Cooking and eating alone doesn't have to be something awful that must be endured.The key is to learn how to shop and cook for a small group of people-yourself and someone else (or maybe just you). Make dining alone a simple and more enjoyable experience in a snap!
A good start for cooking for one person is to learn how to think solo and plan meals accordingly. How much food you need to buy depends on how much food you eat. Take a look at how much food is left in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards at the end of a week. Or consider how much food you toss out in the trash. Buying less food and purchasing food on a weekly basis can save you money, and valuable time when it comes to both shopping and cooking.
The Next Step
Once you have decided what meals you wish to prepare for yourself it’s time to make a trip to the grocery store. Look for foods that can be portioned with ease into smaller serving sizes such as pasta, rice, potatoes or frozen vegetables. With these kinds of foods, the single person can use just enough for one meal and not have to cook an entire package of food. It’s also cost effective because there is no waste.
Some Tips to Keep in Mind
Buy fruits and vegetables by the piece, not by the package.
Ask the manager of the produce department to halve heads of lettuce, cabbage and other produce to meet your own individual needs. That way you use the vegetables up quicker and nothing goes bad.
Buy smaller cuts of meat and individual portions of fish. Many stores are finally beginning to realize that there are single people out there so they are adjusting their portions to suit single needs. When it comes to roasts or chickens consider asking your butcher to cut the meat into pieces so you can prepare only the amount you want and freeze the rest for a future meal.
So the food is bought, you take it home. Now what? There are many different things you can do when you are cooking for only yourself (or perhaps yourself and a guest). Read on for some ideas.
Most recipes are geared to serve several people. When you’re cooking for only one, the last thing you want is the dreaded leftovers. Leftovers take much longer to finish up when you’re the lone occupant at the dinner table. However it is hard to completely avoid them when you’re preparing meals. Turn the tables on leftovers and make them spin-overs instead. Spin-overs is a term I created (the idea came from the word spin-off in the television world). Here’s how to make spin-overs work for you:
Invite guests over when making a large meal.
Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Prepare enough for the meal at hand and have 3-4 meals ready to freeze to eat at a later date.
Save leftovers in order to create new meals. For example try adding different vegetables to the original recipe; cheese, herbs or whatever strikes your fancy. Food doesn’t have to be boring. Learn to mix and match. Experimentation and trial and error is how a lot of new recipes are born.
If all else fails, have a clean-up meal in order to not waste the leftovers. Sometimes lasagna or chili prepared the day before can still be tasty! Try pairing it with a toss salad, a tea biscuit, or some bread sticks.
If spin-overs don’t hold any appeal for you then consider another option- cutting recipes. This will only work if the ingredients are easy to divide in half. Bear that in mind when deciding on what recipes to make for yourself. It can be tricky to divide seasonings but it is certainly worth a try. Who knows, you may surprise yourself and discover a whole new recipe that you like even better.
Sometimes the way to go is to buy smaller servings of meat, fish and frozen vegetables. Another plus of this is that you’re not spending money on larger food items that you don’t need or want. Why cart home something that isn’t of use to you? If you choose this course of action start with your meat of choice and build your meal from there. The vegetables come next and then other side dishes you wish to include. What you will end up having is a delicious, not to mention quick and easy meal for one!
There are many resources available for individuals who are new to cooking with single-serving meals. Try your local library or bookstore for information. Cookbooks that are suited for one or two people are becoming more and more popular. The American Institute for Cancer Research offers a pamphlet choked full of useful information entitled “Cooking Solo- Homemade for Health.” Contact them at 1-800-843-8114 or visit their website at www.aicr.org for ordering information. A word to the wise- sometimes even the simplest recipes require expensive ingredients. Keep your budget and your specific tastes in mind when making final decisions about meal preparation.
Other Ideas for Your Dining Pleasure
So now that your meal is prepared you’re ready to sit down and eat, right? Not just yet. There’s one more thing you have to do- decorate and adorn the table you’re about to eat on! Looks and setting both matters when it comes to food. Don’t discount their importance in the scheme of the dining experience.
Consider your table carefully and then make it as favorable to eating as possible. Vary the color of the foods you are eating. It’s both pleasing to look at and very healthy. Use your most colorful and fancy plates, bowls and napkins. While you’re at it don’t forget an attractive tablecloth and placemats that aim to please. Try some out of the ordinary salt and peppershakers. Own more than one set. Drinking glasses are my favorite; they come in so many different sizes, styles and patterns. The same goes for coffee mugs. I have many unique varieties and alternate which ones I use. Don’t allow yourself to get bored (or be boring). Jazz up everything you can. Try candles or flowers as an addition to your table. At holiday time use a decorative centerpiece. Your dining experience can be improved tremendously just by using your imagination.
Cookbooks for Singles
The 15-Minute Single Gourmet: 100 Deliciously Simple Recipes for One by Paulette Mitchell (1996)
Going Solo in the Kitchen by Jane Doerfer (1998)
Healthy Cooking for One by Mari Hills (2004)
Healthy Cooking for Two (or Just You): Low Fat Recipes with Half the Fuss and Double the Taste by Francis Price (1997)
Microwave Cooking for One by Marie T. Smith (1985)
Serves One: Super Meals for Solo Cooks by Toni Lydecker (1998)
Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself by Joyce Esersky Goldstein (2003)