In this fast-paced world of busy schedules, we sometimes get into situations where we’re dining alone. This can be a challenge when it comes to cooking healthy meals. Most recipes are designed to serve 4-6 people. Extra stalks of broccoli or lettuce heads that don’t get used just go to waste. And let’s face it: sometimes it seems like too much trouble just cooking for one. But as the old saying goes, ‘Forewarned is forearmed.’ If you plan ahead and prepare, cooking for one can open up a whole new world beyond frozen pizza and instant noodle soup.
Keep your pantry and freezer well-stocked.
I can’t say enough about having convenient, healthy items on hand. Stock your freezer with loose-pack frozen veggies and fruits as well as shrimp and individual chicken breasts. If you’ve got whole grain noodles, quick-cooking brown rice, canned beans, broth, tomato sauce, tuna and salmon in the pantry, you can put together a tasty dish in no time. It helps to have plenty of condiments and seasonings, too. My favorite stand-by “for one” is a quick soup: I add some buckwheat noodles, a handful of loose-pack frozen spinach and some cooked to boiling low-sodium chicken broth. When it’s all heated through and cooked, I add a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of ginger and white pepper. Yum.
Turn leftovers into makeovers.
You might love macaroni and cheese, but if you make a big batch you might not want to eat it every night for a week. Of course, you can put individual portions in the freezer, which is great for nights when you don’t want to cook. You can also plan to make the foods you cook do double duty. If you’re grilling chicken, make extra and add that to tomorrow’s pasta. If you’re cooking fish, make enough to fold into some corn tortillas with salsa for fish tacos on the next night.
Have breakfast for dinner.
There’s no rule that says you have to eat dinner food for dinner, any more than you have to have breakfast food in the morning. Feel free to have a veggie omelet for dinner, or have some of last night’s chicken curry for breakfast.
Find some one-dish meals that you like.
You can have a balanced meal of an entrée and two sides without having to prepare three separate items for one plate. Soups, stews, casseroles are a great option that includes protein and veggies all in one dish.
Plan your meals ahead of time.
Make the best use of perishable items, like veggies. You can’t buy a half head of lettuce, but you can break the leaves, wash them and then wrap in a towel to store in the fridge, where they’ll stay fresh for 4 or 5 days. If you can’t find a single-serving bundle of asparagus, you can grill the whole bunch, then have half as one night’s side dish and toss the rest into the following night’s main dish salad.
Organize a dinner club or potluck.
If you know others who are in the same “cooking for one” jam, invite them over to cook together or organize a potluck event. If everyone brings a dish and swaps leftovers, you’ll get more variety and it’ll be a lot more fun than eating by yourself.
Adjust recipes when needed.
Even though most recipes are for 4-6 people, you can usually cut most in half with very few adjustments. There are also plenty of cookbooks around that are aimed at cooking for one. But some people figure that if they’re going to go through the motions of cooking something, they’d rather just make more and freeze the leftovers. That can be dangerous, though: If you’re craving a cookie, your recipe is probably going to leave you with enough dough to bake for a family reunion!