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Cooking For One

Tips, ideas and recipes for cooking when it’s just you. Learn how to shop, save money and eat healthy.

An omelet in a pan.

Although I am usually cooking for me and my husband, currently I am cooking-for-one in a hotel room. It’s really a suite with a complete tiny kitchen sans oven. I am working out of state in a rural hospital for Covid relief. I feel very fortunate to have a two burner hob, toaster, microwave, full-size fridge, sink, coffee pot and dishwasher.

This experience has taught me a few things. Cooking for one can be difficult. Food spoilage is a constant concern.

Food prep is my friend. Stocking up on a few staples allowed me to pre-cook some basic items like chicken, potatoes and rice in order to repurpose them throughout the week. This saved me time and helped me to not waste food too.

Sometime in the future you may be cooking for one person also. Maybe for yourself or an aging parent. Perhaps you are single and are cooking for one right now. If that’s the case, please leave a comment below and give the rest of us some tips and lessons learned.

How Do You Shop & Cook For One Person?

PLAN

  • Make a list of every thing you have. Take inventory of your pantry, fridge and freezer. Start planning your meals around what you already have. This is a good time to use up that forgotten can of tuna or black beans.
  • Search for recipes using those ingredients. You can search on the internet or in the index of cookbooks. Youtube is also a great source for recipe ideas.
  • Buy frozen produce that you use often but only need in small quantities at a time. Frozen onions, potatoes, carrots are good choices. Buying frozen produce that you use often ensures they won’t languish in the freezer.
  • Be frugal in the fresh produce aisle. This is the food that will go bad the fastest. I plan on shopping twice a week to get fresh produce. I buy small amounts to prevent spoilage. If my fresh produce looks too sad, I make soup out of them or make a smoothie. Sheet-pan dinners are a great way to use up leftover fresh veggies too. Sometimes I will blanch the veggies in boiling water in order to partially cook them and freeze them in individual servings.
  • Shop the bulk aisle. Not only will you save money but you can buy just the right amount for you.

WHAT IS THE EASIEST THING TO COOK

Life happens and sometimes I just want to do other things than be in the kitchen all evening. I often cook the items below when I’m busy or just too tired.

  • Rice – I usually cook rice in a rice cooker. I make extra so that I may re-heat later in the week or make an easy stir-fry rice dish. One of my easiest rice dishes is Cilantro Lime Rice. Simply make in a rice cooker and toss with fresh ingredients.
  • Bulgur – This wheat product is great instead of rice. It is the easiest grain to cook. It is made from whole grain wheat and is nutritious. You simply boil water or broth, stir in the bulgur, cover and take off heat. It’s ready in only 15 minutes!
  • Eggs – I eat eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s so easy and versatile. You can fry, boil or bake them.
  • Potatoes I boil peeled and chopped potatoes until they are almost fork tender. I keep these in the fridge to use later. It’s easy to do this and makes cooking later quick and easy too. Sometimes I just re-heat and toss with butter, salt and pepper. Or add to a skillet and crisp up with a little butter. Then pour eggs on top and finish with a sprinkling of cheese. I can also freeze a large batch in a single layer on a sheet pan. Once frozen, I pour into a freezer container and use as needed. I can pour out exactly what I need.
  • Quesadillas – Tortillas last a long time so we usually always have these on hand. I am always up for a plain quesadilla with cheddar for a quick snack or light meal. Sometimes I bulk it up a little with a sprinkling of black beans, eggs or leftover chicken for an easy dinner.
  • Grilled Cheese – At it’s simplest, cheddar and whole wheat. Add a tomato and onion to make it fancy. My favorite combo is sourdough and Swiss cheese.
  • Canned beans – Very versatile and healthy too. It’s easy to make a bean soup with some broth and aromatics such as onion and garlic. Drain, rinse and toss in a salad. Pour on top of a baked potato for a hearty meal.
  • Toast – Amp up your toast game by buying fancy bread such as sourdough or rye. Top with your favorite toppings. The Scandinavians made this type of toast an art form called Smorrebrod. A toaster oven is perfect for this type of cooking. Ideas include:
    • tuna, red onions, lemon juice, salt
    • tomato, mozarella, basil
    • over easy egg, scallions, salt & pepper
    • tomato, red onion, swiss
    • salmon, cream cheese, chives, egg

COOKING FOR ONE

Budget & healthy Tips

The first rule in cooking on a budget is to not waste food. If food is languishing in the fridge, make a plan for using it up fast, before it spoils. My go-to solutions include sheet-pan dinners, throw everything into an omelet situation, making soup or freezing it.

BULK AISLE – Shop for exactly the amount you need. The bulk aisle is usually cheaper and you will waste less food.

COOK CHEAP FOOD – Cooking grains, beans, legumes, potatoes, eggs and chicken are my favorite ways to save money. You can meal-plan with these ingredients too. Cook up big batches of these and repurpose through-out the week or freeze in individual servings. This will save you both time and money.

HEALTHY COOKING – Find recipes where 75-100% of the meal is plant-based. This will help you to easily get your essential nutrients and fiber. Plant-based meals are filling without making you feel too full. It’s usually easier to keep your weight in check too.

Cookbooks

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