Finding the motivation to cook meals for one can be a challenge. Most recipes yield 4-6 servings, so doing the math to reduce the servings down to 1-2 portions is an extra step that single cooks must make. Buying ingredients for smaller meals like fresh fruits and vegetables can seem wasteful, as they often come in large quantities, which may not be eaten in time to avoid spoilage. But for cancer survivors, eating fresh produce plus more healthy eating practices are recommended as the best way to reduce your risk of a cancer reoccurrence.
We want you to be successful in your healthy eating goals and enjoy the experience at the same time, so we’ve rounded up our favorite ways to help you single cooks do just that.
Create a Meal Plan
Having a rough idea of what you want to eat throughout the week will make it easier to save time and avoid food waste by choosing recipes that share some of the same ingredients. For example, you may decide to cook some ground chicken or turkey which can be used in tacos for dinner one evening, and in Spaghetti Bolognese the next. Our Quick Guide to Setting Up Your Pantry will give you a list of healthy kitchen basics to have on hand for easier cooking on the fly.
Bulk cooking frequently consumed foods and go-to basics will save you time. Grains like quinoa and rice can be cooked in bulk and will keep for three to four days in the fridge in a sealed container or frozen for months for use at a later date.
Only Buy What You Will Use
Fresh fruits and vegetables often come in large quantities. For items that you know you will not use for multiple meals, consider buying the loose variety. The bumper pack may seem like better value, but it won’t be if you end up throwing it out. Similarly for meat, head to the butcher’s counter and buy the exact amount you need for that particular recipe. Butchers will have no problem selling you smaller quantities.
Use Your Freezer
If you know you won’t use it by its expiration date, consider freezing it. Foods with a high moisture content (such as lettuce and cucumbers) will not freeze well, however most fruit and vegetables can be frozen to use at a later date. Freezing leftover soups or stews turn your freezer into your own private take out. If you are unsure about what you can and can’t freeze, our Freezing 101 article plus our Bag and Freeze video should help. For certain foods, such as leafy greens, it is important to blanch them prior to freezing – learn how here. And if you are frequently in and out, it may be easier to just buy frozen fruits and vegetables in the first place, and just use what you need.
Always remember that recipes are guidelines. If you have half a can of chickpeas but you need a full can, you can substitute that for other beans that you have on hand. If you have leftover soup, throw in some frozen veggies or chopped herbs or add a squeeze of lemon juice for the second night. This will refresh and jazz up the flavors. Getting creative will help avoid buying ingredients that you don’t use often.
Swap with Friends
Know of someone else also cooking for one? Why not arrange a swap, where you trade a meal with a friend? This will save you money and allow you to broaden your palette – you never know what you will end up discovering!