By Emily Maus
University of Idaho - Student Intern
I find great satisfaction and joy in cooking. As a child, I would plan and make ‘fancy’ meals for my family. As I ventured into living on my own cooking became more of a hassle. I began eating the same meals over and over. I love cooking, but I do not always love cooking for just myself.
Cooking for one offers many challenges from food waste to lack of variety. With practice, cooking for myself has grown to be one of my favorite moments. Cooking for myself has exposed many perks over the years including eating what I want without having to consider others’ cravings, improved cooking skills without fear of failure, and getting extra creative with what I have on hand. Let’s not forget…dibs on all delicious leftovers.
Here are some tips I have learned to make cooking for one fun, easy, and affordable:
- Plan ahead. This feels obvious, but let’s just say it can be challenging! I notice when I take initiative to plan meals or recipes ahead of time. I reduce the risk of eating the same meal day after day. I also prevent food waste by planning and preparing leftovers I will actually want to eat… or freeze. Setting aside time to prepare fresh meals fuels my body with nutrients and saves me money because I am not tempted to grab take-out. I challenge myself to pick 1-2 specific recipes each week and keep staples on hand for easy throw-together meals.
- Utilize the freezer. The freezer has become my best friend! It allows me to have a wide variety of food on hand without fear of food waste. I load it with ingredients I can utilize quickly like fruit, vegetables, bread, and pre-cooked meats. Those leftovers I mentioned above…the freezer is a perfect spot to keep them until you want it again… hello variety! I also keep baked goods in the freezer to prevent impulse buys and fill my cravings when they hit.
- Pick and choose. When it comes to fresh produce, choose only 2-4 new fruits and vegetables each week. The amount you choose will be varied on how much you really can eat in a week. When I first was cooking for myself, I wanted everything fresh, but I noticed the abundance of produce I was choosing was going bad before I could get through it. Now I typically will choose 2 fresh fruits and 2 fresh vegetables each week. The other fruits and vegetables I use are stored in the freezer!
- Make leftovers into a new creation. Cooking alone means there is more room for experimenting, there is no one to judge you on what you make or the flavors you choose. Some of my favorite meals I make are clean-out the fridge creations. Reinventing leftovers will minimize repetition and keep cooking and eating fun! For example, if you make chicken fajitas one night, reinvent leftovers into scrambled eggs, pasta, or a warmed sandwich. Turn curry into a burrito or throw leftover pasta on top of a green salad. Get innovative and have fun!
- Utilize single-serve recipes. Sometimes my freezer is just plain full or I know I want a specific food only one time. This is the moment I utilize single-serve recipes or scale back on recipes I would previously make for a larger crowd. Yes… this can take some math, but you can do it (or google can help)! Choosing ingredients for these recipes can exhibit its own challenges such as being left with a full box of that special ingredient with only 1 tablespoon missing. This is when the bulk bins or deli counters at your local grocery stores will benefit greatly. Pull out your calculator and a ramekin and get cooking!
Cooking and eating should bring joy and satisfaction. I hope these tips make preparing food for one exciting, easy, and affordable!
Emily is a member of the University of Idaho Coordinated Dietetic Program Class of 2021.