Cooking for one can sometimes feel like a useless task, but I promise you it’s not. Taking the time to cook for ourselves nourishes our body and can be a form of self-care. You deserve to eat good food, whether you’re eating with someone else or on your own. But, let’s be honest, there are definite obstacles to cooking for one, like how do we avoid food going bad? And what are we supposed to do with all these leftovers from a recipe that was meant to serve six? I’ve got you. Here are my nine best tips for cooking for one.
1. Buy frozen
Did you know that frozen vegetables and fruit are just as nutritious as fresh? In fact, they may have even more nutrients than fresh. This is because frozen vegetables and fruit are picked at the peak of their ripeness and frozen, meaning they have and retain more nutrients. The benefits of frozen products don’t just have to do with their nutrients; frozen produce is oftentimes pre-cut, making the cooking process even smoother. Frozen produce also means that you can buy more at a time without the worry of it going bad before you have a chance to use it up, which is important when cooking for one.
2. Plan meals ahead of time
Planning meals ahead of time helps to make sure that you’re not buying more than you need, and food isn’t going to waste. I’m not saying you need to plan every single meal that you’ll be eating that week, but even just having a general idea of the ingredients you’ll need can save time, money, and keep from wasting food when cooking for one. I have an entire blog post dedicated to my Favourite Way to Meal Prep to Save Time.
3. Cook meals in bulk
It seems like recipes are always made to serve 4-6 people. So why not cook that amount and keep the leftovers to eat throughout the week? My philosophy is that if I’m making the effort to cook a meal, I might as well make more than enough to cover my bases for other meals as well. When I was cooking for one during my university days I would constantly have leftovers in the fridge, meaning I pretty much always had lunch or dinner prepared. This was also handy because it meant I only had to cook a few times a week! But, if you’re not someone who likes eating the same thing multiple days in a row…
4. Freeze leftovers
I feel like I’m late to the freezing game. I grew up in a family of five people, meaning it wasn’t often that we had leftovers, let alone enough to freeze. Even now, my partner and I both have pretty big appetites, so if we happen to have leftovers, they’re usually eaten the next day. Recently, I made a huge batch of soup that I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat all of before it went bad, so I portioned it into containers to freeze!
Some things freeze better than others. I’ve had a lot of luck freezing soup, stews, curries, and chilis. You can also freeze grains like rice or quinoa, and legumes like beans or lentils. My biggest tip is to avoid adding any greens to premade food before freezing, as they can get a little weird texturally while freezing. Instead, add the greens when you’re heating up the food.
5. Rely on canned goods
This is a great tip whether you’re cooking for one or not. I pretty much always have cans of chickpeas, black beans and tomatoes on hand for when I need a quick and easy meal. Having the pantry stocked with dried or canned goods that you know won’t go bad can be one less step of having to go to the grocery store to pull a meal together. There are tons of stews, soups, and curries that can be made with pantry staples- through some frozen broccoli or kale in it too and you’ve got yourself a meal! My personal favorite pantry staple recipes are my Chickpea Noodle Soup, Chickpea Mash, Curry Soup, and any sort of Chana Masala.
6. Have 3-5 Staple Meals
Having 3-5 meals that you know how to cook and can consistently have the ingredients on hand can make cooking for one much easier because it takes the guesswork out of cooking. For recipe ideas, check out my Instagram.
7. Repurpose Leftovers
Just because you make a meal doesn’t mean you have to eat it that same way the next day! If you’re someone who hates eating the same thing for multiple days in a row, try eating it differently the next day. For example, you could cook chili one night and have it in tacos the next night. You could make a Vegan Caesar Salad and make it into a wrap the next day with grilled tofu as the ‘chicken’. The possibilities are endless!
8. Value Cooking for One
I hear so often from clients (book a free 15-minute discovery call!) that cooking for one just doesn’t seem worth it. I’m all for taking short cuts in cooking after a busy day (I definitely do it too!), but we also need to value ourselves. We don’t need to be cooking for someone else to make it worth it. Cooking and eating is a time to show ourselves self-love, nourish our bodies, and take time for ourselves. Try to see the value of cooking for ourselves.
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