10 Helpful Tips for Cooking for One

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chickendumplings_thumbWhen you’re cooking for just one person, it can be tricky to make sure that you’re getting delicious nutritious food without a lot of waste. Here are some tips for cooking for one that I’ve discovered that make it more efficient.

  1. Plan ahead. I’m a believer in meal planning whether you’re cooking for one or two people or a whole house full but I think it’s even more important (and often more likely to be neglected) when you start cooking for one. This is especially true with foods that spoil quickly. I can’t tell you how many avocadoes I threw away before I realized that I needed to write them into my plan so I wouldn’t forget they were there until too late. It’s important to think about repurposing the leftovers as part of your plan. If I make a small pork tenderloin for dinner one night, I’ll put things like Cuban sandwiches and pulled pork over polenta in my plan to use up the leftovers.
  2. Cook enough for more than one meal if you can. Earlier this week I made roasted potatoes to go along with the meal I was having. I made more than I needed for that meal so that then another day I could make a small one serving sized batch of potato salad to go with another meal and then today, I used the last bit of potatoes in a frittata for brunch.
  3. Use your freezer. Use it but don’t let things go in there never to be heard from again. I keep a list attached to my freezer with a magnet and whenever I add something to the freezer, I jot it down on the list. Don’t forget to check this list when you make your meal plans and shopping lists and remember to cross things off the list when you use them.
  4. Try to find a store that sells items in smaller quantities. One of the stores near me has a lot of customers who are seniors so they put out a lot of meat packaged as single servings and they sell really small roasts. This is so handy! Stores with their own butcher counters will generally cut pieces for you as requested. Farmer’s markets or stores with great produce sections can be helpful too because you can generally buy just the amount you need, instead of a whole package that might spoil before you can eat them.
  5. Share items with a friend. Do you have any friends who are also cooking for one or two? There might be some things that you can purchase and divide when you can’t find them in appropriate sizes for just yourself. Buying in bulk sizes can save money but only if you can use the items while they’re still fresh. Sharing with a friend cam sometimes help you take advantage of this too.
  6. Come up with a list of spur of the moment meals. I always leave a little space in my meal plans for some more spontaneous meals. This allows me to decide that I’m simply not in the mood for something I had originally planned or that my day is just too hectic for it and I’m in need of something simpler. It also helps me during the times when I’m having health issues and am running low on groceries and can’t make it to the store right away. These meals should rely on pantry staples (pasta, rice, beans, soups are all good ones to consider) and freezer items that you keep stocked most of the time. It can also include items like eggs which generally have fairly long best before dates.
  7. Eat the most perishable food first. This is especially true with produce. Carrots and potatoes tend to last longer than berries and lettuce so use the berries and lettuce up first.
  8. Use some frozen foods. Frozen fruits and vegetables tend to be filled with nutrients because they’re frozen very soon after picking so they’re a good choice especially out of season and for those items that you find are spoiling faster than you can use them. For example, I love to have raspberries on hand for whenever I feel like throwing some into smoothies and such but the fresh ones spoil so quickly that they often go to waste in my house.
  9. Buy from stores that have bulk bins. Bulk Barn is a lifesaver for me. I can go there and purchase tiny little quantities of items that I need – just enough for my purposes. This is especially good for specialty products that I might need for only one recipe at the time.
  10. Purchase smaller sized cookware. This can come in handy for when you want to make casseroles. I found some single serving sized bakeware at Crate & Barrel. Now when I want something like scalloped potatoes, I can make a serving for myself instead of having to make a whole baking pan of it and then either eat it for several meals in a row (boring and not that good for me) or waste it because I don’t think it’s something that freezes well.
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4 thoughts on “10 Helpful Tips for Cooking for One

  1. Good tips. We think of buying lots when we buy from bulk bins, but they can just as easily be used to buy a small amount. Plus, it is great to make extra and freeze in small quantities to use for quick meals later.

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