A Guide to Cooking for One

Yesterday was just one of those days: come home, make scrambled eggs for dinner, take a shower, and head to bed. Admittedly, it’s been a few months since I’ve relied on nightly brinner, but it reminded me of how difficult it was to learn how to cook for one person. Or better yet, learn how to grocery shop for one or make nutritious meal plans for one or, my gosh, keep food fresh for one. 

In the beginning, a lot of my perceptions ended up being wrong. I thought that if I lived alone, I would need to buy and cooker smaller portions. Well as anyone who grocery shops knows, it is wildly difficult to find packaged food for one person. The food industry is tailored towards small families, which makes it even harder because, realistically, the average person is not going to eat that entire bag of spinach in a week.

My answer has been to embrace this set up and get creative. Buy the ingredients you want and spread them throughout multiple meals. Cook the spinach with your other vegetables for dinner, use it in a quiche, eat a salad and you’ll start to find that you’re not getting tired of eating it because you’re changing the focal point with each meal.

Another tip that has helped me is to shop with specific recipes in mind. I refuse to go to the grocery store if I haven’t jotted down the ingredients for two meals that I can make later that night. It saves me money, time, and I don’t typically worry about how the food will be used because I already have a sense of what I want to make.

When I was apartment hunting, I also didn’t fully grasp the importance of having a freezer. This one place I considered only had a fridge. I thought it would force me to eat fresh food, which seemed like a huge plus. But I am so thankful it didn’t work out because of the amount of food that would have been wasted. If you’re living alone or with one other person, make sure you have a working, spacious freezer. Then, as stated above, don’t cook in small batches. Cook for many people and store the remaining food. I tend to use my frozen left overs for the whole month after I make them.

I do want to note, however, that if you’re going to freeze your food, make sure you have good tupperware that will last. When I started living alone, I decided to invest in glass containers so I could pull meals straight from the freezer onto the counter, and later into the microwave or oven to be heated.

With these three general guidelines, buying fresh produce for myself isn’t a problem. I cook without worrying about wasting food and money and I enjoy what I have prepared for when come I home.

At this point, the hardest part of cooking for one is assuring that I’m getting the needed nutrients. I try to stick to the revised food pyramid from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. In 2011, they revamped the pyramid we were taught in school and created MyPlate, a much more user-friendly version. This isn’t new information by any means, it just better guided me while planning and finding recipes. From what I’ve seen with other people my age, a lot of us missed the food planning day of health class, so we’re scrambling to find this information now. If this is the case for you, please leave a comment and share how you’re planning your meals and finding a balance that serves you!

The last point I want to make is that if you live alone, eating with someone at least once a week should be a priority. Even if you have a full time job that works directly with people, socializing over meals is vital to your longterm health. And if this doesn’t seem like an option due to distance or lack of knowing people in your area,  FaceTime and Skype are alternatives. There’s always an option, you just have to decide it’s important enough to you.

For more information about recipes and living on a budget, check out my article “Blooming on a Budget” where I link to Leanne Brown’s book, Good and Cheap.



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