents we pick our battles. While I always insist on manners and certain dinnertime rules, I find myself reaching for that bag of bread more than normal when I’m on my own. Some days I can’t face the battle over whether we are having stew again. I’m learning, however, that its okay to do that.

Tips for the Single Parent as Cook

Here are some tips, gathered from my own experience as well as from family and friends in a variety of single parenting situations, to help you manage feeding and cooking your kids solo.

Menu Planning

All moms agree this is one of the most important things. Knowing ahead of time what you want to cook and when helps with both grocery shopping and the daily effort to get dinner on the table. Check out our great tips on meal planning here and here.

Set the Table

We always sit down at the dinner table, even on rough days. We maintain all the normal dinnertime rituals, light candles, and bring out the napkins. The conversations are different, but parenting solo doesn’t mean you sacrifice the lessons and comfort of family dinner.

Batch Cooking

On the days when you get a chance to hunker down in the kitchen, always make more than you and your kids can eat. Double recipes, pick ones that serve 6-8, or just make a giant pot of chili. Freeze the extras to have meals on hand for days when cooking isn’t a desirable option.

Embrace the Slow Cooker

Put dinner in the slow cooker in the morning before you leave for work and return to dinner. That leaves time for homework, sports, music, and stories. Better yet, make more than you need and freeze the extras.

Play Favorites

Know your kids’ favorite foods and use them to your advantage. Serve them on days when everyone is struggling. It will perk up your kids and ensure a smoother dinnertime ritual for all.

Permission Not to Cook

It’s okay to not want to cook a perfect little dinner with a roast chicken, side of potatoes, veggies, and a salad every single night. Single or not, that is a challenge not always met. Remember that it is okay not to cook, but before you run to the restaurant, check-out these no-cook options.

Naptime Advantage

I know I am incredibly lucky to have kids that still nap and nap well. I’ve mastered the art of time management in that nap too. Work, laundry, dishes, and dinner are often all taken care of in the same nap. I may not get dinner done, but I try to get all the prep work and take stock to avoid realizing at 5:30 that I’m missing something halfway through cooking.

If your kids are school-aged and you are home, start thinking about dinner before they get home. Work outside the home? As exhausted as you probably are at the end of the day, take 5 minutes after kids’ bedtime to do the same thing.

Advance Prep

Do not underestimate the value of those cute little bowls of premeasured and prepped ingredients referred to as mise en place. It makes getting dinner together a lot easier, especially when you have a small window of time. Try chopping a whole bunch of onions or garlic one day and keep in the fridge for cooking, wash your vegetables and store them wrapped in paper towels, make sure you defrost your meat the night before, and read any new recipes a few times before you start. And remember, take advantage of naps.

Bring Them in With You

The best thing you can do to help your child embrace food is to bring them into the kitchen with you. Beyond that, it is also an activity you and your kids can do together instead of the kitchen being a bastion reserved only for the parents. We are all looking for more ways to spend time together as a family.

The Electric Company Play

Confession: I let my kids watch TV. With a PVR, however, I keep some of their favorite shows on tap to pull out when I need 20 minutes to put dinner on the table without a 2 year old climbing the counters. Not a TV house? Try setting aside a certain game or activity that your kids love and can happily engage in independently. Hint: It’s probably not homework.

Tap the Community

In our little preschool alone there is one permanent single mom and a few whose partners travel. We are having dinnertime playdates to share the dinner rush. The kids are excited and we moms are happy to have adult company, as well as an extra hand to make and share dinner.

More Than Take-Out

Then there are the days when even making a grilled cheese sandwich is too much to face. I take advantage of the local folks who can cook for me. Check out your farmers’ market for take-home freezer options like pies, pastas, whole meals, soups, and sauces. An arsenal of these in your freezer is much better than what you get in the freezer aisle of the grocery store.

Know Your Pantry

Have a few recipes up your sleeve with ingredients you know you will always have in your pantry or fridge. An almost effortless meal from your own pantry reduces the calls for pizza delivery.

All photos by Cheryl

Crustless Quiche

This crustless quiche one of our family's favourite pantry staples. The flavour add-ins vary depending on what's in the house. It whips together in less than 10 minutes, leaving you the baking time to tackle homework. It will be puffy when you take it out of the oven, but will settle into a rich, savoury baked custard.
4 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Servings: 8 as a main course
Calories: 182kcal
Author: Cheryl


  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and Pepper

Add-ins of choice (as per recipe notes)

  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup cheese


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Butter a deep dish pie plate. Toss the bread crumbs in the plate and roll around to cover the sides. Pat in any errant crumbs.
  • Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Whisk well. Add the milk. Season with salt and pepper. Gently stir in any flavourings you are adding. Carefully pour into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is puffy and golden. Let cool 5 minutes before you serve.


Add-ins combinations in steady rotation are broccoli and cheese (as per recipe), chicken and mushroom, or the one pictured above, slow roasted tomatoes with feta and oregano. Aim for 1-1/2 to 2 cups of add-ins.


Calories: 182kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 185mg | Sodium: 229mg | Potassium: 164mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 543IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 179mg | Iron: 1mg

What are your favourite meals from the pantry?

About Cheryl

Cheryl is a mom to two energetic and strong-willed little girls. It’s a good thing they already like her cooking. She blogs the family’s cooking and taste adventures at Backseat Gourmet.

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  1. Cheryl,
    I love your article, as it covers so many of the aspects of single parenting and the mealtime fun, or drudgery. I have 4 children and a spouse that travels A LOT (and a business!), and grocery shopping, meal planning/cooking are a high priority for me (more than lunch with the girlfriends!). I find that meals don’t have to be perfect, but if you make the effort and sit down with your kids, you’ve reaped the benefits that family meals can provide. It’s about the effort and presence…and the food too! Thanks for your article!

  2. As a former single parent and a current “mingle,” I can definitely relate. For me, dinner is such a social time, so when my husband is gone, I feel like I’m missing the adult part of that for me.

    One thing that has helped tremendously for us is that we already do all of our grocery shopping and meal planning as a family, so while going with four kids is not an easy task, they all know the routine and can even be given specific things to watch for or pick out themselves to keep them interested and engaged as we do it. Similarly, we do meal prep as a family even when we’re all there, so when one of us is missing, while it definitely is more difficult than if we’re all there, it isn’t as bad as it could be because it’s the kids normal routine.

    And yes, the “no cook” night is also essential to a single parent’s sanity. Everyone has those nights, and whether it’s a planned meal you eat out or order in or a simple meal that can be tossed together in five minutes and put on the table, they are essential to getting through those long weeks when your life is full of little people and not so many adult people.

    • Four kids at the grocery store! You are a star. I’ll admit, some days just taking the two is a lot of work. But you’re right, they get used to it. And the days that its rough are usually my fault, not theirs.

    • I like the broccoli and pasta recipe. Nice and easy, and sort of like a pasta primavera. By the way, I use the “eat your trees” trick all the time. I get my girls to pretend they’re dinosaurs and they’re chomping the forest…

  3. This is such great advice! I’m a single mom to two, and menu planning — even quickly assigning entrees to each night of the week — has made a huge difference in minimizing dinnertime stress.

    Our favorite go-to meal from the pantry is “Pasta and Trees,” which we originally found in a kids’ recipe book by Rachel Ray. While the pasta water comes to a boil, the kids break off “trees” from a head of broccoli and put them in another pot. You can cover the broccoli with water and boil for 5 minutes, or add just a little water and steam it. Cook the pasta (we use rotini) while the broccoli is cooking. Drain both and put them in a big bowl with olive oil and some butter – top generously with parmesan cheese. Ready in less than 30 minutes. We love to eat ours with chopsticks.

    Can’t wait to try your crustless quiche!

    • My girls would love that. As I am inherently lazy though, I would probably just throw the broccoli in the pasta water during the last two minutes of cooking for the pasta. Makes it a one pot meal.

  4. I’m a ‘mingle’ a lot for the evenings when I’m not teaching- thanks for the advice

  5. I’m not a parent but I do help raise other people’s children for a living. I’m a nanny. I know how hard it can be to try and get everyone to where they need to be and make dinner all in one night – by myself. Even thought I get paid for my job it doesn’t make it any less stressful when I’m running around wondering when I’m going to fit in dinner. I need to give this crustless quiche a try. It sounds delicious!

    • Being a nanny is hard work! And commendable. I adored ours when I was working because she made everyone’s life a little better. You work hard and yes, this tips definitely apply.

  6. One of my favorites is very similar to your crustless quiche. I use bread cubes, though, instead of the crumbs. I love to throw in swiss chard or spinach. Mmmm….

    • I like that idea too. I have loads of chard in the freezer and I like to combine it with sausage and feta. Or tossed with a can of white beans and roasted tomatoes for another easy meal.

  7. Great article… and so relevant for mom’s everywhere.
    I’ve never thought of making quiche as a last minute meal, but we often make omelettes (kinda similar in my books) when we’ve forgotten to thaw some meat or aren’t following our well-intentioned meal plans.
    Thanks for all the other tips to. I never think to batch cook when I’m not actually “batch cooking” (ie. just making a bigger recipe when I have a little extra time to make dinner some nights!)

  8. Thank you for a great article. My husband is in the Army and currently on his 3rd deployment. Needless to say, I’ve been “mingle” a lot, haha. (I love that term, by the way, and will be sharing with my friends for sure!) I have been slacking on my meal planning lately and I can tell at the end of the day when I feel “lost” in the kitchen.

    One of my favorite prep ahead things to do is to cook a boneless ham. We have ham, with potatoes and veggies the first night, then I slice the rest into ham steaks or cubes to put in the freezer.

    • 3rd deployment! Wow. Kudos to you and your husband. I’ve always admired the spouses left behind, that can’t be easy.

      Great idea with the ham. I do the same thing with roast beef and pork. A roast for Sunday dinner, then fajitas, stir fry, or stroganoff a day or two later. If there is any left after that then I make soup.

  9. I guess I am a “mingle”-never heard that term before! My husband is a merchant marine, home for a few months, out-to-sea for a few months. I have two preschoolers and am pregnant, so I completely relate to this article. I also hate cooking! I love the point about meal planning. Organization is critical when you are alone, any week that I am not organized for some reason in any area cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc, I can feel my stress level go up and my ability to parent go down. I also am a HUGE fan of no cook dinners. My children have opposite tastes-one loves meat, other veggies, one hates pasta, other casseroles, you get the idea. My favorite is to throw a “Hummus Party” (great names help a lot with the preschool set). I throw assorted cut veggies, whole-grain crackers, and a bowl of hummus on the table and don’t feel guilty about it at all. Yogurt with granola is their favorite dessert and rounds out the meal nicely. “Breakfast for Dinner Night” is also a favorite around here. Scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast are pretty simple to make and my kids love it.

  10. That quiche looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it!

  11. I absolutely love this crustless quiche idea! It sounds so easy! I know my youngest would eat it and maybe, just maybe, my oldest would try it if I don’t tell him it has eggs in it. 😉

  12. What a great post! While I’m not a single parent or a mingle, there are plenty of days when I don’t want or have the energy to cook. I always try and double my recipe just for the reason you suggest. Thanks for letting me know, I’m not alone and giving some great tips to help get dinner on the table.

  13. The quiche sounds perfect for dinner tonight. I’m a total a-type nerd though and have a question. How much of your flavor combo should you add? I was going to try this with bacon and cheddar cheese, but I’m not sure how much of each to add. Love any suggestions!

    • About 4 slices of bacon, crumbled and about 1/2-3/4 cup of shredded cheddar would probably work. You don’t want to overload it. And keep in mind that the toppings will come to the top of the quiche as you bake.

  14. So funny, I just finished prepping our “egg casserole” for tonight’s dinner while the littles are napping. It’s basically the same thing without the bread crumbs – dump fillings in the baking dish, pour eggs over, and it sits in the fridge until it’s time for the oven.

    I also love those “no cook dinners.” My ultra picky son requested smooties for dinner the other night, and it was probably the biggest dinner he’s eaten all week!

  15. Great Post – and great inspiration, just when I’ve been needing it most ! 8)

  16. Made this dinner last night and my preschool-aged girls and I loved it. Another idea for add-ins: whenever I have veggies from our co-op or garden that are about to go bad and I know won’t get eaten, I throw them all together in a steamer basket and then puree everything using an immersion blender. Then I put it in freezer bags in 1 cup increments. I can pull out a bag at a time and add to spaghetti sauce, quiche, etc and know that my kids are getting a little more nutritional value without really affecting the flavor.

  17. Single parent, 1 kid, looking for recipes and meal plans for the two of us, and I come across your site. Sounds great, till I see it serves 6-8. Does it freeze? Otherwise there’s a lot of waste for us single parents to 1-2 kids. And eggs are really expensive in the UK.

  18. 4 stars
    Great recipe but as the second from top result for the search term “single parent dinner ideas” it would be really nice if you didn’t assume that single parents are always “moms” – some of use are “dads” too. 🙂

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