No Cooking - Empty nest, now what?

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In the Kitchen

Executive Chef
Aug 25, 2004
I am at a loss as to what to do! I used to prepare meals for a husband and my son. Used to start meals in morning by thawing the meat and then in afternoon would start meals from scratch. Used to write in this column all the time.

Now husband and I are divorced and my son has moved out. I don't really know what to do with myself. I have thought of volunteering but illness I have is kind of hard to control. (imagine how you would feel without someone to cook meals for?) I am over 65 and there aren't any jobs for hardly anyone now. Much less a senior citizen.

Do I dare suggest cooking meals for my son? Are there any cookbooks for only two people? I am on Social Security so my choices are limited. I did enjoy cooking and 'discuss cooking' with all of you. Seems I am at a loss as to what to do!

Other than visiting my brother in Hospice and going with my other brother on weekends, life just isn't what it should be. I don't talk on telephone as my husband made sure I didn't waste time as he said it was. After 25 years of marriage guess he trained me. I imagine some kind of hobby would be best.

Oh, I have two dogs and am thinking about getting another one because these two seem to be opposites and need some other kind of interest. Like people they get bored with each other. Maybe third dog would be change.

I thank you for the time and suggestions.
You've been through a lot! I am sorry you have had to deal with so much.

After my divorce some years ago, I cooked for one most of the next nine years. I often cooked larger quantities of things like tomato sauce, chili, soups, stews, etc. and froze the food in one portion containers. Then I'd just grab a container out of the freezer and warm it up for dinner.

A while ago, you used to do a lot of walking. Are you still walking?
boy! that is a big change. yes , i think a hobby would be great. i sew clothes for my great granddaughters. it is fun and they love it. also sew things for my house, curtains, cushion covers , etc. you could have fun changing the look of your home. i, too am on s.s. i look for sales on fabric and patterns. often my Joann's sewing store has both. patterns on sale for 99 cents. some fabric for a princess bride dress on sale for 50% off. that is the only way i can afford it.

your hobby should be something you really enjoy and can afford. i also read a lot. i am in the books by mail from my local library. they send to my house and even pay the postage.

do you have a friend you could talk to on the phone? you need human contact.

as for meals. i plan for a month. have groceries ordered on line and delivered to my house for a small fee. i buy some things in family size and then separate and freeze in packages for 1 or 2 meals. that way you can have burgers, chicken, ribs etc and what ever else you like. variety is the key. buy small cans veg or one or two serving fresh. if you get a desire to have beans or spag. anything that is hard to cook in single servings. go ahead and make them and then freeze in portions for you. it is nice to thaw one serving out for your self. will give you a cook free dinner once in awhile. i buy mostly frozen veggies. as these can be cooked in single servings. it would be good to catch a sale on plastic containers for this. i freeze in ref. freezer . would like a small freezer but have not been able to afford.

i also freeze half a loaf of bread, when i buy a new one. this way you can have fresh bread all the time. it also cuts on waste. same for burger and hot dog buns. if i make cornbread, i freeze in single servings. a nice bonus for another time. i buy large zip top bags and put the packets wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the labeled bags.

if you have more questions, feel free to pm me. i would be glad to help.

also often i will freeze servings of a dessert, cake and so on .

yeah, it's a challenge. we're "empty nesters" - cooking for two. add to that my personal disdain for leftovers and "freezing things." I prefer to fix a meal, wind up with zero comma zilch leftover anything - and then move on....

fresh is good, leftovers don't figure well into my habits.

for two empty nesters, a four loaf bread recipe needs some down sizing.

shopping for two - a roast, ground beef, chicken, whatever, is a challenge. bacon and pork tenderloin are the two things I find no issues with "freezing."

if cooking for two is problematic, cooking for one is more than double the issue.

if "gifts" from Mama's Kitchen are not well received, oops. might not be worth the effort. our son is local and bach'ing it - he's always happy to have something from the kitchen.

regardless, one needs to work on scaling back the dishes to the eating audience, you - in this case.
Oh--so sorry!

When several of my friends found themselves suddenly single, they would get together at one or the other's house once a week. If you can't travel to them, maybe they could come to you? Anyway, these friends would have a cooking day. They'd make meals for a week (I think it was more like 4 days with leftovers because there were 4 of them). They'd portion the meals out to serve one. Everyone brought their own containers, etc., groceries. That way, they still got to cook, but didn't have to eat the same thing all week. And, kitchen clean up was easier--it was one kitchen and lots of helping hands. Not to mention the fellowship. They were all in their 50-60s and their husbands had either left or they were widows.

There are many cookbooks for cooking for two (or one). There are also sites on the Internet:

Healthy Eating

Cooking for one made easy

One of my friends also volunteered at a women's shelter/half-way house and taught cooking skills to women who didn't know how to cook from scratch or grocery shop. Another thing would be to see if there is a need to teach seniors who suddenly find themselves needing to cook but don't know how to cook (my dad could use that kind of help).

If the local high school doesn't have a home ec teacher or wants s/one who can come in and teach the kids how to cook ethnic dishes, that would possibly something else you could explore.

You could also check to see if there are people who are visiting folks at the Hospice who would appreciate a home-cooked meal. When a friend had a premie baby, she really appreciated that people brought food--even though she and her hubby are vegetarians, having food after juggling another child at home, no family near-by, and the hubby running his own business, this was the greatest gift.

Good luck.
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Maybe you could put together a dinner club. Get together with a bunch of friends and take turns cooking dinner for each other. That way not only do you get to cook for others but you also get to enjoy each others company. If you don't want to cook an entire meal, you could have a pot luck with everyone taking turns making the main dish and the others bring the side dishes. You could really get adventurous and have "themes" for your dinners. Maybe travel around the world with you dinners. Okay, so maybe I'm getting a little too carried away...:LOL:
Wow, so sorry. That's rough.

Some good ideas posted.

I find it hard to cut back on recipes, even though I cook for two. The freezer is our friend.

Schools are always looking for folks to read with kids, and many communities need volunteer tutors for after school programs. School lunch prgrams also hire older workers for their cafeterias, some go into the summer. My great-aunt was a "lunch lady" and loved it. One of the lunch ladies at one of the schools I work at is in her 80s, and it doesn't look like she's gonna slow down anytime soon.

Delivering Meals on Wheels might be something to check into, along with volunteering in a hospital gift shop or local food kitchen.

Gardening, woodworking, crafts, exercise, volunteering, all good hobbies.

You may be dealing with some depression issues, might not hurt to check with your doctor.

Good luck!
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I agree with Dawglover!

Years ago my mom found herself alone so she started over by going back to kindergarten. She spent many years in kindergarten and helped a lot of children move forward. She never got the hang of it herself and stayed in kindergarten for many many years but she never gave up.

She also started taking piano lessons. Many of the other students were age 5 to age 12. They worked together and had many recitals. They got a kick out of helping a grown up learn a new task. This gave them a feeling of great power to have a skill that they could share. She got to be quite good at the piano!
If you can volunteer a bit of time, there are also agencies that assist those who need to learn to adequately tend for themselves such as adults with special needs who need to learn to cook in a microwave in order to live more independently, etc. Also victims of medical conditions.

Other than schools, churches, and retirement centers, there are places such as the American Red Cross, libraries, etc. who need people to volunteer. Reading to someone who is blind or writing for someone who cannot write. Also, teaching people how to do computer basics like email or talk on DC! Depending on how much of a hold you have on your heart, there are agencies such as shelters, etc. that always need someone to care.

How about taking a cooking class in something that you have always wanted to learn? Or forget cooking for a semester and reach your inner Diva with belly dancing! I'm serious. I think all women have an inner diva in them somewhere...regardless of age. :) Many public schools host "night school" which is associated through the local community colleges to teach "fun" classes for very little cost.

Speaking of public schools, most have both fall and spring plays and some are quite good. All schools with a music program have concerts, etc. If you want an inexpensive outing, I suggest you calling your local high school for events or activities through the year that are of interest to the community. Oh...and schools always need people to volunteer.

*reads back* Gee, I wonder why no one EVER comes to me and asks ME if I need a volunteer. :rolleyes: I always wanted to try to help train a service animal.......

Find something you would have fun doing, feel it is rewarding, and interact with new people to help broaden your friend circle. Just do not forget us when you find it!!!! :ermm:
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Those are more good ideas. Also, Domestic Violence Shelter (can help with training women in domestic/cooking/cleaning/budgeting skills), CASA (court appointed volunteers enlisted to help kids in crisis, some training needed, a friend of mine did this in her 70s), Special Olympics, animal shelter, food pantry.

I guess the key is to get out and do something. Prayers for you!
You have all my sympathy, nothing is worse than being alone. I struggled to find my feet after my first marriage ended too. I've been married to my second husband for just over 1 year now and find myself stuck in a similar possition. We've moved to Botswana and I have no friends or family near by. The kids are always playing at friends or at school, hubby works most of the time so it gets pretty lonely.
Maybe you can start a hobby that involves cooking? Maybe make preserves or bake cakes for birthdays etc. Maybe it will help income wise too.
When I'm alone and I have no one to cook for I make enough for 4 and freeze leftovers in containers for night when I don't feel like cooking.
I'm happy to finally be alone and able to put myself first for a switch.

I'm almost 65 and retired on Social Security.

I do use my freezer, but it can get out of hand. Just making a simple dish adding a can of something, and mixing it with egg noodles is going to make 4 dinner size servings, so if you like to cook, use your freezer.

It's great to be able to pull out a yummy lasagna you made yourself without messing up the kitchen again.

I usually eat two of the dinners when it make my dish, and I immediately freeze the other two, and marking the bag or container.

If it's not all that good yet, I write "needs", and after I heat it up, I taste and usually can add another spice that makes a good soup great.
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That's tough, but there are still so many things you can do and enjoy!!

You can take up a hobby, start a dinner club like Mama suggested, volunteer here and there (the help is aways appreciated), start gardening and growing your own.

You can also make jams and pickles and chutneys for the coming Christmas' and friends (my personal favourite in a stocking!) get involved with local clubs and events, join a few commitees. Take up the cause of a charity and get rallying and online (great way to meet lots of people) You could even start dog training and taking them to shows or training dogs for the blind.

There's a world of things to do so don't get too down hearted! You'll find something :) Good luck
If you like cooking for a crowd, check out homeless shelters and churches that serve meals to the poor. In my community there are 2 churches that do this. One serves lunch so the "senior" ladies get together in the morning and cook up a nice warm meal. The other does supper. I've volunteered at both over the years. It's quite satisfying to work with good people and offer a needed service. While I am still married, I am an empty nester too. The year my youngest left for college, so did I! I entered a program at the local community college and learned a new skill and now work as a substitute sign language interpreter. It was something I always wanted to learn. It's not easy reinventing yourself after such dramatic life changes but it is possible to find some happiness. Perhaps start by speaking with your pastor or a counselor/therapist to help you rediscover yourself and those dreams you had that you gave up for your family.
'member me!

Wow! Andy, you still 'member' me? Surprise and good memory you have! I am not walking much due to the weather being either rainy or too hot. Have to watch my blood pressure. Walking does help with blood pressure and that is reason why I cannot walk whenever I want. Kind of get dizzy.

These suggestions were all very good. I did not expect response so soon. Will take some work but what doesn't if you want good results? I believe I am going to start with a church I have started to attend. The 'older' people seem to always be there at same time I am. That's good thing. I just have to figure I am not the only one going through this odd time.

Volunteering seems to be the main suggestion that you gave me. I just feel that my son going into some kind of depression from losing job and have to take him into consideration. This hurts more than what I have to go through when it hits your child. Rejection is not fun and I know that is how he feels. What happened anyway to the proud US we were once part of? If you are employed it is like doing something you hate but cannot change.

I do thank all of you for suggestions. babetoo, I remember you. Weren't you the one who had cat and also had good friend in hospital? You really are faithful to this site, aren't you? Lot of friends here. I am going through Hospice with my brother which isn't always good. He can be quite mean when he isn't feeling good. Everyone at the home experiences it. However, I cannot say enough good things about Hospice. Treat him like he is family. Your suggestion of reading books appeals to me too.

The doctor tells me, as you have, been through a lot and to take it easy. How can you do this when you have the circumstances I do. Always on edge about tomorrow. Would be nice if we had some kind of financial security other than just Social Security.
Jabber said it when she said "reinvent yourself". It's taken a couple of years of healing with more to go, but for me starting over in a whole new place was the answer. There was too much drama for me in Florida and it was making me crazy. I'm much more selective now when making new friends.

DC is a wonderful place to come when you're lonely or feeling bad. This place has also helped me rebuild my self esteem. Welcome back.
Hi, sorry to hear you're having a rough time of it. Life certainly does know how to dish it out sometimes. Have you thought about joining some social clubs?
My great auntie is 93 years old, she's been a widow for about 30 years now and her two children have families of their own so she now lives alone. She is an inspiration for everyone, she is such a positive woman.
She is a member of quite a few clubs and I can say she has a better social life than me.
Things will get better for you soon i'm sure. Best wishes
You've probably never considered it, but the Wii game console is wonderful for us older can bowl, play tennis, baseball and even box without ever leaving your home. I know several older ladies who used to bowl in leagues together but they can't handle the weight of the bowling balls. Now, they all gather each week to Wii bowl! And that is something you can do on your own, too. I have the Wii Fit and like to keep challenging myself to do better. After the one-time purchase, it won't cost anything - unless you want to get more games! haha. Just a suggestion.

Best of luck to you and let us know how you are getting along. This is a wonderful board even for those of us who don't cook much!
ITK how lovely to see you back! You've certainly gone through a lot in the last little while. I know what a dog lover you are, really all animals grab your heart don't they? What about volunteering at a vet's office to go give the animals that are boarded there a little walk or snuggle? I bet you could manage that. Usually you don't need to walk far, so your BP wouldn't be a problem. Or maybe you could volunteer to be a baby cuddler at the hospital. I bet you'd be wonderful at that.

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