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If you find yourself living on your own but still want to enjoy simple home-cooked meals, I have a few tips and tricks that have helped make cooking for one easier for me!
I’ve spent a good part of my adult life being single. I didn’t get married until I was 37. And then I became single again in 2016 after my marriage ended. And I will admit that when I was younger and single I relied a lot on frozen dinners, takeout, and convenience foods. But when I was married, my then-husband had quite a few health issues. As a result of that, I began cooking from scratch and making healthier meals. Those meals helped him and when we divorced his health had improved quite a bit!
I find that home-cooked meals taste better too! Plus you can control what you are putting into your meals, which is perfect for those who have dietary restrictions. Once I found myself single again, I missed many of the meals I had made for him and me. I really found myself missing meals like casseroles and soups, which aren’t exactly the best meals for one person. So I chose to modify many of my recipes and make cooking for one easier! And there were some other tips and tricks I learned along the way that have made things MUCH easier…and keep me cooking from scratch regularly!
Cooking for one tips and tricks
Make enough for two meals
I will be sharing plenty of recipes that serve two. Why? Because I LOVE to make enough to have leftovers the next day. Now, I’m funny in that I don’t want to eat a meal for more than two days. My taste buds get a little bored with that. But I will make a recipe with two servings and either eat it for a quick lunch or have it as a repeat dinner. I love doing this because it typically cuts down on the amount of nights I have to cook, and that frees up some of my time.
Get creative with leftovers
Eating an entire chicken is too much for me. But I love to cook a chicken and reuse the leftovers to make meals for several nights. The first night I will eat the chicken with a side dish or salad. Then I will pick the remaining chicken off of the bones and put it in the fridge to use the next night. Quite often I will make a throw-and-go slow cooker soup using some of the leftovers. Or a simple casserole. If I want to use some for lunch I often whip together some homemade chicken salad.
This allows me to use all of the meat. If you want to use the whole chicken, you can use the bones to make a batch of bone broth. All of the gelatin in bone broth is great for your tummy…and your skin!
Keep meals simple
I’m really big on using simple ingredients and making quick and simple meals that taste great! What I’ve found is that I’m less likely to spend a long time prepping a meal if it’s just for me. So if a meal takes too long to prepare it becomes tempting to grab something faster to prepare. So I tend to stick to things with simple ingredients and fewer steps to prepare. I use a lot of slow cooker and Instant Pot recipes where you can throw the ingredients in, set it, and walk away.
You can also try simple meals like grain bowls, omelets, salads, or wraps.
Stock up on versatile ingredients
Keep ingredients like grains, pasta, broth, canned beans, canned tomatoes, vegetables, and meats that can be used in many different recipes. I always keep those things along with some cheese, milk, butter, and seasonal fruit around. This makes it easy to put together a simple meal anytime!
Use smaller kitchen appliances
There are three kitchen appliances that I love and use all the time. My slow cooker, my Instant Pot, and my air fryer. However, I found that using larger capacity units didn’t work very well when cooking for one or two people. So I invested in smaller versions and they work perfectly for me! I love my little two-quart slow cooker! I own one that is 6 quarts. And while it’s a wonderful slow cooker, I found that it often overcooked such a small amount of food. The two-quart cooks the meals perfectly for me!
I have a 6-quart Instant Pot, but found that was too big for just me. So I got a 3-quart Instant Pot during a Black Friday sale. It is the perfect size for my needs. It makes the easiest hard-boiled eggs ever! My air fryer is a 2-quart Instant Pot Vortex. I find that it’s a great size for what I need too!
Try meal planning
I found it very helpful to plan meals for the week before I went out and bought groceries. Then I make a grocery list before I head to the store. This helps me to avoid buying a lot of ingredients that I don’t need. That’s especially important for perishable ingredients. I want to limit the amount of waste that occurs from not using the produce I’ve bought. This all is much better for my budget too.
Try sheet-pan or packet meals
Some of my favorite and most simple meals are sheet-pan or packet meals. These meals consist of cut-up vegetables and meat. Sheet pan recipes are a great way to use root vegetables. Packet meals are cut-up vegetables and meat wrapped in a packet of aluminum foil and cooked in the oven, slow cooker, or on the grill. And I love doing sheet pan recipes during the fall and winter months when root vegetables are in season.
Not every recipe cooks up and freezes well, but a lot of recipes do! There are some recipes I’ll make a large batch of and freeze some individual portions. Some soups, stews, casseroles, and chilis are great for this! But I have plenty of other recipes that freeze well too. I love this because all I have to do is pop out a frozen portion, and let it thaw, or pop it in a pan and let the ice melt that way. It’s certainly better than fast food, and far better for my health too!
Also, for many recipes, I only need to use 1/2 a can of an ingredient. If I use only 1/2 a can of black beans or cream of mushroom soup, I have been able to easily freeze the other 1/2 a can to use later. Just make sure it’s something that can be frozen. And make sure you label the container! I’ve made the mistake of not doing that only to have to throw something away because I couldn’t tell what it was.
Make sure to keep your kitchen, pantry, and refrigerator organized. Label and date your leftovers. Arrange your pantry, cupboards, and refrigerator so that you can see exactly what you’ve got. If my kitchen is stocked with a lot of food, I try and keep an inventory of what I have. That helps me to not buy multiple of the same items. This helps me not only save space in my pantry and cupboards, but it’s easier on my wallet too!
Cooking from scratch when it’s just you eating doesn’t have to be difficult. Remember, the key is to find a balance that works for you and makes the cooking process enjoyable and sustainable for your lifestyle. Happy cooking!