The Joy of Cooking for One
At first blush, it might seem tough to find the motivation to cook for one. Maybe it feels lonely to cook just for yourself. Maybe hauling out the pots and pans seems like a hassle. Or maybe the idea of eating leftover lasagna for two weeks doesn’t grab you. If you’re on your own and wondering whether cooking for one is worth the trouble, here’s a hint for you: Yes, you are undoubtedly worth it. Cooking for one can be fun, but you may feel reluctant when you’re challenged by recipes that serve too many or have odd ingredients you might not use. It might even seem too expensive to cook for one.
Not to worry. We’ll serve up some tips to address these concerns so cooking for one becomes a pleasure. You deserve to eat good food! Think of it as an opportunity to experiment, to serve what you love, to eat when you want and to enjoy your own company while you do.
Why Cook for One?
Perhaps the most important reason to cook for yourself is your health. Cooking at home helps ensure the food you eat is good for you. When you’re cooking the meal, you’re in control of the ingredients. You decide how much salt to add and what type of fat to use. While plenty of single-serving convenience foods and frozen dinners are available, they are heavily processed and laden with sodium, sugars, fat and other mystery ingredients you can’t pronounce. What seems like a healthy option in the freezer section might not be.
If you’re looking to improve your diet, a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says cooking at home is the best way. The study found that people who cook at home eat fewer calories and carbohydrates as well as less sugar and fat than those who cook less.
Another reason to cook at home is that it can cost less than dining out or buying prepackaged convenience foods. The cost of ingredients can be spread across several meals when you prepare them at home.
One last reason to cook at home is portion sizes you control. Restaurant food, on the other hand, is notorious for large portion sizes, which can result in overeating and obesity. When you cook at home, you decide on the portion sizes and keep them reasonable.
How Do I Manage Cooking for One?
- What about the costs of cooking for one?
- Consider ingredients you can use in multiple meals. Eggs are a perfect example because they can have a place at any meal of the day. Canned beans also are inexpensive and can be used in many different ways. A whole chicken is cost-effective when it’s roasted and used for dinner entrees as well as salads or sandwiches for lunch.
- Check out the bulk bins in your grocery store. If you need an unusual ingredient or just a bit of a certain item, the bulk bins can keep the costs down.
- Avoid recipes that call for ingredients you won’t use often. Another option, according to the Kitchn, is to edit out the costly ingredients that may spoil before you can use them. Fresh herbs are one example. Rather than buy several different herbs you might not use up, pick one and use more of it.
- Buy larger packages of meat at a lower cost, portion what you need for individual meals, and freeze it. You’ll have meat on hand that’s ready to use, and you’ll have saved some money in the process.
- How do I use up all these vegetables?
- Make soup. Combine some stock, your vegetables and some seasoning in a large pot, simmer, and you have soup. Throw in a can of diced tomatoes, some pasta, rice, lentils, extra herbs or even some of that leftover roast chicken. Check out The Kitchn’s “How to Make Soup from Almost Any Vegetable.”
- Try a stir-fry. Those individual portions of meat in your freezer? Cut one into bite-size pieces, chop some leftover vegetables, add a sauce you love, and give them a whirl in your skillet or wok. Cook Smarts offers a detailed video and guide to stir-frying.
- Freeze fresh vegetables and fruit! Yes, you can freeze them yourself. Follow Eating Well’s step-by-step instructions on how to freeze fresh produce.
- Use green vegetables in several different recipes before they spoil. The Kitchn recommends using extra spinach by cooking it in a foil packet with fish or eating it in a salad.
- My own tip: If I have extra vegetables and I don’t know what to do with them, I’ll Google for ideas. “What to do with half a zucchini” delivers more than three million search results. I learned how to use an acorn squash by Googling.
- What should I do with a recipe that serves six (or eight or more)?
- Do the math to divide the recipe, or try this easy guide, “How to Cut Down Recipes” by Taste of Home. You can cut your recipe in half or even to one-third with this guide.
- Keep a few portions in your refrigerator for the rest of the week and freeze the rest in small containers or freezer bags. This saves you from being overwhelmed by the giant pan of lasagna or huge pot of soup you just made, and you’re not forced to eat all of it in a few days. You’ll also have plenty on hand to reheat when you don’t feel like cooking.
- What about recipes for one?
- One easy idea, also from the Kitchn, is to roast a cornish hen or bone-in chicken breast in a pie plate with potato, carrot or other vegetables underneath.
- How about trying some of these meals for one:
- 25 Insanely Easy, Healthy Meals You Can Make in Minutes: I’m eyeing the Cinnamon Roll Greek Yogurt Pancakes. They even have a recipe for one-serving macaroni and cheese in a mug.
- Food Network offers 91 recipes for one. Sign me up for Giada De Laurentiis’s Petite Filet with Gorgonzola and Porcini Mushroom Sauce.
- Jamie Oliver offers several omelette recipes at the top of his Meals for One web page. His meal ideas are beautiful and inspired. If you keep a bag of frozen chicken breasts on hand, Oliver has you covered with interesting recipes. He even has a fish-in-a-packet recipe as suggested above by The Kitchn.
- Delish has 14 Simple Dinners for One from Martha Stewart that includes several chicken breast recipes and a number with shrimp and salmon. The cottage cheese parfait is calling my name. It looks like a great way to use fresh fruit and get some protein in the process!
Now you know why cooking at home is beneficial for your health and your pocketbook. You’ve also learned how to handle common concerns about cooking for one. What ideas can you share about cooking well for one person? Tell us in the comments!