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Cooking For One Tips

How to Cook For One

Although there's nothing more rewarding then creating a delicious meal to share with friends and family, most of the time, I'm cooking for myself. The first step to cooking for one is to get over any fears of eating alone. Just because you are dining by yourself doesn't mean that you should eat cereal or ramen! Instead, treat yourself to a healthy and flavorful meal. Here's how I suggest you cook for one:

  • Stock your pantry with staples like pasta, beans, and rice. These items don't go bad and can be used to cook multiple meals.
  • Know what your personal portion size is. The first time you cook rice or pasta, make a note of how much you are cooking. For instance, I make 1/2 cup of rice and a quarter-size handful of spaghetti. Going forward, always cook that amount.
  • If you like to follow recipes, look for recipes that have a smaller serving size. Recipes that serve four are easy to halve.

Keep reading for the rest of my helpful tips!

  • Don't be afraid of leftovers. When halving a recipe that serves four, there's still a chance that some food will be leftover. Also, be creative with leftovers: toss protein with greens for a lunch salad or use cooked vegetables in a frittata.
  • Think outside the box. Craving roast chicken? A whole chicken is too much for one person, but a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast is ideal for just you. Roast it the way you normally roast a whole chicken, rubbed with herb butter and with lemons stuffed under the skin.
  • Purchase single-serving quantities. When you want to make burgers, head to the meat counter and pick up four to six ounces of ground beef. Rather than buying a bag of buns, pick up one from the deli. Same goes for seafood: get five shrimp, eight to 10 clams or mussels, or a six-ounce fillet of fish. It may cost a little more than purchasing the food in larger quantity, but that way you'll reduce food waste.
  • Keep one or two favorite frozen foods on hand. There are going to be nights when you're too tired to cook. For these occasions, make sure you have a good back-up in the freezer. I have a weakness for Stouffer's French Bread Pizza and keep one in my freezer for days when I don't want to cook or am simply out of food.
  • Consider ordering a community shared agriculture produce box. Fresh, in-season fruit and vegetables will always be at your finger tips.
  • Make each meal special. Set a TV tray out and catch up on your shows, bring a book or magazine to the table, or simply set the table with a place mat, candles, and flowers. You'll be more likely to enjoy the food!

Lastly, remember that while you may be eating alone, you're not the only one in the world who is dining alone. There's a chance I am, too!

Do you cook for yourself? Please share your suggestions below!

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
trinachka trinachka 6 years
I'm just venturing into cooking more myself, so I usually make things that are relatively simple and flavorful, like leeks in white wine (a Recipe for Health on The New York Times), arugula soup, stracciatella. I'm finding it to be a stress relief to come home from work and chop of the carrots and onions and celery for a mirepoix, actually—the motion is soothing and after sitting in front of a computer and editing all day, it's a pleasure to work on something immediately tangible and nourishing.
fuzzles fuzzles 6 years
Kitteh can't hold her smoke? ;) Two words--Food Saver. I can make full-sized recipes and store everything in individual servings that keep fresh in the freezer for a looooooooong time. It's much easier to avoid grabbing a sandwich on the fly when you know you have a package of something nummy (and better!) waiting back home. Plus, it puts me in a much better position to take advantage of grocery specials.
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 6 years
...why is there a cat blowing smoke in my post???
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 6 years
:sigh: this article made me nostalgic for when I used to live alone. I'd add this perk of cooking alone: you can make your dinner as spicy, garlicy, onion-y etc as you want it. Also great to freeze in ice cube trays: vegetable broth, coconut milk, even wine (for cooking only!).
ticamorena ticamorena 6 years
i love cooking for myself, especially being able to make meals without ingredients that i hate (potatoes, white rice, milk/cream/cheese) I love beans and pulses so I use these instead. When you're cooking for others they just refuse to be as enthusiastic about good ol' legumes!
redchick152 redchick152 6 years
i also cook for myself and i freeze everything! i usually make the full amount of soups/stews and just put half in a freezer bag for later. last week i was craving chicken enchiladas, so i made a full pan in lasagna style instead of wrapped up. after cooling, i cut it up into squares and wrapped them individually. perfect for dinner on a night i don't want to cook. i am not a huge fan of left overs for days (unless its amazing!), but i do enjoy making enough so i can bring them for lunch or dinner the next day. another tip: i always buy fresh fruit and veggies, but they almost always go bad before i can eat it all, so i end up freezing them too...usually for smoothies. ina garten freezes fresh herbs in ice cube trays. i thought that was a brilliant idea.
ellbeecee ellbeecee 6 years
I mostly cook for just me as well, but my freezer is a lifesaver. About once a month I cook beans from dried (I use the 90 minute no-soak method). Some I'll use right away, the rest I'll freeze in single serve portions. I roast a chicken every week or two and plan out meals based on it. Part of how I select things to cook is based on how well they freeze. Spending one weekend a month doing a lot of cooking leaves me with easy lunches and dinners the rest of the month most of the time. The only reason I go to the grocery between freezing sessions is for fresh vegetables.
Susannah-Chen Susannah-Chen 6 years
I'm dying to read Judith Jones's book, The Pleasures of Cooking for One.
Advah Advah 6 years
Good tips, thanks! I always have issues with proportions, so what I found after several mistakes: you're more likely to end up with more food than not enough. So do prepare more food than if you were cooking for just one meal, that'll way it'll be enough for another whole portion instead of 1portion + a little bit leftover. And if you do have leftovers, instead of snacking on them throughout the day (I can't help it), it's really easy to turn that into an omelette, salad or baked potato topping by adding some chopped vegetables for instance.
mannylove mannylove 6 years
I too am single & always cook for myself. I definitely have an appreciation for leftovers too. It's great, cook up a storm one night & have leftovers waiting for you the next night. I do have Amy's Organic frozen pizza in my freezer for those off nights though!
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