Eating and cooking for one is hard work. (I mean, this whole adulting thing is hard – I had broccoli and a protein bar for dinner last night because I just couldn’t bring myself to cook when I got home after dance class).
Food at comes in package sizes designed for people cooking for families – a can of beans is way too much for a one-lady bean salad. Packages of chicken sausage come with 6 sausages. I don’t know about you, but I am never in the mood to eat 6 of the same sausage in a week. Recipes are designed often times to create 4 or more servings. And again, I hate eating the same meal over and over until I run out. Maybe it’s the curse of loving to cook.
1. Reinvent your leftovers
This is one of my favorite things to do. Roast a chicken on Sunday, turn the meat into tacos on Tuesday and curry on Wednesday. Save the carcas and make some bone broth. Make a little extra rice for your curry and make fried rice on Thursday and maybe even a little rice pudding.
2. Go to the meat counter
Buy one steak or 1-2 sausages. It’s ok to get just 1/4 of ground meat to make yourself a perfect burger rather than burgers for a crowd. They will even do things like break down a chicken for you or split a pork chop so the cooking time is less.
3. Frozen produce is your friend
It costs less than fresh and lasts much longer. It makes popping together a dinner easy (no prep! always better when you are cooking for one.) Now, I still buy fresh when I can buy 1 pepper or 1 mango, but that 2 pound bag of fresh cherries is probably not a good (economical) purchase, but the bag of frozen ones still make a perfect cherry pie. This is also how I buy the fruit for most of my breakfast smoothies (although, I do make smoothies nearly every day with the help of The Blender Girl’s Smoothie book & app).
You can even use frozen produce to help you reinvent your leftovers into buddah bowls. Toss the leftover grains and proteins in a container, add some frozen veggies and some sauce. By lunch, the vegetables will have thawed and released enough moisture to rehydrate the grains and leave your sauce saucy when you give it a minute or two in the microwave.
4. Pick recipes that use the same ingredients in different ways (and don’t be afraid to halve a recipe)
This is one way that you can make sure that you don’t end up with half a can of chickpeas hanging out in your fridge. This is a reason I love cookbooks so much – they have ways to use ingredients that I might not have thought of before. (It also keeps my phone/iPad out of the kitchen and a safe distance from a hot stove). I’m also not afraid to halve a recipe. Why make 4 serverings when you can make 2? It just requires a little math. Or, you need cannelini beans for a salad but have half a can of chickpeas? Use those instead. Recipes are just guidelines. Feel free to be adventurous!
5. Make and freeze batches of food in single-serve portions
Not going to lie, there is very often a backlog of pancakes in my freezer. I love popping them in the toaster on days I want more than just a smoothie for breakfast or when breakfast for dinner cravings hit.
This strategy can be used for things like meatloaf or quiche- you can bake it in muffin tins rather than loaf pans for easy portioning and freezing (or you can make a full-size version, slice and wrap each slice individually). You’ll have some fast, grab & go meals ready at hand. If you’re less confident with swapping ingredients or shrinking a recipe, this is a great way to make use of your cookbook library or even just use a full can of beans and not wonder how to halve an egg.