Cooking for one can be a challenge, especially when you’re on a diet. It can be frustrating to buy produce on the weekend only to have it go bad by mid-week. The most economic deals are wrapped up in giant bags of chicken breasts that would take one person months to eat. Fast food drive-thrus can be tempting when it takes a lot of effort to cook for one after a long day at work. Here are some ideas for overcoming diet obstacles when cooking for one.
When cooking for one, planning is essential. Try planning your menus for two to four weeks at a time. Think of ways you can use the same ingredient in different dishes. For example, a pot of pinto beans can be divided and used in burritos, in turkey chili, on a salad or mashed into a dip for raw veggies. Shred a head of cabbage and use part for fish tacos one night. Toss the leftover shredded cabbage into a stir fry later that week. Planning ahead also allows you to divide and freeze dishes for lunches and dinners later in the month.
Buying in bulk can be great for the budget, and smart bulk shopping makes for a well-stocked freezer. Buy meats in bulk. Divide the meats and freeze them individually before or after cooking them. Season the meats with basic flavors, such as garlic, salt, pepper and onions so that they will work in many recipes, from Mexican to Italian.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great purchase. You can use what you need and return the rest to the freezer for a future date. Consider freezing your own produce. Certain fresh fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and green beans, can be flash frozen at home and will keep for months. Spread the raw produce on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. Once they are frozen solid, package them in a freezer zip-top bag.
Check your local ethnic grocery stores for deals on shelf-stable goods, such as rice and beans, as well as interesting and affordable produce and spices.
Choose one day a week for power cooking. Roast a whole chicken or a turkey breast. Cook up a pot of beans or brown rice. Assemble salad greens in individual plastic storage containers for the week. Hard-boil half a dozen eggs for easy weekday snacks. Bake a few sweet potatoes and roast a pan of eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, onions and garlic. The possibilities of meals for the week from this preparation are endless. You can top your salads with roast chicken or turkey. Shred leftover poultry and serve over rice and beans with salsa. Dice up a sweet potato and make a hash with the roasted vegetables for a vegetarian entree. Not only will your meals be healthy, they’ll be practically made for the week.
One benefit of cooking for one is the freedom to purchase interesting foods in small quantities, and the budget-minded tips above will allow you to have some extra money to be adventurous. Try a few ounces of an apricot-studded blue cheese in your salad. Buy a star fruit for breakfast. Treat yourself to crab legs or scallops. With a balance of planning and splurging, cooking for one can be a pleasurable experience.