lessons in cooking for one.

Living alone is one of those things that definitely has its perks – it’s an amazing feeling to look around and know that everything is all yours (and yes, the messes too) – but it also takes some getting used to.
When I lived at home during college, I became the designated grocery shopper, meal planner and cook, and I really had the whole cooking for four people thing down.  Then I moved into my first apartment with a boyfriend and made the shift to cooking for two people, which really isn’t too bad.  It’s simple to cut a recipe in half and there are plenty of “meals for two” cookbooks out there, but cooking for one is a whole different story.
Cooking for just me really changed up the game.  I no longer had someone to come grocery shopping and push the cart while I hunted down items from my shopping list.  There was no longer any kind of crowd pleasing element and no one to show my cooking skills off to.  The thought of eating leftovers for half the week drove me crazy, but thinking about throwing away food that I’d purchased was even worse.  Takeout seemed like the best option – no hassle, the ability to decide what I wanted to eat last minute, no waste.  But once I realized how much I was spending on the same unhealthy meal options each week, I decided it was time to get over my issues with cooking just for myself.
And so I did.  Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

  • Plan Those Meals:  Sit down and plan out a full list of meal options for the week (breakfast, lunch and dinner) – post that list on your fridge so it’s easy to see your options and decide what to have to eat that day.
  • Shop One Week at a Time:  I used to love shopping for multiple weeks’ worth of groceries at once.  The thrill of having a massive cart full of food and knowing that I had it all planned out and had everything taken care of.  Yeah, that doesn’t work so well when you’re on your own.  Don’t overwhelm yourself – buy only a week’s worth of perishable items (like dairy and produce) at a time, and be realistic about what you’ll be able to eat.  Rather than buying the entire bag full of oranges, get two or three.
  • Get Creative:  I absolutely hate eating the same thing multiple days in a row – leftovers are pretty much my enemy.  This is where multitasking ingredients come in handy.  When buying fresh produce or herbs, plan meals that can incorporate the same ingredient in different ways throughout the week – that spinach in your shopping cart can be a salad, part of a quesadilla, a smoothie or a side with your steak.
  • Your Freezer is Your Friend:  Divide up meats into single portions and freeze those bad boys.  It’s okay to buy things in bulk, just make it easy for yourself and have everything portioned out and easy to grab.  Make big batches of things that will freeze and thaw well – I always have a stash of homemade soup and pasta sauce in the freezer for an easy, last minute meal.
  • Go Ahead and Get Fancy:  High quality meats and ingredients are really pretty budget friendly when you’re just shopping for one.  Mix it up and treat yourself to a single portion sized cut of that expensive steak or grab a lobster for dinner – it is likely to still be cheaper than ordering takeout.