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.

8 Ways To Stretch Your Healthy Dinner Dollar

Dollar bills with a fork sitting on topLooking for cheap dinner ideas that won’t break the bank? Food prices continue to climb, but there are still a lot of ways to shave off pennies, dimes and dollars from your food costs.

Grocery shopping can be a real challenge, especially if you are on a limited budget. But because food is a controllable expense, it can be a target for reduced spending when money is tight. By planning ahead and managing your money wisely, you can still serve meals that are appetizing, easily prepared, and nutritious.

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To help lessen the pressure on your wallet, here are 7 suggestions for lunch or dinner entrees you can make on the cheap.

1. Egg Entrees

If your supermarket is having a sale, you can sometimes get a dozen eggs for as little as $1! That’s an awesome deal, considering that eggs are a great protein source. Each egg white contains 6 grams of protein. If you blend six whole eggs with six egg whites, you can make a lower-fat egg-based dish serving four people. Each serving will contain 18 grams of quality protein — comparable to the amount in a serving of T-bone steak.

Frittata is one flexible and quick cheap meal option. A dozen eggs will make about four servings (if you use four large eggs and eight egg whites), and you can keep the cost down by using whatever cheese, veggies, and herbs you have handy in your refrigerator.

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2. Canned Tuna Entrees

Buying tuna on sale and making sure you get the water-packed kind is the key for a healthy entree. You can sometimes find 6-ounce cans of solid white tuna canned in water for 88 cents on sale. With each can, you can make a tuna casserole for four, or you can make two servings of quick tuna patties.

3. Lean Steaks

Top round, London broil, top sirloin or petite sirloin steaks can often be found for about $2.47 to $3.47 a pound. A pound of steak makes about four sensible 3-ounce servings (cooked), or three 4-ounce servings. You can improve the taste and texture of lean steaks by marinating them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. If you don’t want to make marinade from scratch, using half of a bottle of light balsamic vinaigrette or bottled steak marinade adds about $1.44 to the total cost (a bottle of dressing or marinade can cost around $2.89). For $5, you’ll get about 1.5 pounds of a lean steak (at $2.47 per pound) plus the marinade (either homemade or half a bottle).

4.Spaghetti

If you can get a couple of key ingredients on sale, you can make six servings of this popular American entree for cheap. Start with a 12-ounce box of multigrain pasta for about $1.25 on sale. You can either make meat sauce (1 pound of lean ground beef at $2.49, a 29-ounce can of tomato sauce at 99 cents, plus seasonings from your pantry) or a mushroom sauce (10-ounce package of sliced mushrooms at $1.99, a 29-ounce can of tomato sauce at 99 cents, and seasonings from your pantry). The total cost will be about $4.73 for about 6 servings!

6. Pasta Salad

This cold pasta salad is perfect because it uses higher-fiber, higher-nutrient multigrain pasta along with whatever veggies, herbs, and dressing you have in your refrigerator. Start with a 12-ounce box of multigrain pasta, bought on sale for $1.25. If you have some olives, roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, or pickled peppers, add them to taste. If you have a 3-ounce block of mozzarella cheese in the cheese drawer, grate some and add that, too. If you have a couple of ripe tomatoes, dice them up, and add along with some fresh basil from your garden. Dress it all up with half a bottle of a good bottled vinaigrette (such as raspberry walnut or red wine vinaigrette). A bottle of dressing costs around $3, even for some of the fancy ones.

7. Baked Potato Meals

At about 24 cents apiece (from a 5-pound bag costing $2.39), a baked potato can be a great start for an entree. Try topping them with shredded cheese, fat-free sour cream, and chopped green onions or chives. If five potatoes cost about $1.20, a cup of shredded cheese about $1, 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream about 55 cents, and green onions about 50 cents, your grand total will be about $3.25 for five! At that price, you can afford to sprinkle some shredded chicken, turkey, pork, or beef, along with some beans or other vegetables, over the top.

8. Chicken Breast Dinners

Often, buying chicken with the bone and skin on and then skinning it yourself is the best deal. At $1.79 a pound, four bone-in chicken breasts will cost you around $3.58 (that’s 2 pounds). You can make a grilling or slow cooker sauce using ingredients on hand, or use half a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce. A bottle of barbecue sauce costs around $3, so half a bottle will bring this entree to a cool $5. Just coat the chicken breasts with your sauce and cook on the grill or in the slow cooker until done.

 

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