Food, Glorious Food! Nutrition & Cooking for Kids Leaving Care

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Every cook has kitchen disasters and some have more than others. Whether you cook like a pro, or have trouble boiling water, know that cooking is a skill you can learn. Your cooking may not always be great, but good nutritious food is something you need and you can learn to turn out tasty, healthy meals.

Healthy foods
Candy and chips and soda taste great. A gigantic burger with super-sized fries and a soda is typically advertised at a lot of fast food restaurants, but a constant diet of fast food leads to being over weight, risking diabetes, and clogging your heart and arteries.

A good diet is based on:

  • vegetables and fruit
  • pasta, rice, bread and cereal, as much of it whole grain as possible
  • protein sources such as eggs, beans, meat and nuts, and last,
  • some fats and oils, and sweets occasionally, but not in large amounts.

Drink lots of fluids including water. Skip the sweetened soft drinks except as a treat. Plan treats for yourself, but not everyday, all day.

Think of eating healthy food as similar to an insurance policy. You have always wanted a safe secure life for yourself. Eating healthy doesn’t guarantee that you will never get sick, but eating good food can make your chances of being healthy and having less pain and living longer a much better bet. Choose My Plate is a government site that has great resources for nutrition, including menu planners, interactive tools, videos, and more. Check it out at

Food Resources
If you don’t have money for food, know where organizations such as the Salvation Army offer free meals. You need regular good nourishment to keep your mind and body healthy.

Find out where the food pantries are in your area and how often you can use them. Pantries provide free groceries items for those who cannot afford them. 

If you are pregnant or have a child, use the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program.

Now That You Have All Those Groceries, Let’s Get Cooking.
You need some basic equipment, including:

  • A larger pot and a frying pan 
  • A spatula and a big cooking spoon 
  • A sharp serrated (saw-toothed) blade knife 
  • One or two bigger mixing bowls 
  • Can opener 
  • A toaster and a microwave 
  • Sponge or dishcloths and drying towels
  • Cups, plates, bowls, silverware
  • Dish soap

Try to find these items at a second-hand store like Goodwill, or go to garage sales. Don’t forget to ask—foster parents, family, friends, and social workers. Many people are happy to help people get started. Start with the kitchen basics and add from there. Have fun. 

What Can You Eat That You Don’t Have to Cook or Heat?

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Instead of jelly, add thin slices of banana, apples, or raisins.
  • Cereal and milk. Try non-sweetened kinds and add fruit.
  • Sandwiches. You can put most anything in a sandwich and it can be great—lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, green pepper, cheese, olives, meat. Try whole grain bread for
    good nutrients.
  • Salads. It can be some work when you are tired from a long day, but wash some lettuce and veggies and pile it on your place. Buy some dressing and eat it with some bread. Make fruit salads, too.

What Can you Cook That is Simple and Fast?
There are lots of ideas online, some of which have video demonstrations. You can also check out cookbooks at the library.

Cook easier recipes until you learn how to use your kitchen a little better. You will make mistakes. Everyone does. Your mom’s fried chicken just might not be something you can make like she does when you first try. Let’s hope you can laugh at your kitchen disasters and that they are not too expensive. Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • The old basic, which is cheap and fast, ramen noodles. Add veggies and/or meat.
  • Eggs are cheap, full of protein and easy. 
  • Rice and pasta cook quickly, which give you a filling basis for veggies, meat, and sauces.
  • Oatmeal and other hot cereals are good for you. Buy the big containers—even though it takes more time to cook, it tastes better and is much cheaper than the small packets.
  • Wash a potato, poke it with a knife or fork and bake it at 350 for 45 minutes or in your microwave for about three minutes.
  • Soups are filling and good to eat. 

Wash dishes and wipe the table and counters after you eat. You will like your kitchen and your place better if it is clean. The more it collects, the harder it is to clean and to continue to cook.

Patience and Practice
Some of you are already pretty good cooks. Maybe it comes to you naturally or you learned from your relatives or foster parents. Lots of you won’t be that confident in the kitchen. But either way, it is cheaper, more comforting, and fun to eat at home. 

Be patient with yourself. You will learn. Maybe you can share meals and meal preparation with friends. Ask your relatives, foster family, and other adults in your life for suggestions and recipes. Soon you will be cookin’!

Twelve Shopping Tips

  1. Plan your transportation. If you are taking the bus or walking, consider how much you can carry—you might have to make more frequent trips to the store.
  2. Plan menus for the days until the next time you know you will shop.
  3. Make a list of what you need.
  4. Use coupons from the newspapers.
  5. Pay attention to the cost of food items and get price savvy. Compare prices on everything. Store brands will be right next to name brands but will generally be much cheaper and the same quality.
  6. Shop around the outsides walls of supermarkets—this is where you find the veggies, fruit, dairy products, and bakery.
  7. Buy processed foods sparingly. That’s the food that is already cooked for you and you have to heat up. It is easy but it’s not as healthy.
  8. Canned vegetables are as nutritious as frozen or fresh.
  9. Bring your own bags to the store if you can. Many stores give discounts for bring your own bag. 
  10. Get the supermarket special shopper cards which can save a lot.
  11. Buy lunch food, beverages, and snacks that you can bring to work. It’s usually much cheaper than eating out.
  12. Go to sites like “Super Couponing” for advice on how to get the best deals. 


Breaking Away: Teens Write About Leaving Foster Care: Stories of Independent Living, Youth Communication
Do You Have What It Takes: A Comprehensive Guide to Success After Foster Care, Youth Communications
I Can Do It!, A Micropedia of Living on Your Own, by Marian B. Latzko

Recipes and Other Online Resources

Copyright © 2018 Coalition for Children | Youth | Families, formerly Adoption Resources of WI