Cooking for one can be both a blessing and a challenge. On the one hand, you have the freedom to make whatever you want, whenever you want, without worrying about disappointing someone else. On the other hand, it can be trickier to know the right amount of groceries to buy each week. You don’t want to buy too little and end up hungry, but you don’t want to buy too much and end up wasting food either. That’s where a little planning and a few smart kitchen hacks come into play.
Whether your significant other is out of town or you’re out there living the single life, we all have to cook for one from time to time. And if you’re like me, you may even be cooking for one more often than you cook for friends or family! That’s why I thought I’d share some tricks I’ve picked up along the way. Here are my 10 best tips to make cooking for one easy on yourself and your wallet.
10 Tips and Tricks for Cooking for One
Make friends with the freezer.
I truly don’t know what I would do without my freezer. Your freezer can be used to store pre-prepped bags of produce that can be incorporated into meals throughout the week. Freezing can also extend the shelf life of whole grain bread or muffins if you purchased or baked more than you can eat at one time. You can even make your own “TV dinners” by freezing extra soups, stews, and curries in individually portioned containers. Pull one out for an easy dinner when you don’t feel like cooking.
Don’t discount frozen and canned foods.
By always having staples with a longer shelf life on hand, you can make do for dinners even if you failed to purchase enough fresh groceries for the week. Plus, for the busy adult, frozen and canned produce may be a more realistic way to fit enough fruits and vegetables in the diet, since they are generally pre-prepped and ready for cooking and consuming.
Eat fresh food first.
Plan to use the most perishable produce in your fridge first so that it gets used up before it goes bad. Save pantry or freezer staples for your meals at the end of the week when you might be low on fresh ingredients.
Get creative with leftovers.
Who says that leftovers can’t be exciting?! Instead of eating your leftovers as is, use them to create another meal. You can add leftover roasted veggies to an omelet or toss them over lettuce with a protein to make a salad. Extra beans can be pureed with vegetable broth or veggies to make a healthy dip or sandwich spread. And don’t forget about leftover grains: toss leftover brown rice or quinoa into soup or salads.
Think outside the box with recipes.
Be open to switching things up! Instead of following recipes strictly how they are written, modify them so that you can use up extra produce or proteins that are already in your kitchen. Don’t be afraid to get creative; you may be able to avoid wasting the foods that you accidentally bought too much of.
Plan before you shop. Choose recipes with similar ingredients so that you can put fewer items on your list and avoid overbuying produce and other perishables. This will help to make shopping easier and less time-consuming since you already know what you are going in for when you get to the store.
Repurpose aging food.
Don’t let aging food go to waste. Consider using it for something different than what you originally intended to prevent it from spoiling and ending up in the trash. For example, day-old whole grain bread can be used in a strata or stuffing recipe, while vegetables that are past their prime can be added to crockpot stews and soups.
Keep most meals simple.
Don’t tire yourself out by cooking complicated meals all of the time. Create special, more time-consuming meals for yourself once or twice per week, and stick with tried and true meals that you’re comfortable with for the rest of the week.
Bring dinner for lunch.
When preparing for your dinner, spend 5 to 10 extra minutes to prep enough ingredients for multiple servings. After cooking, pack the extra serving in a Tupperware or Pyrex container, and bring it for lunch the next day.
Make your toaster oven a favorite.
The conventional oven is great for cooking but also for heating up your house or apartment. Avoid the extra heat and electricity by turning to the toaster oven for small batches of food. This works particularly well for things that you like a little crisp or crunch to, like kale chips or baked sweet potato fries, which typically don’t reheat to the same texture as leftovers the next day.