Party Of One: Tips On Cooking For Yourself

A man holding a yellow bell pepper in his kitchenWondering how to cook…for one?

There’s no need to fall in that lonely rut of Lean Cuisines or canned soup. Takeout, fast food, or prepackaged dinners may be the easy option when you’re dining alone, but eating this way on a regular basis can lead to many health problems.

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Even if you’re not a great cook or live in a dorm room, bachelor apartment, or other accommodation without a full kitchen, you can learn to cook tasty, healthy, and inexpensive meals.

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We know that it takes a little extra creativity and motivation sometimes to create a tasty dinner just for yourself. These tips for the solo cook will help you create the perfect dinner for one.

Meal Planning For One

Creating a meal plan for the week will make it easier for you to prepare healthy meals. It will also help ensure that you have all the right ingredients on hand when you’re ready to cook. As you make a meal plan, think about ways that you can:

  • Cook once and eat twice (or more) by cooking larger meals and freezing single portions to eat another time.
  • Get creative with leftovers, by using them for additional meals.
  • Use the ingredients you already have in your cupboard.

Shop Smart When You’re Cooking For One

Shop with a friend; split perishables into individual amounts, divide large cuts of meats and freeze into single-size portions, and buy fresh and frozen produce. It’s easier to use in smaller portions than canned fruits and veggies. Also, stock up on staples like dried pasta, beans, and rice.

Stock your pantry. Keep canned vegetables, beans and fruits on hand for quick and healthy additions to meals. Rinse canned vegetables and beans under cold running water to lower their salt content. Consider whole grains, such as quinoa, barley, and pastas. Dried foods are easily portioned for one.

Take advantage of your freezer. Buy in bulk and freeze in smaller quantities that you can thaw and cook for one or two meals. You may be surprised to learn that you can also freeze foods, including breads, meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. Freezing keeps food fresh longer and helps prevent waste. For the best quality, freeze food while it’s fresh.

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Cook More, Not Less

Healthy cooking for one doesn’t have to mean paring down great recipes. If you like buying in bulk and the convenience of having meals on hand, cooking more makes sense. Make a crock of chili, a pan of lasagna, or a pot of soup. Eat one portion and freeze the rest.

Cut Prep and Cleanup Time

One-pan meals like lasagna or a casserole make cleanup easy. But you can slash prep time, too. Chopping veggies or meat for tonight’s dinner? Chop twice the amount and then use the rest tomorrow. Buy precut produce for hectic days. Or try cooking with a friend.

Reduce the Recipe

Not in the mood for leftovers? Cut the recipe in half. Read a recipe before you pare it down because some ingredients — like one egg — are hard to divide. When you reduce a recipe, you may have to change the size of the pan and alter the cooking time. Or skip the hassle by inviting friends for dinner and sending them home with leftovers.

Experiment and Have Fun

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Try something new to spice up your menu. Buy new cookbooks and clip recipes from magazines. Buy new-to-you produce, sauces, or condiments. Try breakfast for dinner, an ethnic cuisine, or grow your own fresh herbs or veggies.

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Relish Your Meal

When you are home alone for dinner, make it a treat. Set your table in a cozy nook, or out in the garden. Put on music you love. Bring out the good dishes and fresh flowers. Relax, savor your food — and admire your ability to cook a good, healthy meal for one.