Cooking for one is a unique challenge. There are some perks, like not having to worry about satisfying a bunch of people’s different preferences, but there are some unique challenges, too.
Like…making a big, delicious meal and getting stuck eating that same thing for every dinner for a week. Or accidentally letting food go bad because you just can’t eat it all fast enough. Or lacking motivation to cook at all because it’s only for yourself. Now in my third year of cooking for just myself on a daily basis, I thought I’d share some of the tips & tricks I’ve learned in case they can help out other people in the same boat!
1. Utilize the freezer- a LOT
I often make a full recipe that serves 4 or 6 people and freeze the leftovers in individually wrapped single-servings. Pasta dishes (lasagna, baked ziti, etc.), soups and stews, rice dishes, and chili all reheat well after being frozen. Even chicken & veggie stir fry freezes really well, and then I’ll freeze an individual serving of rice in a separate bag. If you think about all of the of meals you can buy frozen at the store, there’s a good chance that your homemade version of that meal will freeze well, too. Grilled chicken also freezes pretty well, which I’ll add to salads.
I use pint-size mason jars to freeze individual servings of soups, stews, and chilis.
To freeze other homemade meals, I wrap a (completely cooled) serving in parchment paper, and then place the parchment paper-wrapped square in a fold-top sandwich bag. Then, I put the small bags in a gallon-size freezer bag.
In my mini fridge freezer, I currently have sweet potato chickpea stew, chicken & veggie stir fry, lasagna, and black beans & rice.
If I buy bread or tortillas, I take out one or two pieces and then freeze the rest right away.
2. Embrace vegetarian meals
Although I’m not a vegetarian, I’ve found that cooking vegetarian meals for one is great for a few reasons.
First and most obviously, vegetarian meals are relatively inexpensive and that’s usually not a bad thing. Second, vegetarian leftovers taste great longer than dishes with meat in them and when cooking for one, there are definitely a lot of leftovers.
3. Make a list of breakfast, lunch and dinner options for the week
While I don’t “meal plan” exactly what I’ll have for every meal, I come up with several options for every meal. Then, I shop for all of those ingredients and make whatever I feel like eating each day, based on my original list.
Here’s a sample weekly meal list for me:
Breakfasts: peanut butter oatmeal, yogurt, berries, smoothies
Lunches: Greek salads, turkey sandwiches, turkey & cheese roll-ups
Dinners: homemade frozen meals, one-pan chicken sausage & roasted veggies, dinner out with friends
Snacks: Larabars, Greek yogurt, energy bites, apples, pears
4. Cook for friends
Most people love having other people cook for them and that’s especially true as a college student. If I’m dying to make a batch of cookies, I’ll make some with the intention of eating one or two and giving the other dozen away to a friend.
I’ll also invite friends over for dinner in my dorm room sometimes when I make a “real meal” (i.e. things other than scrambled eggs, salads, oatmeal, etc.) and it’s always a fun time, plus I get taste-testers for recipes I’ve created!
5. Invest in good-quality Tupperware and/or mason jars
Having a few good containers makes leftovers look much more appetizing and helps them stay fresh for longer than just throwing a piece of aluminum foil on top of a bowl. Glass containers are really nice to have so you can heat and eat leftovers directly in the storage container, rather than having to transfer them out of a plastic container onto a plate.
6. Get creative with leftovers and use them to make new meals
-Add leftover roasted veggies to a salad.
-Mash part of a leftover sweet potato and make a sweet potato & black bean quesadilla.
-Toss the leftover veggies in your fridge (tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, onions, etc.) on a baking sheet with some cooking oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and roast for approximately 20-30 minutes at 425 degrees or add them to a stir-fry.
-Cook extra grains (rice, quinoa, etc.) when for dinner and use them as a base for lunch bowls.
-Chop leftover chicken and make chicken salad.
Those are all of my favorite tips for cooking for one! I should add that I don’t always cook for myself every day. Sometimes, I have a smoothie for dinner and other times, a frozen Amy’s burrito saves the day.
I go out to eat with friends maybe once a week, and eat homemade meals with people a lot more often that that. In general, making most of my own foods saves lots of money and tastes a whole lot better than eating only store-bought frozen meals or eating out all of the time. Hope these tips will help ya out if you’re in the same situation!
So tell me…
Do you have any tips for cooking for one or two?
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