Food Friday: Cooking for One

by graceelena on June 10, 2011

The past four years I have spent a lot of time learning to cook for one. I grew up cooking for four or more and cutting down recipes did not come easily. I am still learning ways to be creative and resourceful in the kitchen. Here is a list of ten things I have learned that make cooking for one much easier.

1. Your fridge should never be full.

Remember you are cooking for one person. If your fridge is packed with food you will be unable to eat it all before it goes bad. Unless you are having a dinner party your fridge should be sparse.

2. Plan your meals.
I think this is a good one for everyone. Meal planning helps reduce cost and waste. Take the time each week to plan out what you will eat. Make sure to account for meals out. As you plan think of ways you can use the same items to make new meals.

3. Share food with friends/Use it for something else
Food is sold in family size. Don’t let that deter you from trying new things. If you only need a 1/2 cup of celery for potato salad consider what else you can use it for. Have celery and peanut butter as a snack or give half the stalk to a friend. Even if you love to eat celery sticks it may be hard to eat an entire stalk in one week.

4. Write down when things go bad
Check out the product you are buying. Determine how long they will stay fresh and put a sticker on it to remember. This way there is no guessing and you’ll be reminded to use it.

5. Use your freezer.
Most people use their freezer for ice cream and meat but you can use it for other products too. What if your favorite bread only comes in a huge loaf? Freeze half of it. Then the next week simply take it out of the freezer and use the other half. Speaking of meat, make sure you separate it into smaller portions before freezing. This is also great for freezing individual size portions of lasagna or other large dishes that are difficult to make for one.

6. Shop at the Farmer’s Market.
The farmer’s market has fresh food and smaller portion sizes. Plus, you are supporting local businesses. Check here to see if there is one in your area.

7. Buy the smaller size.
It is tempting to buy food on sale or buy in bulk. It’s a great deal! For a single person, more often it is not. What is the point of buying four packages of cheese when you can only eat two before the others go bad? That is a waste of money and food. Only buy bulk items when you know you will use them. Even flour can go bad so be careful with bulk dry items too.

8. Invest in dried milk.
I say invest because one box costs almost $10. It may seem absurd at the time but if you are not a big milk drinker this is a life saver. Plus it lasts a long time. Many recipes call for a 1/4 cup milk or some other small amount. If you have dried milk you add the powder to water and you are all set. Once it is mixed in a recipe the difference is minimal.

9. Have dinner parties.
You probably have other single friends. Choose one night a week where you all cook together. Each person can bring something to contribute to the meal. One fun and challenging idea is to do this at the end of the week before you grocery shop. What leftover items do each of you have in your fridge? Figure out what you can make from them. You are not wasting food and being creative.

10. Buy a cookbook.
I have heard wonderful things about Judith Jones cookbook The Pleasure of Cooking for One. She details what you will need in the kitchen and has great recipes. Cookbooks that cater to cooking for two are also good if you like leftovers. Many websites such as allow for the portion size to be changed for the recipes. Enter how many portions you want and it will cut down the recipe. It won’t always work easily but you can get a better idea of ¬†how to make the recipe in a smaller portion.