Here are my tips for simplifying cooking for one:
1) PLAN AHEAD: This one applies to everyone, whether cooking for one or for ten. When trying to maintain healthy eating habits, it is ESSENTIAL to plan ahead. Preparation is the key to making sure the best & most nutritious foods end up in your belly & the nutrient-empty bad food stays far, far out of temptation and hunger’s reach! Whether this means chopping/slicing/peeling fruits and veggies as soon as you buy them, or getting lunch ready in Tupperware the night before, do all the planning you can.
2) COOK A LOT & PORTION IT OUT. When cooking for one, it’s often hard to make proper adjustments to a recipe that is written to serve 4-6. Instead of shying away from these recipes, I suggest setting aside time to cook (Sunday afternoon/evenings work for me) large quantities of food and then package them in single-serve containers. For example: cook a Crockpot full of vegetarian chili and use Pyrex or Tupperware to divide it into 4-5 meals worth. These don’t all have to be consumed within that week. If you are someone who likes variety, keep one or two servings out for the week, and freeze the rest. These frozen single-servings can simply be defrosted for another meal at another time. If you can devote a day or an afternoon (just a few hours will do) to preparing a few big meals to be divided for the week (or frozen for longer), it will save you LOTS of time in the day-to-day.
3) FIND YOUR FAVORITE “STAPLES” AND ADD VARIETY: everyone has a few “go-to” favorite foods (hopefully these are all whole, natural foods!) which they eat regularly. One of mine is salad. If you’ve ever seen me eat a meal, you can almost guarantee 2 things: it’s a salad and its in Tupperware! Many think of salads as boring and unsatisfying but with a little creativity, they can be DELISH and filling. Start with any type of greens, add your fav veg [tomato, peppers, carrots, snap peas, broccoli, cucumber, avocado, mushroom, peas, etc] and then make sure to add a source of protein [chicken breast, tuna, salmon, beef, soy nuts, tofu, edamame] and an all natural dressing [I use olive oil and balsamic w/spices]. I also add dried cranberries, raisins, or nuts to change it up. Keep fresh veggies stocked at home, chopped and ready to go. Then it is only a matter of assembling the mix of ingredients you want that day!
Another staple I love to have around is quinoa or cous cous. Make several servings of either (for the week), and scoop a single serving out to serve with protein and veg. You could also add either of these to a salad or stir fry dish.
4) DON’T OVER SHOP AT THE GROCERY STORE: don’t over do it when shopping just for you! It is far better to buy less and use all the food than to buy too much and have some go to waste. If you run out of milk/chicken/veggies/etc midweek, a second trip to the grocery store won’t be the end of the world. Try and keep 4-5 days worth of fresh food in your house at a time. Additionally, when you have more food around (that you don’t want to let spoil), you tend to eat more, and this can lead to distorted portion sizes….which leads me to my next point.
5) PAY ATTENTION TO SERVING SIZE: this is a good tip for cooking/eating in general. Take a moment to LOOK on the packaging of the food and see just exactly how much a “single serving” is! Make sure to portion out appropriate amounts of food depending on your daily calorie intake and dietary needs. An entire pizza could be considered “single serve” if one person eats the whole thing! Get in the habit of using measuring cups to portion out food instead of just filling a container.
Do you have any other ideas of “how to cook healthy for one”? Let’s hear them!